The country's top-ranked 2015 recruiting class is still missing one key component—a quarterback. Alabama, in the driver's seat for another No. 1 prospect haul, continues its search for a signal-caller as April comes to a close.
Nick Saban appeared to address the position last August, when 5-star quarterback Ricky Town committed. The Crimson Tide seemed to solidify things with the coveted California recruit prior to the start of his junior campaign.
His pledge remained in place through a sensational season that earned Town an invite to the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. However, the situation changed when Steve Sarkisian took over as head coach at USC, and Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier departed for the same role at Michigan.
Town visited the Trojans twice in January. On Jan. 25, he flipped his commitment from the Tide to USC:
Today I have de-committed from Alabama. It was an honor to get to know Coach Saban and the Alabama fans. Thank you!— Ricky Town (@RickyTownQB) January 25, 2014
The 6'4", 205-pound passer left a void in Alabama's class that remains unfilled more than three months later.
Alabama has gone on to assemble yet another sensational crop of prospects, including four top-level pledges that came during spring game festivities on April 19. Still, all the 5-star defenders and dominant offensive linemen can't cover up the fact that Saban needs to land quarterback in this class.
The team welcomes incoming Florida State transfer Jacob Coker to Tuscaloosa this summer, but he'll arrive with just two years of collegiate eligibility left. Fellow roster newcomer David Cornwell, a 2014 signee, missed the second half of his senior season after undergoing knee surgery but participated in spring camp as an early enrollee.
Alabama isn't facing dire straits at quarterback—or any position for that matter—but success under Saban has been largely built on depth. When it comes time to call for the "next man up," there's typically been another stud to step in and seamlessly help the lineup transition.
So which prospect is ready to take his place in line at quarterback?
Alabama is annually selective when it comes to extending offers to high school signal-callers. This cycle has been no exception, with a limited number of quarterbacks actually holding scholarships from the Tide.
The team went 0-of-3 in its West Coast efforts. Town is headed to USC after a change of heart, while fellow California standouts Jake Browning (Washington) and Blake Barnett (Notre Dame) are already committed elsewhere.
Ty Storey (Charleston, Ark.) and Tyler Queen (Kennesaw, Ga.) picked up offers from Alabama last summer but opted to pledge to other SEC teams. Storey joined Arkansas' class in June, and Queen committed to Auburn in July, all before Town created his verbal pact with the Tide.
Alabama missed on another key target last month when Texas standout Jarrett Stidham committed to Texas Tech. Saban gave Stidham an offer just days after losing Town.
Gibson, rated No. 1 nationally among dual-threat quarterbacks, seems far more concerned with Ohio State, Tennessee and Auburn. The 5-star prospect spent his spring break traveling to campuses from Oklahoma to Clemson, but he didn't take a detour to Tuscaloosa.
Locksley, a 4-star recruit, trimmed his list of collegiate options down to 10 teams earlier this month. Alabama didn't make the cut:
Cutting it down to 10 for now, no order: pic.twitter.com/scfDvB9IK2— Kai Locksley (@LOCKSnLOADED_3) April 19, 2014
Gentry, a massive playmaker from New Mexico, appears to be the most realistic target at this stage. The 6'7", 230-pound Eldorado High School product received an offer from the Tide in late February.
Less than two weeks ago, Gentry revealed his top four choices to Rivals.com reporter Rob Cassidy (subscription required). Alabama landed on the short list, along with Oklahoma State, Tennessee and Texas.
Gentry unveiled those favorites before stepping foot on Tuscaloosa soil. Alabama gave him an up-close look of the campus earlier this month when he visited for spring game action, per 247Sports.
Gentry threw for 3,609 yards, 26 touchdowns and nine interceptions during the past two seasons combined. He also proved to be a capable rushing threat for a player of his size with 617 yards and 16 scores on the ground in 2013.
Still in the early stages of his development as a drop-back passer, Gentry wouldn't face pressure to play early at Alabama. A few years of refinement could make him an extremely dangerous player when the time comes for him to compete for a starting role with the Tide.
How will Alabama handle the QB position in 2015 class?
Gentry has plenty of suitors, including some who could promise a better opportunity for early playing time. Even though he's the most ideal match for Alabama—and the odds-on favorite to end up filling the void as the Tide's 2015 quarterback—that shouldn't stop Saban and first-year offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin from exploring other options.
Although they're well underway with their respective nationwide recruiting processes, Lorenzo Nunez (Kennesaw, Ga.), Dwayne Lawson (Tampa, Fla.) and Kyler Murray (Allen, Texas) are options to consider. Quarterback prospects are quick to fly off the market during the summer before their senior seasons, so Alabama is entering a pivotal stretch of spring evaluations.
Expect the Tide to extend new offers to passers in the coming weeks. However, Alabama ultimately aims to land Gentry, a quarterback who has already established a rapport with the program.
Recruit information courtesy of 247Sports unless otherwise noted.