Re-Evaluating Crimson Tide's 2011 Recruiting Class
When the University of Alabama football program celebrated national signing day in 2011, safety Vinnie Sunseri enjoyed seeing it from both sides for once, as he had already enrolled.
His joy was obvious. Sunseri's dad was part of Nick Saban's coaching staff, and everything had fallen just right so that the father and son could be together with the same team.
"Growing up I didn't get to see him too often because he was always out recruiting, always talking to other kids and stuff and I grew up envious of that," Sunseri told reporters that day. "Actually being able to be with him 24/7 is something that I'll remember the rest of my life. He is my hero."
While 2011 will always be remembered for the Crimson Tide winning the national championship after the devastating April tornadoes that went through the state, including Tuscaloosa, Alabama first won another recruiting title.
"Recruiting is a big part of football," linebacker Trey DePriest said after enrolling early as well. "It makes your program what it is.
"We have a great class. I can't wait until they all get here in the fall."
With Kouandjio's addition, Alabama signed three 5-star recruits and 15 4-star recruits in 2011. Those who were incoming freshmen would now be seniors (juniors if redshirted), but five players from the class are already in the National Football League, including two who were junior college transfers.
The two things in particular that coaches coveted were leadership and more athletic defensive linemen, which on paper the Crimson Tide appeared to add.
"I think we have a lot of good players in this class. I think Trey (DePriest) and Vinnie (Sunseri) both, and maybe because they've been here so they were involved on a couple of recruiting weekends, you're talking about guys who are everything you could wish for if your children grew up to be like them," head coach Nick Saban said during his signing day press conference. "They have a lot of ability, they are hard workers, they are very committed, but they're very personable and caring for other people and can put somebody else ahead of themselves in terms of what they're doing and what their commitment is. Those two guys have been very impressive to me as well."
He added about the defensive line: "Even though we had some good players last year and I was pleased with the progress our defense made throughout the course of the year, so I'm not in any way trying to be critical, we weren't quite as athletic, we didn't have as many good pass-rushers."
Here's a look back at the Class of 2011. Rankings are the composite listings by 247Sports, nationally, position and by state. Positions are where the player was initially recruited:
Pro-style quarterback Phillip Ely (3-star, No. 589 nationally, No. 17 position, No. 85 Florida).
Re-evaluation: After redshirting, Ely played in six games in 2012, completing 3 of 4 passes for 42 yards and one touchdown in mop-up duty. With six scholarship quarterbacks and walk-on Luke Del Rio on the roster in 2013, he transferred to Toledo.
All-purpose running back Dee Hart (4-star, No. 38 nationally, No. 3 position, No. 12 Florida).
Hart's Crimson Tide career was sadly set back by two ACL injuries that required season-ending surgeries. He had 43 carries for 166 yards and was an outstanding special teams player but left the team after last season. In February, he was arrested for possession of marijuana and giving police false information.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
Wide receiver Marvin Shinn (4-star, No. 62 nationally, No. 8 position. No. 1 Alabama); WR Bradley Sylve (4-star, No. 106, No. 5, No 6 Louisiana); WR Danny Woodson (4-star, No. 176, No. 28, No. 6 Alabama); Tight end Malcolm Faciane (4-star, No. 190, No. 10, No. 5 Mississippi); WR Duron Carter (3-star, No. 25 junior college, No. 5, No. 7 Kansas); WR Ronald Carswell (3-star, NA, No. 179, No. 100 Georgia).
No one panned out at a wide receiver, with Sylve the lone holdover at cornerback, where he's competing to start. Shinn and Woodson transferred to South Alabama. Carswell transferred to West Virginia and was kicked off the team last year. Carter never played a down for Alabama but is enjoying a successful CFL career with the Montreal Alouettes. Faciane has played sparingly, but so far, his only headline was for serving a 30-day suspension for violation of team rules last year.
Tackle Cyrus Kouandjio (5-star, No. 2 nationally, No. 1 position, No. 1 Maryland); Center Ryan Kelly (4-star, No. 237, No. 2, No. 12 Ohio); T Aaron Douglas (4-star, No. 12 junior college, No. 1, No. 2 Arizona); Guard Isaac Luatua (3-star, No. 391, No. 17, No. 40 California).
After sustaining a season-ending knee injury as a freshman, Kouandjio started at left tackle for two years and after leaving early was a second-round draft pick by Buffalo. Kelly won the starting job at center last year. Douglas tragically died in 2011. Size has been an issue for Luatua, as most of Alabama's other guards are big enough to play tackle.
Strong defensive end Xzavier Dickson (4-star, No. 34 nationally, No. 4 position, No. 5 Georgia); SDE Jeoffrey Pagan (4-star, No. 68, No. 6, No. 2 North Carolina); Defensive tackle Jesse Williams (4-star, No. 3 junior college, No. 2, No. 1 Arizona); Weakside defensive end D.J. Pettway (4-star, No. 206, No. 9, No. 38 Florida); DT LaMichael Fanning (4-star, No. 213, No. 19, No. 15 Georgia); DT Quinton Dial (4-star, No. 13 junior college, No. 6, No. 2 Mississippi).
Pagan left Alabama early and was recently drafted by the Houston Texans. Williams, a two-year starter on the line, is now with the Seattle Seahawks while Dial is with the San Francisco 49ers. Pettway was kicked out of school last year but has worked his way back. Dickson has played in 25 games, with six starts, but as a linebacker. Fanning, who was a bit of a recruiting gamble with tremendous upside, transferred to Jacksonville State last year.
Interior linebacker Trey DePriest (5-star, No. 29 nationally, No. 3 position, No. 1 Ohio); Outside linebacker Brent Calloway (4-star, No. 74, No. 4, No. 3 Alabama); ILB Vinnie Sunseri (3-star, No. 630, No. 32, No. 20 Alabama).
Sunseri defied the odds by becoming a starting safety and then again after a season-ending knee injury when he left school a year early and was drafted by the New Orleans Saints. DePriest has played in 40 games with 26 starts and is expected to be the leader and signal-caller for this year's defense. Calloway bounced around between running back, tight end and linebacker only to be kicked off the team last year. He headed to Arizona Western College to try and resurrect his career but left the program before the end of last season.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (5-star, No. 7 nationally, No. 2 position, No. 2 Florida); Athlete Jabriel Washington (4-star, No. 285, No. 15, No. 3 Tennessee); Cornerback Christion Jones (3-star, No. 365, No. 31, No. 10 Alabama).
Even with a two-game suspension, Clinton-Dix was arguably the best free safety in college football last season and was subsequently selected in the first round of the draft by Green Bay. Jones moved to wide receiver, where he became the starter in the slot, and on special teams had three returns for touchdowns last season. This will be an important fall camp for Washington at safety.
Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes and information were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.