Alabama Football Recruiting: Top Prospects Attending Tide's Junior Day
Nick Saban is currently the king of college football recruiting, so it's no surprise several standout members of the 2015 class are heading to Tuscaloosa this weekend for a closer look at his operation. Alabama will host a collection of premier prospects Saturday for a junior day, reports 247Sports writer Charles Power.
Junior day events occur throughout the country and give recruits and their families an opportunity to explore campuses, visit football facilities and ask coaches questions. The Crimson Tide staff will stay busy seeking out their top targets in an attempt to acquire commitments during the weekend.
In-state players are expected to swarm to Tuscaloosa next signing day, but visitors from beyond Alabama are the biggest storyline Saturday. Let's take a closer look at the top-tier talents who will be in town.
All star rating and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com unless otherwise noted.
4-Star WR Preston Williams (Hampton, Ga.)
Preston Williams pledged to SEC rival Tennessee in September but didn't exactly shut down his recruiting process. He visited Clemson earlier this month, attended a junior day at Florida last weekend and now gets his first look at Alabama.
The 6'5", 205-pound receiver is rated No. 7 nationally at the position in 247Sports' composite rankings. He caught 59 passes for 1,388 yards and 14 touchdowns during his junior season at Lovejoy High School.
“I’m still committed to Tennessee,” Williams told GatorCountry.com reporter Andrew Spivey. “I’m committed but I’m very open to other schools.”
Alabama has managed to secure at least one big-bodied receiver each year throughout Saban's tenure. Williams, who can also fly down the field, fits the mold.
Alabama has already managed to secure three commitments from Georgia, headlined by 5-star defensive end Mekhi Brown.
5-Star LB Justin Hilliard (Cincinnati, Ohio)
St. Xavier High School linebacker Justin Hilliard is a relentless defensive force. The 6'2", 230-pound thumper stifles the rushing attack and adds another dimension in blitz packages.
His nationwide recruitment has already taken him to campuses at Oklahoma, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio State. Alabama aims to wrangle the heralded recruit from Big Ten country, and that effort hits another level on Saturday.
Hilliard is rated the nation's No. 2 outside linebacker prospect and top player in Ohio.
Due to proximity, Saban will want to make the most of his presence on campus. The goal here is to secure an official visit later in the process.
5-Star DT Trent Thompson (Albany, Ga.)
Defensive tackle Trent Thompson is the top-rated overall prospect in 247Sports composite rankings. The 6'4", 292-pound playmaker dominates opponents at Westover High School.
Thompson tallied 83 tackles and 12 sacks last season. He emerged as the No. 1 recruit in talent-rich Georgia.
Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is likely to identify the lineman as his top target this weekend. Thompson is also considering Auburn, Georgia, Florida State and Clemson, among others.
If the Tide can leave a good impression with Thompson, the team remains in his mix throughout the cycle.
4-Star OG Richie Petitbon (Washington, D.C.)
Richie Petitbon ranks among the nation's most impressive interior linemen. The 6'4", 301-pound prospect displays excellent athleticism and finishes blocks with force.
Petitbon, a Gonzaga High School standout, is listed third among all guards in 247Sports composite rankings. Few programs can compare to Alabama when it comes to producing top-tier offensive line talent for the NFL draft, which has to be an alluring factor for any player of Petitbon's prowess.
He attended junior day at Boston College earlier this month and spent time at Penn State in the past. His offer sheet also includes LSU, Maryland and Nebraska, among others.
4-Star LB Roquan Smith (Montezuma, Ga.)
He's been busy on the recruiting trail recently, including a trip to Tallahassee last weekend for Florida State's junior day. Smith, who spent time at Georgia Tech earlier this month, also holds offers from Auburn, Georgia and Kentucky.
Alabama has ridiculous depth throughout its linebacker corps, so Saban's mission is to convince Smith there's an early role to be earned. His recruitment appears destined for an all-out SEC battle.
4-Star DE Sterling Johnson (Clayton, N.C.)
Mammoth Cleveland High School star Sterling Johnson is one of the most physically imposing defensive ends in this class. The 6'5", 274-pound strong-side prospect picked up 80 tackles, including an astonishing 51 for loss, during his junior season.
Johnson added eight sacks and three forced fumbles. He attended Virginia Tech's junior day earlier this month and also has serious interest in Florida State, Miami, Clemson and North Carolina.
Alabama offered Johnson a scholarship Feb. 9, and quickly attracted attention from the talented defender. His recruitment is really starting to take off, evidenced by the upcoming visit to Tuscaloosa.
2016 RB Devin White (Springhill, La.)
Yes, this is a junior day piece, but Devin White is also expected on campus this weekend. He received an offer from the Tide shortly after his freshman year.
The 6'0", 224-pound prospect excels at linebacker and running back, where he ranks among America's top 2016 players. White rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a sophomore and collected 99 tackles.
LSU also offered White early and is viewed as a slight favorite in his recruitment. This won't be the first time we've seen Saban and Les Miles battle over an elite running back.