Derwin James presents unique problems for Alabama offense

Derwin+James+presents+unique+problems+for+Alabama+offense

Hunter Dyke/FSView

Dervin James (3) celebrates at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida on August 5, 2016. The Seminoles topped the Ole Miss Rebels 45-34. Hunter Dyke/FSView

Joe Klingbeil

In the coming days before a game, it’s common for Alabama players to point out certain playmakers on the opposing team and express the challenges each player presents to them and their teammates.  

This time around, though, as the Crimson Tide prepares for Saturday’s matchup against No. 3 Florida State, the problems that Seminole defensive back Derwin James creates are unique.

“Really versatile guy that can do a lot of things on the field,” tight end Hale Hentges said. “We’re really going to have to prepare for him because he’s a really good player, and we’re really going to have to keep an eye on him.”

James is a 6-foot-3, 211-pound, hard-hitting safety who has been tagged as one of the best defensive players in all of college football.

As a freshman in 2015, he immediately turned himself into a known commodity across the football landscape. He racked up 91 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 5 pass breakups and 2 forced fumbles and recoveries, as well as freshman All-American honors.

However, after an impressive showing against No. 11 ranked Ole Miss in last year’s season opener, James suffered a lateral meniscus tear in his left knee the following week. The injury would cost James his sophomore season, and he received a redshirt.

Even with last year’s injury, James has earned spots on numerous preseason All-American and award watch lists, including the Bednarik, Hornung, Maxwell, Nagurski and Thorpe.

Since James was absent most of last season, Alabama doesn’t have much film on him. But you don’t have to look hard to find out that he’s poses the a huge threat. 

“He’s a bigger guy,” Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said. “Likes to hit and can cover pretty well for his size.”

Fitzpatrick and James met each other a few years ago when the two played on the same 7-on-7 team during their senior year of high school. Fitzpatrick is the Crimson Tide’s version of the playmaking safety, and has the accolades and skills that has drawn major comparisons to James.

“Obviously a lot like Minkah,” Hentges said of James. “Because when you have a guy that’s like that can do so many different things, he poses a matchup problem because you don’t know exactly where he’s going to line up. And wherever he does line up, you have to make sure you have him in check.”

James’ versatility has the Crimson Tide offense on alert. The Seminole star can lineup at any position, but thanks to Fitzpatrick, Alabama has the means to prepare.

“We practice against Minkah (Fitzpatrick) everyday so I think that really prepares us as on offense,” quarterback Jalen Hurts said. “But we’ve never played Florida State before, so it’ll be interesting.”

His speed, size, strength, athleticism and natural football skills make James a matchup nightmare, but on Saturday he’ll get the best Alabama has to offer. 

“He’s an athlete. Big and physical. Has nice size,” Hurts said. “And I’m sure he’ll be ready to play.”