No team in college football has been more dominant than the Alabama Crimson Tide over the past several years, but after a disappointing end to the 2013 season that saw Bama lose to Auburn and Oklahoma, there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the program's title aspirations in 2014.
With key players such as quarterback A.J. McCarron and linebacker C.J. Mosley heading to the NFL, head coach Nick Saban needs to reload as quickly as possible. He already has a highly anticipated recruiting class coming to Tuscaloosa, Ala. in 2014, but there is still work to be done.
Although many of the nation's top recruits have already committed, there are plenty of elite athletes who are waiting until national signing day to make their final decision. The Crimson Tide are in the running for several potential stars, and Saban is hoping to cap his class with a successful day on Feb. 5.
Entering national signing day, 247Sports ranks Alabama's 2014 recruiting class as the best in the nation ahead of Ohio State, Texas A&M, LSU, Florida State and a host of other elite programs. While Bama will almost certainly add to its impressive haul, it is in good shape regardless of what happens on signing day.
Here are the prospects that Saban has already managed to score commitments from with national signing day on the horizon:
|Player||Position||Stars||National Rank||Positional Rank||Status|
|David Cornwell||PRO QB||4||79||4||Enrolled|
|Jarran Reed (JC)||DT||4||13||2||Enrolled|
|D.J. Pettway (JC)||SDE||4||14||2||Enrolled|
|Da'Shawn Hand||SDE||5||5||1||Hard Commit|
|Marlon Humphrey||CB||5||12||3||Hard Commit|
|Rashaan Evans||OLB||5||15||1||Hard Commit|
|Bo Scarbrough||ATH||5||16||2||Hard Commit|
|Christian Miller||OLB||4||39||3||Hard Commit|
|Ronnie Clark||OLB||4||70||5||Hard Commit|
|Ross Pierschbacher||OT||4||74||6||Hard Commit|
|Josh Frazier||DT||4||85||6||Hard Commit|
|Dominick Jackson (JC)||OT||4||2||1||Hard Commit|
|JC Hassenauer||C||4||172||1||Hard Commit|
|Derek Kief||WR||4||221||32||Hard Commit|
|Joshua Casher||C||4||280||2||Hard Commit|
|Keith Holcombe||ATH||4||281||27||Hard Commit|
|Elisha Shaw||DT||3||465||36||Hard Commit|
|O.J. Smith||DT||3||396||30||Hard Commit|
|Montel McBride||OG||3||420||23||Hard Commit|
|Johnny Dwight||DT||3||428||32||Hard Commit|
|Ty Flournoy-Smith (JC)||TE||3||28||1||Hard Commit|
|JK Scott||K||3||NA||4||Hard Commit|
Quick passed on the Crimson Tide, deciding that his future belonged at Oklahoma (via CSN Chicago):
Smith shocked Crimson Tide fans as he decided to commit to rival Auburn (via ESPN College Football):
Mama passed on Alabama, opting to sign with USC (via Lindsey Thiry of Fox Sports):
Evans pleased Crimson Tide fans everywhere as he decided to sign with Alabama (via ESPN College Football):
Yousef Baig of the Athens Banner-Herald provides an image of Tucker High School's list of where players will be committing to, which lists Shaw heading to Alabama:
According to this list from Tucker's staff, Elisha Shaw will be signing with Alabama. pic.twitter.com/UbpJKVj5CM— Yousef Baig (@YousefBaig) February 5, 2014
Shea Dixon of 247Sports provided a statement from Dupre discussing his decision, which unfortunately for Alabama fans, wasn't about joining the Crimson Tide:
Malachi Dupre on choosing #LSU: "It was best to stay here ... It's time to get ready for Wisconsin and the first game."— Shea Dixon (@Sheadixon) February 5, 2014
Prince also chose to join the ACC instead of attending Alabama, as documented by ESPN's College GameDay:
Lane opted not to attend Alabama in favor of the ACC, courtesy of Patrik Nohe of the Miami Herald:
Johnson made the decision to join the ACC instead of venturing to Alabama, according to Steve Wiltfong of 247Sports:
Florissant (Mo.) Hazelwood Central four-star offensive tackle Roderick Johnson had been considered a Florida State lean for most of the recruiting process, and he made it official on National Signing Day on Wednesday, announcing for the Seminoles.
McDowell snubbed Alabama and all of the SEC in favor of the Big Ten, per the Detroit Free Press:
Malik McDowell picks Michigan State— Freep Sports (@freepsports) February 5, 2014
With massive offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio making the move to the NFL, Alabama needed to focus heavily on its offensive line during the 2014 recruiting process. Saban was on top of things as usual, and he was able to secure Cameron Robinson, who ranks as the No. 1 overall offensive tackle recruit in the nation as well as the No. 4 overall player.
At 6'7" and 335 pounds, Robinson is a mountain of a man who moves surprisingly well. Bama took him right out from under rival LSU's nose as Robinson attends West Monroe High School in Louisiana. Robinson's potential dominance was evident during practices for the Under Armour All-America Game, and ESPN's Tom Luginbill marveled at his ability:
Off Day One assessments, least steep learning curve technically/athletically is...Top ranked OT Cameron Robinson. Whoa. #UAALLAMERICA— Tom Luginbill (@TomLuginbill) December 29, 2013
It is unclear if Robinson will start from Day One, but offensive line play will be extremely important for Alabama in the coming years. With McCarron no longer under center, it is paramount to ensure that the new signal-caller is comfortable and protected in the pocket. All signs point to Robinson becoming an elite blindside protector and a possible high NFL draft pick a few years down the road.
Who is Alabama's best commit thus far?
Although defensive end Da'Shawn Hand hasn't yet enrolled at Alabama, he is a hard commit who seems like a near certainty to play for the Crimson Tide at the collegiate level. Bama's defense has been among the nation's best since Saban first came to Tuscaloosa, and Hand is the perfect player to continue that tradition. Hand ranks as the No. 1 strong-side defensive end in the class, and he will enter an ideal situation.
According to 247Sports.com, Hand was a leading sack artist at Woodbridge High School in Virginia. He recorded 16 sacks in each of the past two seasons after bringing down the quarterback 21 times in 2011. He also has a rare blend of size and speed at 6'4" and 265 pounds with a 4.60-second time in the 40-yard dash.
Per Matt Scalici of AL.com, Hand is excited about the atmosphere that he will enter once he makes the jump to Alabama.
They've got a winning tradition, all the coaches care about their players and they don't lie to you, they tell you how it is. I know when I go in, I'm not going to be number one on the depth chart and I know I've got to do a lot of hard work. They had the most freshmen playing this year so anything is possible.
Hand already seems to have a winning attitude based on the fact that he isn't fixated on immediate playing time, and that has to be a dream come true from Saban's perspective. As long as Hand continues to improve like he has over the past few years, he is Alabama's next great defender.
If Alabama had one deficiency on defense in 2013, it was a lack of consistent play at the cornerback position. The Crimson Tide were susceptible to big plays down the field at times, and that became evident when Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight torched them in the Sugar Bowl. According to Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com, Bama addressed that in a big way by securing Tony Brown.
Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey would give Alabama a pair of five-star CB in the class. Saban/Smart could have used them last season.— Alex Scarborough (@AlexS_ESPN) January 29, 2014
Brown ranks as the No. 9 overall recruit and No. 2 corner in the nation, so Alabama's secondary is in good hands moving forward. The Tide also brought in cornerback Marlon Humphrey who could combine with Brown to form a shutdown pairing for years to come. Brown is considered to be the slightly better prospect thanks in large part to his blazing, track-star speed.
Humphrey is fast in his own right, but Brown may very well be one of the fastest players in college football once he hits the field. Brown was a special player at Ozen High School in Beaumont, Texas, and while transitioning to the SEC won't be easy, Brown is already a top-level athlete. That alone makes his path to success much easier than many of the other prospects in the 2014 class.
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