The battle for Robert Nkemdiche, the nation's top high school prospect, is far from over. He is verbally committed to Clemson, but nothing is set in stone until next February.
Nick Saban still has a shot at bringing Nkemdiche to Alabama, but at the moment, it's looking more like a snowball's chance in hell.
Nkemdiche just might be the toughest task Saban and his crew have faced in the recruiting game, and the challenge all boils down to the system and early playing time.
The odd choice of Clemson by Nkemdiche is based on those two things. He wants to play as a pass-rushing 4-3 defensive end and he wants to play immediately.
The reasons are obvious when you compare the top two schools in the SEC on his list, Alabama and LSU.
Alabama does not run a 4-3 defense and cannot offer immediate playing time. LSU does run a 4-3, but they are stacked with talent and cannot offer a starting position for a true freshman.
Clemson runs the defense he wants and will almost certainly make him a starter from day one.
Nkemdiche has received a lot of criticism for spurning his home, the SEC, and I am guilty of that as well. It's such a peculiar choice, but it's a choice that will provide him a means to his goal: the NFL.
So how can Nick Saban lure Nkemdiche to Alabama?
What are the odds that Saban lands Robert Nkemdiche?
The answer is that he can't—unless he can bring in Nkemdiche's high school buddies, who are committed to Clemson, and switch to a 4-3 defense.
It is basically impossible for Saban to win this recruit, but the impossible is what Saban dines on.
Saban is going to turn to two players to make his case for Robert Nkemdiche.
The success of former Tide defensive end Marcell Dareus and Jack linebacker Courtney Upshaw should have been enough evidence for Nkemdiche, but they weren't, and the latest batch will be more important.
At 6'6", 294 pounds, Quinton Dial will play in Dareus' old position at left defensive end, and 6'6", 237-pound linebacker Adrian Hubbard will fill Upshaw's role.
If Nkemdiche is to play at Alabama, he will play in one of these two positions.
The only chance Nick Saban has to land this recruit is to show him what players at these positions can do.
The only problem is that Saban will not alter nor specialize his defensive game plan to revolve around these two just to impress one recruit.
Saban will continue to pressure Nkemdiche to bring his services to Alabama, but he will not change the fundamentals of his program.
The Tide will maintain their 3-4 base defense and the linebackers and defensive ends will fulfill their same roles with no special attention.
Alabama will roll with or without Nkemdiche, and they will win a national championship before he heads to the NFL.
Saban can provide a path for him to become a high first-round pick as well as win a national title ring. If that is not enough to convince Nkemdiche to play at the Capstone, then nothing will be.