Report: 49ers to host former Alabama defensive star for pre-draft visit

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USATSI

Report: 49ers to host former Alabama defensive star for pre-draft visit

The 49ers are reportedly visiting this week with the prospect who was named as the best defensive player in college football in 2017. According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, the 49ers are hosting former Alabama star Minkah Fitzpatrick. 

Fitzpatrick won the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the nation's best defensive player, and the Jim Thorpe Award, handed to the nation's top defensive back. Standing at 6-foot-2 and weighing just over 200 pounds, Fitzpatrick is full of versatility. 

At Alabama, Fitzpatrick played safety and cornerback, and played multiple roles on special teams as well. 

In three years with the Crimson Tide, Fitzpatrick came away with nine interceptions, four returned for touchdown, 24 pass defenses, five sacks, and 171 total tackles. The 49ers hold the No. 9 pick in the first round of the NFL Draft. 

The first round of the NFL Draft begins April 27, just over three weeks away. 

Alabama wins national title on epic walk-off touchdown in OT

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AP

Alabama wins national title on epic walk-off touchdown in OT

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA -- To add another championship to the greatest dynasty college football has ever seen, Alabama turned to its quarterback of the future, and Tua Tagovailoa proved that his time is now.

The freshman quarterback, who had played mostly mop-up duty this season, came off the bench to spark a comeback and threw a 41-yard touchdown to DeVonta Smith that gave No. 4 Alabama a 26-23 overtime victory against No. 3 Georgia on Monday night for the College Football Playoff national championship.

Tagovailoa entered the game at halftime, replacing a struggling Jalen Hurts, and threw three touchdown passes to give the Crimson Tide its fifth national championship since 2009 under coach Nick Saban.

"He just stepped in and did his thing," Hurts said. "He's built for stuff like this. I'm so happy for him." The Tide might have a quarterback controversy ahead of it but first Alabama will celebrate another national title.

For the third straight season, Alabama played in a classic CFP final. The Tide split two with Clemson, losing last season on touchdown with a second left.

What was Saban thinking as the winning pass soared this time?

"I could not believe it," he said. "There's lots of highs and lows. Last year we lost on the last play of the game and this year we won on the last play of the game. These kids really responded the right way. We said last year, `Don't waste the feeling.' They sure didn't, the way they played tonight."

Smith streaked into the end zone and moments later confetti rained and even Saban seemed almost giddy after watching maybe the most improbably victory of his unmatched career.

After Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos missed a 36-yard field goal that would have won it for the Tide (13-1) in the final seconds of regulation , Georgia (13-2) took the lead with a 51-yard field goal from Rodrigo Blankenship in overtime.

Tagovailoa took a terrible sack on Alabama's first play of overtime, losing 16 yards. On the next play he found Smith, another freshman, and hit him in stride for the national championship.

Tagovailoa was brilliant at times, though he had a few freshman moments. He threw an interception when he tried to pass on a running play and all his receivers were blocking. He also darted away from the pass rushers and made some impeccable throws, showing the poise of a veteran. Facing fourth-and-goal from 7, down seven, the left-hander moved to his left and zipped a pass through traffic that hit Calvin Ridley in the numbers for the tying score with 3:49 left in the fourth quarter.

He finished 14 for 24 for 166 yards. The winning play was, basically, four receivers going deep.

"After the sack, we just got up and took it to the next play," Tagovailoa said. "I looked back out, and he was wide open. Smitty was wide open." Freshmen were everywhere for the Alabama offense: Najee Harris at running back, Henry Ruggs III at receiver, Alex Leatherwood at left tackle after All-American Jonah Williams was hurt. It's a testament to the relentless machine Saban has built.

But this game will be remembered most for his decision to change quarterbacks trailing 13-0.

"I just thought we had to throw the ball, and I felt he could do it better, and he did," Saban said. "He did a good job, made some plays in the passing game. Just a great win. I'm so happy for Alabama fans. Great for our players. Unbelievable."

Saban now has six major poll national championships, including one at LSU, matching the record set by the man who led Alabama's last dynasty, coach Paul Bear Bryant.

This was nothing like the others.

With President Trump in attendance, the all-Southeastern Conference matchup was all Georgia in the first half before Saban pulled Hurts and the five-star recruit from Hawaii entered. The president watched the second half from Air Force One.

"I don't know how Coach Saban found me all the way in Hawaii from Alabama," Tagovailoa said. "Thank God he found me and we're here right now."

The Tide trailed 20-7 in the third quarter after Georgia's freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm, hit Mecole Hardman for an 80-yard touchdown pass that had the Georgia fans feeling good about ending a national title drought that dates back to 1980.

Fromm threw for 232 yards for a while it looked as if he was going to be the freshman star for the game, the first to true freshman to lead his team to a national title season since Jamelle Holieway for Oklahoma in 1985.

"I mean, if you want to find out about Jake Fromm, go ask those guys on the other side of the ball, and they'll tell you because that's a really good defense he just went against," Smart said.

A little less than a year after the Atlanta Falcons blew a 25-point lead and lost in overtime to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, there was more pain for many of the local fans. Two years ago, Georgia brought in Saban's top lieutenant, Kirby Smart, to coach the Bulldogs and bring to his alma mater a dose of Alabama's Process.

Smart, who spent 11 seasons with Saban - eight as his defensive coordinator in Tuscaloosa - quickly built `Bama East. It was Georgia that won the SEC this season. Alabama had to slip into the playoff without even winning its own division.

With the title game being held 70 miles from Georgia's campus in Athens, Dawg fans packed Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but it turned out to be sweet home for Alabama and now Saban is 12-0 against his former assistants.

But not without angst.

Alabama drove into the red zone in the final minute and Saban started playing for a field goal that would end the game and win it for the Tide. A nervous quiet gripped the crowd of 77,430 as `Bama burned the clock. With the ball centered in the middle of the field, Pappanastos lined up for a kick to win the national championship. The snap and hold looked fine, but the kicked missed badly to the left.

For the second straight week, Georgia was going to overtime. The Bulldogs beat Oklahoma in a wild Rose Bowl in double overtime to get here, and after Jonathan Ledbetter and Davin Bellamy sacked Tagovailoa for a big loss on the first play, Alabama was in trouble - second-and-26.

Not for long. Tagovailoa looked off the safety and threw the biggest touchdown pass in the history of Alabama football.

Highlighted by Bay Area star running back, Alabama leads recruiting ranks

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AP

Highlighted by Bay Area star running back, Alabama leads recruiting ranks

Alabama came up just short in its bid for a second straight national title on the field, but the Crimson Tide's dominance on the recruiting trail remains as strong as ever.

According to composite rankings of recruiting services compiled by 247Sports , Alabama finished atop the team standings for a seventh consecutive year. And this might have been Nick Saban's best class yet.

Florida's 2010 class that included NFL first-round draft picks Dominique Easley, Matt Elam and Sharrif Floyd is 247Sports' only higher-rated class since 2002, which is as far back as 247Sports' data goes.

"It just speaks to the process that they've put in place there and the machine that is really unstoppable," said Barton Simmons, the director of scouting for 247Sports.

Alabama's class includes seven of the top 34 players in the 247Sports Composite : running back Najee Harris, offensive tackles Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Willis, outside linebacker Dylan Moses, wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, defensive end LaBryan Ray and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Rivals and Scout rated Harris as the nation's No. 1 overall prospect.

"On paper, when you're talking about our point system and the number of five-stars, it's the best (Saban's) had at Alabama," said Mike Farrell, the director of recruiting for Rivals.

Ohio State and Southern California also had reason to celebrate.

Simmons said the average 247Sports Composite rating of Ohio State's signees is the highest of any class since 2002. Alabama finished higher in the team standings largely because it signed more players than Ohio State.

Southern California surged into the top five in the team standings with a fabulous finish. Linebacker Levi Jones, defensive tackle Jay Tufele, wide receiver Joseph Lewis and offensive tackle Austin Jackson made Signing Day decisions to join USC's class. All three are top-100 prospects in the 247Sports Composite.

"I think USC is the clear Signing Day story in terms of the way they rose in the rankings and in the days leading up to it," Simmons said. "They really had the perfect close."

Here are other notable Signing Day stories.

SIGNING DAY DECISIONS: Florida State landed the biggest prize of the day with the addition of defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, who was No. 6 in the 247Sports Composite and the highest-rated uncommitted player entering signing. Other members of the 247Sports Composite's top 50 who were uncommitted before Wednesday include defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon (Michigan), defensive ends K'Lavon Chaisson (LSU) and Ray (Alabama) plus wide receiver Jeff Thomas (Miami).

QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY: Ohio State wasn't the only program to make the most of relatively limited numbers. Although the small size of their classes kept them from ranking higher in team standings, Clemson and Stanford landed plenty of star power. Clemson has the nation's No. 2 pro-style quarterback (Hunter Johnson) and No. 2 wide receiver (Tee Higgins) according to the 247Sports Composite. Stanford has four of the top 36 players in the 247Sports Composite (offensive tackles Foster Sarell and Walker Little, quarterback Davis Mills and tight end Colby Parkinson). Mills was rated as the nation's No. 1 pro-style quarterback.

LEAVING TEXAS: New Texas coach Tom Herman will have to do a better job of keeping the state's best players home in future recruiting cycles. Texas didn't sign any of the Lone Star State's top 19 recruits according to the 247Sports Composite. Of the top 12 prospects in Texas, the only ones who chose Texas schools were inside linebacker Anthony Hines (Texas A&M) and offensive guard Jack Anderson (Texas Tech). "I think the Tom Herman effect was expected to do a little bit more," Farrell said. "You can never gauge a coach on his transitional year, (but) 2018 has to be a really good one though. I would say he'd better knock it out of the ballpark in 2018 or a lot of fans will be wondering, 'Did we really upgrade?' at least in the recruiting department."

SEC DOMINATION: Although some late decisions could shuffle the team standings, six SEC schools were ranked among the top 12 in the 247Sports Composite as of late Wednesday afternoon. Joining Alabama in that group of six were Georgia, LSU, Auburn, Florida and Texas A&M. While the SEC sizzled, the Big 12 fizzled. Oklahoma likely will be the only Big 12 team in the top 20.

MISSISSIPPI'S MISERY: Ole Miss landed a top-five class in 2016 even with an NCAA investigation looming, but the effects of the Rebels' off-field issues were much more apparent this year. As of late Wednesday afternoon, Ole Miss was outside the top 30 in the 247Sports Composite rankings and ahead of only Missouri and Vanderbilt in the SEC. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze acknowledged negative recruiting made an impact. "It was ugly," Freeze said.