On the heels of landing another No. 1 recruiting class, Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide are already off to a fast start in the 2015 cycle.
The Tide already have seven commitments for 2015, including three players ranked in the top 100 nationally, according to 247 Sports.
With Alabama’s roster always losing talented players early to the NFL, what positions look to be a priority for Saban and his staff to fill in the 2015 class?
Let’s take a look at the current class and break down how it could shake out by next February.
data and rankings courtesy of 247Sports Composite Rankings
After ranking up in the trenches in the 2014 class, both lines of scrimmage are once again an emphasis for Saban and his staff in the upcoming cycle.
For example, four of the Tide’s first seven 2015 pledges are from linemen.
Mekhi Brown, a 5-star defensive end, is one of the nation’s most coveted pass-rushers heading into his senior season. Brown recorded 56 tackles and five sacks as a junior and holds offers from powers such as Florida State, Auburn, Florida, Stanford and USC, amongst others. Fellow Georgia native and 3-star defensive tackle commit Jonathan Ledbetter’s early offer list is equally impressive.
The remaining three commitments are from skill players. Desherrius Flowers, a 4-star running back, is the next in a long line of freakish rushers to join the Tide’s stable of backs. After recently finding success in landing talent in the state of Louisiana, 4-star wideout Daylon Charlot, who caught 48 passes for 1,055 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior, is the next Pelican State standout bound for Tuscaloosa. Rounding out the group is Alabama’s first commitment in the 2015 cycle, 4-star safety Deionte Thompson. The Texas standout returned two of his five interceptions last season for touchdowns.
Positions of Need
While the 2014 offensive line class is as good as it gets on paper, only one of the six signees—Montel McBride—is listed as a guard. That position has already been emphasized by the Tide's staff in the early going with pledges from Warmack and Cotton.
Additionally, with two senior wideouts in Christion Jones and DeAndrew White leaving and the potential early departure of Amari Cooper, Saban will be in search of elite pass-catchers in this cycle.
On defense, linebacker and safety are positions that have a wealth of upperclassmen at the top of the depth chart. The 2014 linebacker class is similar to the offensive line group, but with Trey DePriest and Xzavier Dickson set to graduate, expect Kirby Smart to target some difference-makers at that spot.
With Nick Perry and Jarrick Williams entering their final college season and the potential of Landon Collins to test the NFL draft waters, safety becomes a huge need for Saban to address.
Depending on offseason attrition and potential early NFL draft entries, there are other positions that could surge ahead on this list.
Payne is a 5-star defensive tackle from nearby Birmingham, while Johnson has the potential to be an impact performer at running back or safety at the next level.
Then you have 4-star offensive linemen Javon Patterson and Richie Petitbon, a pair of standouts who could potentially land at guard in college. A player to watch at tackle is 4-star Tampa product Jake Fruhmorgen, whose father, John, played at Alabama from 1986-88.
Alabama has targeted the state of Florida hard in recent classes, and 5-star Sunshine State standout CeCe Jefferson is high on the Tide’s radar for 2015. The 6’2”, 250-pound Jefferson, who registered 15 sacks as a sophomore, is one of the nation’s top defensive ends.
Even after landing two 5-star corners in Marlon Humphrey and Tony Brown, expect Saban to be relentless in his pursuit of New Jersey standout Minkah Fitzpatrick. The 6’0”, 185-pounder, who has recorded 19 pass breakups and four interceptions over the last two seasons, attended Alabama’s first junior day last month.
As Ryan Bartow of 247Sports notes, Alabama is one of a handful of programs that has hit the ground running for the 2015 cycle.
With seven early pledges and heavy interest from several of the nation’s top prospects such as Jefferson, Fitzpatrick and Payne, expect Alabama to contend for its fifth straight No. 1 recruiting class when the dust settles on signing day in 2015.
All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.