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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Widely considered two of the best current defensive backs in college football, Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick and Florida State’s Derwin James were on the same defense once.

“We played on the same 7-on-7 team at The Opening our senior year,” Fitzpatrick said Monday. “I got to know him a little bit. He tried to recruit me to Florida State a little bit, (and) I tried to get him to Alabama.”

Neither of their pitches worked, and now the two preseason All-Americans enter Saturday’s season-opening showdown between No. 1 Alabama and No. 3 Florida State as the biggest defensive X-factors for their respective teams.

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“That dadgum Minkah — you talk about a heck of a player,” FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said earlier this week. “It’s fun to watch him play. It’s not going to be fun this weekend. That guy’s too good.”

Alabama head coach Nick Saban was similarly effusive when praising James this week.

“I think (for) a safety — and we’ve had some really good ones here — I think he’s every bit as good as anybody we’ve ever played against,” Saban said Monday. “You’re in the mix of a lot of plays because you line up somewhere near the formation, whether you’re coming down in the box or whether you’re playing split safeties. This guy’s just a very aggressive player. He’s got good ball skills, he’s a good tackler, he’s a very physical player, good blitzer. Just all around a really, really good football player.”