Alabama Football: Ranking Alabama's Top 10 Recruiting Targets for 2015
After collecting yet another top-rated recruiting class last month, Nick Saban and his coaching staff are already off to a fast start for the 2015 cycle.
The Crimson Tide have already collected eight commitments and are squarely in the picture for a handful of the nation’s elite rising seniors.
Need positions such as safety and running back must be addressed, but expect Saban and his staff to target the best available options across the board.
Which 10 prospects make up the list of the Tide’s top targets in 2015?
10. Tim Settle
Nick Saban has struck gold in the last two recruiting classes when pursuing 5-star defensive linemen in the state of Virginia.
After landing standout defensive ends Jonathan Allen and Da’Shawn Hand, Saban is hoping to pull off the hat trick with 5-star defensive tackle Tim Settle.
Settle, who visited Tuscaloosa last summer for Saban’s camp, admits that the thought of teaming up with his good friend Hand is appealing.
The Tide will have to fend off Ohio State, Clemson, Virginia and Florida State to land the talented prospect.
9. Devonaire Clarington
Rising sophomore O.J. Howard is the future at tight end for the Tide for at least the next two seasons, but they could be looking for his eventual replacement in the 2015 cycle.
Alabama has had success recently in pulling elite skill players out of the talent-rich state of Florida such as Amari Cooper, Chris Black and Derrick Henry. The program will try to continue that trend by luring 4-star tight end Devonaire Clarington to Tuscaloosa.
Clarington, who is ranked as the nation’s No. 2 tight end according to 247 Sports, is an early target, and he was visited by assistant Mario Cristobal in late January.
While the hometown Miami Hurricanes appear to be the early favorite, Clarington is an elite talent who will be pursued by the top programs in the country. Expect the Tide to remain in the thick of the race.
8. Jovon Robinson
The running back position has become an integral part of the Tide’s identity in the Saban era and continues to be a strength with the likes of T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry operating out of the backfield.
However, the search is on to find the next elite back, and Alabama has tendered eight offers to touted rushers in recent weeks, according to Tim Watts of BamaOnline (subscription required).
Presumably at the front of that list is 5-star JUCO running back Javon Robinson, who rushed for 2,387 yards and 34 touchdowns last season.
As Kipp Adams of 247Sports (subscription required) details, Alabama is assumed to be the favorite to land the 5’11”, 220-pounder.
7. Leo Lewis
With upperclassmen such as senior Trey DePriest and junior Reggie Ragland headlining the Tide’s group of inside linebackers, restocking the roster with middle linebackers is a priority for Saban and Kirby Smart in 2015.
Brookhaven, Miss. 4-star linebacker Leo Lewis is one the Tide’s early targets in the middle.
The 6’3”, 225-pounder, who racked up 100 tackles last season, has Alabama and Mississippi State atop his early list of favorites.
According to Trevor Hewett of BamaOnline, Lewis was impressed with the program after his January visit for the Tide’s first junior day.
6. Trent Thompson
Alabama has targeted the defensive line heavily in its last two recruiting classes, and the 2015 cycle appears to be business as usual, with defensive line coach Bo Davis looking to add more elite talents to his unit.
The nation’s No. 1 player, according to 247Sports Composite Rankings, 5-star defensive tackle Trent Thompson is a target who visited Tuscaloosa earlier this month for the Tide’s junior day.
As Kipp Adams of 247Sports notes, the visit had a profound impact on Thompson, who called it, “probably the best visit I have had so far.”
Home-standing Georgia is still his leader, but Alabama, Auburn and Florida State lead the pack of powers that are trying to lure Thompson away from the Peach State.
5. Minkah Fitzpatrick
By signing Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey in the 2014 class, Alabama reloaded its corner position with two players who are capable of making instant impacts. However, expect Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to once again place an emphasis on targeting top flight corners in the 2015 cycle.
At the top of that list is New Jersey 5-star corner Minkah Fitzpatrick, who checks in as the nation’s No. 4 corner.
The 6’0”, 185-pounder visited the Capstone in January for the Tide’s first junior day. In the early stages of his recruitment, Alabama makes up one of the top schools on his list, along with the likes of South Carolina, Ohio State and Florida State.
4. Kerryon Johnson
With Landon Collins being a candidate to leave for the NFL after the 2014 season and Nick Perry set to graduate, safety will become a primary position of need in the 2015 cycle.
Alabama already has a commitment from Deionte Thompson, but in-state athlete Kerryon Johnson—who can also play running back—is a dynamic talent who could make an impact on either side of the ball in college.
Alabama, Auburn and Florida State make up the top three choices for Johnson, who is slated to visit Tuscaloosa next weekend, according to BamaOnline.
3. Richie Petitbon
Alabama loaded up on the offensive line in the 2014 class. However, only one (Montel McBride) of its six signees is slated to begin his career at guard.
Alabama is at the top of his list, along with Penn State, LSU and Maryland. Expect the Tide to be in the thick of the race to land the nation’s No. 4 guard prospect in the 2015 class.
2. CeCe Jefferson
After struggling to land impact defensive ends early in his tenure at Alabama, Saban has landed dynamic edge-rushers Jonathan Allen and Da’Shawn Hand in the last two years.
The head coach is hoping to keep that trend moving forward by landing 5-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson, the top pass-rusher in the Sunshine State.
Jefferson, who racked up 15 sacks as a sophomore, has Alabama, Florida, Florida State and Georgia among his early leaders.
As noted by BamaOnline, the Tide and the Gators are believed to be the front-runners for the talented 6’2”, 250-pounder.
1. Daron Payne
Alabama is in the thick of the race for three of the nation’s top six defensive tackle prospects in the 2015 cycle.
However, with in-state 5-star standout Daron Payne hailing from nearby Birmingham, Saban has zeroed in on keeping the 6’3”, 316-pounder close to home.
The race to land Payne, who has already accepted an invitation to play in the 2015 U.S. Army All-America Game, appears to be another battle between in-state rivals Alabama and Auburn.
As noted by Bryan Matthews of Auburn Undercover (subscription required), Payne confirmed that his decision will likely come down to the Tide or Tigers.
All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports.