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September 14, 2011TUSCALOOSA | As talented and highly-regarded as Dre Kirkpatrick was when he left Gadsden City High School in 2009, Southeastern Conference competition was something he wasn't yet prepared for.
Looking back, Kirkpatrick sees that now. Around 30 pounds and a couple of years later, the University of Alabama junior has more of everything - perspective, size, experience, health.
"This is really my first time ever being in the weight room since I've been in college, because my freshman year I had surgery, my sophomore year I had surgery," Kirkpatrick said. "I was never just fully healthy. This year I feel like I'm coming into the season pretty much healthy."
Kirkpatrick said he weighed around 165 pounds at the high school level, and weighs around 195 today. And while cornerback may not be considered the most physical position on the field, run support and bump coverage are no small part of the demands on a cornerback at Alabama. Kirkpatrick has more of a basketball player's build, and UA coach Nick Saban indicated that his body type didn't always lend itself to physical play early in Kirkpatrick's career.
"He's really become a better tackler. I never questioned his toughness. There's a difference between being tough and being physical," Saban said. "I think being a long, lean guy, he had toughness but he had a hard time maintaining that physical presence. He's certainly improved in that regard. He's gotten a lot bigger, a lot stronger, and plays that way on the field."
Kirkpatrick forced two fumbles Saturday against Penn State, both of which were recovered by the Crimson Tide.
"Sometimes where it's just one on one, you by yourself, and you've got to be able to make that play," Kirkpatrick said. "If you aren't strong enough, if you aren't healthy enough, pretty much you aren't going to be able to make that play - because this league right here is a big league."
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com or at 205-722-0196.