Cornerback Stephen Roberts (Opelika, Ala.) backed off his verbal commitment to Alabama on Wednesday, according to AL.com reporter Matt Scalici. Instead of joining the two-time defending national champion, the 4-star prospect opted to accept an offer from SEC rival Auburn.
Roberts, a 6'0", 177-pound playmaker, switched allegiances one day after 4-star offensive guard Viane Talamaivao decommitted from the Crimson Tide. Talamaivao flipped to USC on Tuesday.
Nick Saban is well on his way toward a fourth consecutive No. 1 recruiting class, but he'll have to move forward without Roberts. The dynamic defender is ranked the nation's No. 17 cornerback and Alabama's seventh-best overall prospect by 247Sports.
Although his decision came down to a pair of in-state foes, Roberts had options throughout the nation. He holds offers from Florida State, Vanderbilt, Georgia Tech and Kentucky.
Roberts, a smooth operator in pass coverage, stands to see early playing time at Auburn. That played a vital role in his decision to commit to the Tigers, according to Opelika coach Brian Blackmon's discussion with AL.com.
I think they are thin in the secondary, and I think he's got a chance to go in there and at least battle for some playing time early on. They've had injuries and a couple of guys dismissed in the secondary. I think those things played a big factor. He's never really sat on the bench his entire high school career. Every kid looks at that opportunity to play early as a deciding factor.
What is the most important factor of Stephen Roberts' commitment to Auburn.
Auburn cornerbacks Jonathan Mincy and Chris Davis are upperclassmen. The Tigers' 2014 class already features 4-star cornerback Nick Ruffin (Atlanta, Ga.).
Alabama must overcome the loss of Roberts, but remains in outstanding shape on the recruiting trail. The Crimson Tide hold the nation's top class.
The team is still solid at defensive back despite Roberts' decommitment. 4-star cornerback Kalvaraz Bessent (Kingsland, Ga.) committed to Alabama in March.
This development puts added pressure on Saban to land top-ranked cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Birgmingham, Ala.). Auburn and Alabama routinely go toe-to-toe for recruits and the teams meet Nov. 30 in the annual Iron Bowl.