Alabama ended the season on a low note with two straight losses to Auburn and Oklahoma. The good news for the Crimson Tide and their supporters is that the recruiting class for 2014 points to continued success despite the frustrating end to another promising campaign.
With national signing day just a month away, Alabama is already in good shape. 247Sports' team rankings have the Tide ranked first, with Ohio State, Texas A&M, Florida State and LSU the closest competitors, although that could change after the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Knowing that, let's check out three players on the Alabama radar that could provide a major boost to an already strong recruiting class. A successful month through signing day could quickly erase the memories of the end of the season.
Marlon Humphrey, DB
Humphrey is one of the top prospects in the 2014 class. What's so intriguing about him is that he's been able to pair terrific athletic ability with a firm understanding of how to play cornerback before appearing in a single collegiate practice.
Most recruits, especially defensive backs, which aren't tested as much at the high school level, arrive with supreme athleticism but a lesser understanding of the basics. Humphrey has moved beyond that initial stage of development and should be able to hit the ground running.
Of course, Alabama isn't the only interested team. Mike Farrell of Rivals passed along an interesting note on the defensive back, whom 247Sports' composite rankings rates as the No. 5 recruit in the class:
Sources say all the players were calling Marlon Humphrey "Florida State" at the Magic game last night. A new nickname has emerged for week— Mike Farrell (@rivalsmike) December 30, 2013
The Crimson Tide are built on a foundation of defense. Humphrey has all the tools to become a shutdown corner within a couple seasons and is already prepared to make an impact at the college level if called upon.
Matt Elam, DL
Elam is a very interesting case. Based on 247Sports' composite rankings, the defensive tackle doesn't even rate inside the top 150 nationally. Yet the outlet's own ratings see him check in at No. 9 overall and at No. 2 at the position.
His size and strength have allowed him to simply overpower defenders in high school. How his skill will translate to the next level is the source of disagreement. But his combination of size and short-area quickness is enticing to say the least.
As for his decision, it won't come as early as originally expected. Matt Jones of Kentucky Sports Radio passed along comments Elam made on KSR in which he stated he didn't feel comfortable enough to make a final choice quite yet:
I just didn't feel comfortable doing it and I chose this because I thought it would be enough time, but it's not. And like I could commit and be not 100 percent but that's not how I am. I want to be all into and right now I am not. So I talked it over with my mom and coach and they think that's best. So that is what I'm going to do. I hope everyone understands.
It's a mature decision. The last thing a prospect should do is rush into a college choice and figure out a couple weeks or months later that he made the wrong one. From Alabama's standpoint, the delay gives the coaching staff another chance to convince him the Tide are his best option.
Brian Wallace, OL
Wallace is among the most well-rounded offensive tackles in the class, coming in at No. 5, according to 247Sports. He's not an explosive run-blocker or dominant pass-blocker, at least not yet anyway, but there are no major flaws in his game, which is exactly what coaching staffs like to see.
Which of these players is the most important target for Alabama?
He can be taught how to become a top tackle because he's got the strong base. It's better than excelling in one area, like run-blocking, but struggling in pass protection, which forces the staff to start from scratch with technique, and it's a long road to becoming a reliable option at that point.
Wallace is as solid as they come in terms of having all the basics down. And with Alabama leaning heavily on its offensive line on a yearly basis, joining the Tide would give him a great chance to transform from a promising recruit into an elite tackle.