Nick Saban scooped up another commitment from a promising defensive prospect Wednesday when in-state standout Christian Bell pledged to the Crimson Tide. The Birmingham product revealed his intentions on Twitter:
I am officially committed to the University of Alabama #Rolltide— Frosty Flake (@BELL_ringerr) April 23, 2014
He capped off an impressive campaign with two sacks in the state title game, a 20-3 victory over Auburn. Hoover captured a second straight state championship and extended its win streak to 30 games.
Bell developed into a legitimate high-level FBS prospect during his sophomore season. He tallied 39 tackles and two sacks as one of the youngest members of a talent-laden Buccaneers defensive unit.
Scholarships from Mississippi State, South Carolina and Southern Miss arrived last spring. After several campus visits, Alabama officially joined the chase in February by extending an offer during a junior day event.
Just a few days later, Hoover teammate Marlon Humphrey—a 5-star 2014 cornerback prospect—signed with the Tide. Bell now plans to reunite with him in Tuscaloosa, despite earlier allegiances to the other in-state powerhouse.
"I grew up an Auburn fan and when I was a little kid there was no way I was ever going to play football at Alabama," he told AL.com reporter Jeff Sentell.
Instead, he'll look to wreak havoc against the rival Tigers for years to come.
Bell made significant strides as a pass-rusher last fall, utilizing increased strength and hip fluidity to penetrate the offensive backfield on a regular basis. His physical frame continues to expand, so there's reason to believe he'll pack on pounds and additional height before his arrival at Alabama.
Bell, rated No. 15 nationally among weak-side defensive end prospects in 247Sports' composite rankings, displays serious versatility. Several college programs, including Alabama, view him as a strong-side linebacker, which Rivals.com reporter Andrew Bone was quick to point out:
Christian Bell is recruited by #Alabama to play the SAM linebacker position. He is rated as a DE.— Andrew Bone (@AndrewJBone) April 23, 2014
Bell follows in a long line of large, disruptive outside linebackers at Alabama. He'll eventually be relied on to provide stout run support, intermediate pass coverage and an effective rush off the edge.
It's not an easy position to grow acclimated to in Tuscaloosa, so expectations for immediate playing time might be unrealistic for Bell. He'll have to contend with a stockpile of talent that has been built up through four consecutive top-ranked recruiting classes.
Alabama already holds commitments from 4-star defensive ends Mekhi Brown (Columbus, Ga.) and Jonathan Ledbetter (Tucker, Ga.). Anfernee Jennings, a 3-star in-state end, pledged to the Tide last month.
Those players figure to spend their days in Tuscaloosa along the defensive front. Bell will certainly be called upon to spend plenty of snaps near the line of scrimmage, but he'll also be asked to adapt by playing at the second level.
He draws comparisons to 2014 signee Christian Miller (Columbia, S.C.), and the two could contend for the same role in the near future. Hoover head coach Josh Niblett told AL.com he expects Bell to excel in Alabama's defensive scheme.
The sky is the limit for him and that's what makes him so special. The physical ability he has to have the length that he has and do what he can do at defensive end and be a guy that if you have zone blitzes and have to drop in space and be able to make plays and not just drop in space and take up space. He runs well and understands leverage and I'm excited for him and I think Alabama is getting a great player that I think fits really well in the scheme that they run.
Bell is the 15th member of the Tide's 2015 recruiting class. Saban has now collected five commitments since last Saturday, when Alabama hosted annual "A-Day" spring game festivities. The class rates No. 1 nationally in 247Sports' composite rankings.
Recruit information and statistics courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.