Alabama added the first player to its 2016 class this weekend, securing a commitment from Waynesboro, Mississippi, defensive tackle Benito Jones, the No. 98 overall prospect on the 247Sports composite rankings.
"A lot of people don't want me to leave the state," Jones said after picking up his 'Bama offer in May, per Wesley Sinor of AL.com (who confirmed his commitment). "But I'm going to go where I want to go."
Jones gets Alabama off the schneid in the class of rising juniors, moving it all the way up to No. 11 on the 247Sports team rankings.
At such an early stage of recruitment, though, those rankings speak more to the quantity of committed players than the quality of committed players. In time, the Tide will push for the No. 1 class.
Jones is undersized for a defensive tackle (6'2", 260 lbs) and won't be able to play in the middle of Alabama's 3-4 defense unless the scheme changes or he hits a growth spurt. He does appear capable of carrying more weight than he currently does, but Kirby Smart's scheme calls for a Terrence Cody-esque run-stuffer up the middle.
However, Jones excels with his hands and his technique and is a constant presence in opposing backfields. Think of a slighter-built Aaron Donald. He would probably fit better as a tackle in a 4-3, but if he makes the proper changes to his body, he can become a useful defensive end in the 3-4 scheme in Tuscaloosa.
Per Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue, he had 58 tackles and five sacks as a sophomore at Wayne County High School last season:
4-star DT Benito Jones becomes first Alabama commit of 2016 class. The Mississippi prospect had 58 tackles and five sacks as a sophomore.— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) July 14, 2014
Because of the way the Crimson Tide recruit, defensive line was not an area of "need." Nothing is. The 2014 class included 5-star recruit Da'Shawn Hand (the No. 4 overall player in the country) and 4-star recruit Josh Frazier (who weighs 325 pounds). The 2015 class already has five defensive linemen and counting, headlined by a pair of top-100 prospects (Mekhi Brown and Jonathan Ledbetter) and another 4-star recruit in T.D. Moton (who also weighs 300-plus pounds).
Jones' commitment brings the Tide security more than anything else. He is another dart thrown at the board, and his eligibility will be staggered from the group of prospects above. Especially if he takes a redshirt year to work on his body and frame—which, at this early stage, seems logical—he could be a part of this team until 2020.
And he has the potential to be much, much more than that.