Instead of redshirting his first year in Tuscaloosa, Kirkpatrick forced head coach Nick Saban and his assistants into getting him on the field on special teams and a reserve defensive back in 12 games (credited with eight tackles). With both starting corners needing to be replaced for the 2010 season, Kirkpatrick stepped up to make 53 tackles, four for loss, three interceptions and seven pass break-ups.
Like most first-year starters, Kirkpatrick went through growing pains; learning how to play physical but disciplined coverage against elite SEC receivers every week caused him to grow up in a hurry. Earning the Tide's "Most Improved Defensive Player" award in 2011 spring ball portends big things for the tall, fluid cornerback in his junior year; that, in turn, may lead to his earning the praise of NFL scouts as an entry entrant to the 2012 draft.
Man Coverage: Possesses prototypical size and strength combination to lock down NFL receivers on the outside. Long arms and attitude give him a chance to be very good in press role. Plays with natural bend and fair foot quickness in his backpedal. Hips are fluid for his size, opens them up quickly out of pedal to keep inside position while running down the sideline. Recovery speed from double-moves and pick plays is more than adequate, does not give much ground trailing on crossing routes. Can be overaggressive landing his punch in press, giving up inside position, losing his balance, or even falling down.
Zone Coverage: Mainly used in man, but flashes playmaking ability in zones, as well. Uses his size and length to close and wrap effectively after the catch. Reads quarterback when playing off, baits him to make the underneath throw then closes to make the interception or a big hit to dislodge ball from receiver. Uses length to knock away touch passes behind him and in front of the safety.
Ball Skills: Strong enough to win jump balls down the sideline or 50-50 balls over the middle. Good hand-eye coordination to knock away passes in front of receivers with off hand. Does not find the ball quickly when receiver turns to look, overruns plays too regularly. Gambles on interceptions instead of securing the tackle.
Run Support: Very physical outside, pushes aside smaller wideouts easily and does not back down from confrontations with larger players. Willing to add himself to piles. Good hustle and chase downfield to help teammates. Typically keeps outside leverage but will get aggressive, leaving the sideline vulnerable. Needs to consistently break down and keep his feet outside or NFL backs will evade him.
Tackling: Flashes pure strength to stop receivers and running backs in their tracks on the outside, should get stronger over time. Likes to throw his shoulder into receivers to force them out of bounds. Resorts to duck-and-swipe when unnecessary, which may work against college ballcarriers but will cause problems at the next level. Used on corner blitzes due to size/speed combination, forces a lot of quick throws. Willing to go for the strip, especially if ballcarrier already engaged. Negates special teams gunners on punts, stays with them with effort, physicality and speed.
Intangibles: Well-liked teammate who got the nickname "Swag" for his quiet but confident demeanor; referred to Texas as not having "swagger" during his college announcement press conference. Likes to talk on the field to teammates and get the crowd involved when at home. Praised for his strong will and work ethic. Won the team's Bart Starr Most Improved Player Award in the spring of 2011."
isplays the ability to sit low into his stance, and slide his feet laterally, mirroring off the line and funneling his man toward the sideline. Extends his arms well into contact with the ability to routinely re-route or disrupt the timing of the play
Stays balanced through contact and can use his length to extend and get his hands on the football in the three step game. Doesn’t possess great lateral quickness though and can be out quicked off the line at times. Uses his length to arm bar and force defenders to the sideline.
However, lacks a great first step and will allow receivers to get behind him vertically. Plays fast and long when closing on the football and uses his length well to make throwing windows small around him and down the field. However, looks like a 4.5 guy when asked to turn and run vertically.
Exhibits natural balance when collecting himself vertically in order to high point the football. At times will get caught drifting on the play, but showcases “plus” coordination down the field. Is at his best however in zone coverage.
Demonstrates “plus” instincts and feel in coverage, keys off the quarterback well and quickly is able to decipher routes developing around him. Exhibits impressive change of direction skills for a bigger guy in space. Can drop his pad level quickly, keeping his feet under him and is able to come out of his breaks and close on the route.
Takes good angles toward the football, maximizes his length and showcases good ball skills when breaking on the action. Also, is fluid for a taller corner and can cleanly turn and run when asked to close on throws behind him. Closing speed is only solid for his size, but again uses his length to get his hands on a lot of footballs.
In off man will struggle to quickly change directions and get out of his breaks. Needs to have his hands on receivers and be physical off the line in order to consistently limit separation. Gets a bit leggy at times in space when his zone coverage turns into off man and doesn’t look as natural finding the football and limiting separation.
Is the best tackling cornerback in the draft. Does a great job using his length to fend off contact, takes excellent angles toward the action and locates the football quickly.
Drops his pad level well into contact, wraps and bring his legs through the man. Is an impressive open field tackler as well with the lateral quickness and range to extend his arms and get into ball carriers bodies off his frame. An ideal zone corner who deciphers run/pass keys quickly and isn’t afraid to jump into run support and win on the edge.
Impression: Will be an ideal zone corner at the next level because of his size, instincts and physicality. However, he can also press off the line and consistently re-route receivers. Isn’t a dynamic quick-twitch athlete, but showcases good balance, can keep his feet under him and looks like a “plus” caliber starting cornerback in the NFL. Reminds me some of Chargers cornerback Quinton Jammer physically."
Games Viewed: (All 2010) Penn State, Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, Michigan State
Bold Statement: If Kirkpatrick lives up to his potential and physical skills, he will be the first cornerback taken in the draft.
• Kirkpatrick has the kind of length and strength to be an elite press coverage cornerback. While he may not have a great jam at the line, Kirkpatrick is strong enough to reroute receivers.
• Possesses the agility and quickness of a much smaller and more compact defensive back.
• Can turn and run with just about any receiver and keep up. Has quick feet to flip open his hips and mirror vertically.
• Body control to adjust when the ball is in the above-average but nothing incredible. Keeps his balance nicely in his backpedal.
• Has had a recurring shoulder injury since high school that will be heavily scrutinized during the NFL Combine. Has dealt with smaller injuries during his career.
• While Kirkpatrick and handle receivers who are either singularly fast or physical, he has trouble with combination receivers. South Carolina's Alshon Jeffery gave him a lot of trouble."
Not generally a huge hitter, but an excellent wrap-up tackler who seldom misses in the open field; hard worker in the film room; not all that physical at the line of scrimmage, though, and has been pushed around a bit by some of college football’s elite receivers; had 53 tackles in 2010 along with three picks and 7 other pass break-ups;
Has excellent hands and ball skills and could be a top prospect at WR."
A big reason is Kirkpatrick, a junior cornerback and an in-state product who was rated No. 1 at his position coming out of high school by ESPNU and Rivals.com. Kirkpatrick already has plenty of experience and will likely be making his way to the next level after this season.
He played in all 12 games as a freshman, became a starter in 2010, and has emerged as arguably the best cornerback in the nation. Through six games in 2011 (obviously all Alabama wins), Kirkpatrick has 14 solo tackles (one for loss) and he leads the team with eight pass breakups, eight passes defensed, and two forced fumbles.
One of the tallest cornerbacks in the business, Kirkpatrick stands at 6'2'' and 192 pounds. He doesn't have top-notch speed to go along with his size, but he generally runs a 4.50 in the 40-yard dash and has been clocked as fast as 4.42 from that distance.
Kirkpatrick will have to add some bulk to his lanky frame before he heads to the NFL (he sometimes struggles with more physical receivers), but that should come."