Who Is Left on Alabama's Recruiting Board: Is It Enough To Catch The Longhorns?
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Since stepping foot on the campus in Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban has made recruiting priority number one. If you don't have the athletes to compete, then it makes it a lot harder to win the SEC and BCS Championship.
After bringing home both trophies last year, running the gauntlet through a brutal schedule to go 14-0, and also molding the current Heisman Trophy winner, what is left for the Tide?
Next up? Repeat.
And how do you do that?
Continue to bring in top-level talent, just as he has done since he arrived. Never has the University of Alabama brought in young men with such athletic ability and intelligence as the current bunch wearing Crimson.
Current Signing Class:
With 18 verbal commitments in hand, who is left on Nick Saban’s radar for the Class of 2011?
Before we take a guess at the next members of ‘Bama’s freshman crop, let’s take a look at the current verbals to figure out which position(s) are left on the board for the Alabama coaches to fill.
Here is a quick list by position of the 18 current commitments: (Home state in parentheses)
QB (1) – Phillip Ely (FL)
RB (0) – None
WR (4) – Bradley Sylve (LA); Marvin Shinn (AL); Daryl Collins (AL); Danny Woodson (AL)
TE (1) – Malcolm Faciane (MS)
OL (2) – Ryan Kelly (OH, Center); Isaac Luatua (CA, Guard)
DT (3) – Quinton Dial (MS, JUCO); D.J. Pettway (FL); Jesse Williams (AZ – Australia, JUCO)
DE (1) – LaMichael Fanning (GA)
LB (4) – Trey DePriest (OH); Vinnie Sunseri (AL); Shannon Brown (GA); Brent Calloway (AL)
S (1) – Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix (FL)
CB (1) – Jabriel Washington (TN)
Looking at this list, you can clearly see which positions are lacking.
Alabama still has needs at running back, both the offensive and defensive line, and the secondary. Let’s take a look at the possible signees for each position...
Running Back Position: Isaiah Crowell
Isaiah Crowell Could Be Part of the Lacey-Crowell Tandem in 2 Years
At the Running Back position, it is pretty “cut-and-dry” as to who is in the mix to fulfill their Heisman hopes at the University of Alabama.
In last year’s signing class, ‘Bama landed Corey Grant at Tailback and Jalston Fowler at Fullback.
Fowler experimented with the linebacking corps before moving back to running back, but he is a big bruising back, almost in the form of a fullback. Even with all of his ability, I don't see Grant as a true “every down” type back. This makes signing a high-profile back that much more urgent.
With Heisman Trophy Winner, Mark Ingram, likely gone after this year, and Trent "Juggernaut" Richardson probably venturing into the NFL the year after, that would leave Eddie Lacey as the only feature back left on the team for them to compete against.
‘Bama’s two priorities this year were arguably the best two Running Backs in the nation for 2011: Malcolm Brown (Scout #1 RB, Rivals #1 RB) out of Cibolo, TX and Isaiah Crowell (Scout #2 RB, Rivals #4 RB) from Columbus, GA. Brown has since signed with Texas.
Crowell is down to two as well to land his services: Georgia and Alabama.
It's really a toss-up as to who he favors. It changes on a weekly basis. He recently returned from a visit to Tuscaloosa for the Penn State game and had nothing but great words. He has never been forced to carry the whole load, splitting carries in high school with other backs. That would be perfect for Saban's 1-2 Punch with Richardson in one year, or with Eddie Lacey in two years.
The latest word on the street is that Crowell recently canceled a visit to Georgia. I cannot confirm this for sure, but if it is the case, that would definitely be a positive for the Crimson Tide.
Two other possibilities at Running Back, should Crowell sign with Georgia, are Dee Hart (Scout #9 RB, Rivals #1 APB) out of Orlando, FL, and Javarius "Buck" Allen (Scout #48 RB, Rivals #35 ATH).
Most think that the offers for Hart and Allen are "contingent" offers based on what Crowell does. I don't think Hart sticks around to find out. My guess is he signs with the Michigan Wolverines, or possibly the Auburn Tigers.
Allen is seriously under-rated by both Scout and Rivals in my opinion. He has offers from Auburn, FSU, Georgia, Miami, Tennessee, South Carolina, and USC. A back with those kind of offers is usually ranked a lot higher.
Ameer Abdullah from Homewood, AL is having a break-out Senior campaign as well. Can he garner a 'Bama offer?
Best guess is that Crowell ends up in a Crimson jersey come Signing Day.
Offensive Line Positions: Cyrus Kouandjio
Alabama fans hope Cyrus Kouandjio will join his brother, Arie, on the Offensive Line
With ‘Bama having signed three Offensive Guards in last year’s class, plus one this year, they are probably done at that position.
The signing of Isaac Luatua (Scout #18 OG, Rivals #9 C) will help bolster the Alabama offensive line as well for years to come.
Cyrus Hobbi (Rivals #2 OG, Scout #8 OG) from Scottsdale, AZ holds a 'Bama offer, but he is likely headed elsewhere.
Spencer Region (Rivals #20 OG, Scout #24 OG) holds an Alabama offer, but his recruitment has been similar to that of a merry-go-round. It's been full of drama, and some Alabama fans are not sure if that offer is even still on the table.
I'm calling the signing of Region doubtful.
Ryan Kelly (Rivals #7 C, Scout #2 C) was a huge pick-up and will be starting at the center position in a couple of years once William Vlachos has graduated.
Reese Dismukes (Rivals #4 C, Scout #4 C) had a 'Bama offer, but chose to go to the other in-state school. That is one of only a few quality pick-ups for the Tigers this year. It is very doubtful they will be able to match last year's heralded signing class.
Auburn celebrated last year's class as a huge defeat to Alabama's class. (Most services had Auburn finishing 4th in the rankings, with Alabama coming in a close 5th) Unfortunately, what most Auburn fans don't realize, is that Saban has come to expect a top five signing class every year, not once every ten years, as most Auburn fans hope and pray for each year.
Having signed only one offensive tackle last year, and none this year so far, this position has to be a position of focus for Bama’s coaching staff.
2010 saw the signing of Arie Kouandjio at the tackle position, and this year, his younger brother is the No. 1 ranked player at the same position. DJ Fluker, a past No. 1 ranked OT from 2009 has provided much support to bolster the tackle position as well.
Cyrus Kouandjio (Rivals #2 OT, Scout #1 OT) out of Hyattsville, MD is every coach's dream tackle. Cyrus just recently trimmed his list, and Alabama made the cut.
Iowa has been giving a strong push as of late. Most think he will follow his brother, Arie, to Tuscaloosa come February.
Another recruit that has peaked the interest of Saban in the past few months is Xzavier Ward (Rivals #41 OT, Scout #36 OT) out of Moultrie, GA.
He has already lined up an official visit for later in the season. While not ranked as highly as some of the other recruits that Alabama is pursuing, he obviously must have considerable talent for Saban to still be recruiting him. Nick has not steered the 'Bama Nation wrong yet, so I will trust his talent evaluation, that's for sure.
Other possibilities at offensive tackle are Brandon Shell (Rivals #10 OT, Scout #6 OT) from Goose Creek, SC; Bobby Hart (Rivals #8 OT, Scout #9 OT) from Ft. Lauderdale, FL and current FSU commitment; Greg Robinson (Rivals #4 OT, Scout #11 OT) from Thibodaux, LA; and finally Antonio Richardson (Rivals #7 OT, Scout #12 OT) of Nashville, TN.
While all of these recruits have Alabama listed on their short lists and were recruited heavily at times by Saban and the coaching staff, don't look for any of them to be wearing Crimson next season.
Saban has put a strong emphasis on getting Cyrus Kouandjio, and these other recruits just don't measure up to the ability that this young man has.
I look for Shell to possibly sign with South Carolina, Hart to keep his commitment to Florida State (although he has shown interest in 'Bama as of late), Robinson to ultimately decide between his in-state school of LSU or Auburn, and Richardson to stay at home as well, and sign with the Tennessee Volunteers.
Tight End Position: Jay Rome / Nick O'Leary
Jay Rome just might be the #1 ranked Tight End in the country....
Even though Alabama has already taken one tight end in the class with Malcolm Faciane (Rivals #17 TE, Scout #21 TE), two of the top recruits in the nation have narrowed their lists down to Crimson as well.
The fact that ‘Bama runs multiple formations where they employ more than one tight end is a huge selling point for Saban to sway any tight end recruits.
Alabama uses two and three tight end sets quite often. Coupled with the fact that starting tight end, Preston Dial, is graduating this year, that means early and lots of playing time.
Jay Rome (Rivals #3 TE, Scout #1 TE) out of Valdosta, GA and Nick O’Leary (Rivals #1 TE, Scout #2 TE) from Palm Beach Gardens, FL, both have the Tide high on their list.
Most recently, Rome has narrowed his final schools to two: Alabama and Georgia. Rome's father played at Clemson, but as of late, he seems to have lost interest.
It will be a tough pull to get him out of state, but he has liked what he has seen of Alabama's use of the Tight End so far this year. The fact that Georgia has started the season 1-2, and with Coach Mark Richt moving further and further away from a little thing we like to call "job security", Nick Saban just might be able to land this all-star recruit.
O'Leary has been perceived as under-sized by some recruiting experts, but these same experts say he catches anything thrown his way. His performance on the camp circuit this summer turned quite a few heads, and that led to his jump to the top of most recruiting rankings.
He has had a top six list for a while now. It looked like Alabama was at the top of his list, along with Miami, for quite a bit, but I think he has "cooled" on the Tide as of late.
My opinion is he ends up staying in-state and signs with one of the Big 3 home schools.
Although not likely, another possibility at the tight end position is Brandon Fulse (Rivals #9 TE, Scout #13 TE) out of Fort Meade, FL. I think it's a long shot, but he does have a 'Bama offer. If the Tide sign either Rome or O'Leary, that would be two signees in this class. Don't look for Saban to sign a third.
There's not much to write about here as we have four commitments in the fold already for the 2010 signing class.
This is quite possibly the best recruiting class for wide receivers that Alabama has ever signed. The word coming out of the recruiting circles is that many wideouts are impressed at Alabama's offense this year.
Alabama has shown to be more than a one dimensional running team.
There have been rumors of some receivers taking other visits, and that one or two of them might be looking elsewhere. So until Signing Day arrives, Saban and his coaching staff will keep recruiting. February is still five months away.
I tell you what, I do have to give "props" to the coaching staff for pulling Bradley Sylve (Rivals #17 WR, Scout #44 WR) out of Louisiana. I think quite a few recruiting gurus were surprised at this one as well. The addition of "Marvelous" Marvin Shinn (Rivals #8 WR, Scout #8 WR), who committed last Spring, will help ease the pain of the loss of Julio Jones after this year.
Now, it is doubtful that they take another, but if they do, look for them to sign Nickolas Brassell (Scout #9 WR) out of Batesville, MS. He has expressed quite a bit of interest in Alabama, and he is one of those players that can play any position on the field; he is truly an athletic phenomenon. He would be a huge pick-up.
Cornerback Position: Chris Jones
Chris Jones Would Be a Nice Addition at the Corner Position
At the cornerback position, Jabriel Washington (Scout #10 CB, Rivals #31 ATH) is a good addition to this year’s class, but ‘Bama would like to sign another if they can. The fact that they brought in four signees last year leaves a little breathing room, and it makes the position not as much of a need as Safety.
One of these recruits could possibly put on some weight and make the move to safety, which would add depth to the position that is so needed.
The top corners left on ‘Bama’s recruiting board are Doran Grant (Scout #2 CB, Rivals #1 CB) from Akron, OH, Damian Swann (Scout #5 CB, Rivals #8 ATH) from Atlanta, GA, Malcolm Mitchell (Scout #13 CB, Rivals #11 S) out of Valdosta, GA, Robensen Therezie (Scout #24 CB, Rivals #17 S) from Miami, FL, Chris Jones (Scout #28 CB, Rivals #18 S) from Adamsville, AL, and finally Jabari Gorman (Scout #45 CB, Rivals #10 S) out of Miami, FL.
Grant has many suitors with offers all over the nation. Some think he favors the in-state school of Ohio State, but others think he has not tipped his hand in any way. He will most likely wait until Signing Day.
I don't expect him to wear Crimson.
Most think Swann will come down to Georgia and Alabama. Alabama would love to have him, but will he wait so long that his spot is no longer available?
Malcolm Mitchell is visiting. This one will come down to an Alabama-Georgia "battle royale" as well for his signature. I have a "gut feeling" about this one. I think he just might wear Crimson before it's all over.
Therezie and Gorman are both long shots. The most likely candidate out of the two may be Therezie. With fewer and fewer spots, it looks less likely though.
The most likely signee may be Chris Jones. He's been having quite a year so far at Minor High School in Birmingham. I have a feeling he may commit sooner than later; don't be surprised if he is our next commitment.
Safety Position: Enrique Florence
Alabama Is Trying To Sway Enrique Florence Away From Auburn
Alabama’s Secondary is one of great concern to the coaching staff due to the lack of depth. It has been riddled by losses due to graduation, the NFL draft, suspension, and players leaving the university.
In the 2010 signing class, Alabama signed four cornerbacks and two safeties, all of who were highly rated, according to most recruiting sites.
Even with those signees, ‘Bama is still lacking depth at the position, and the secondary has to be “Priority One” in this year’s class. In this writer’s opinion, the safety position is the most urgent.
Ha'sean Clinton-Dix (Scout #1 S, Rivals #1 S) is the No. 1 safety in the nation according to most recruiters, and he might be the top commitment in the class to date. ‘Bama still needs to add one more to the position to fill its needs for next year.
With George Atkinson (Scout #15 S, Rivals #12 ATH) of Livermore, CA, recently committing to Notre Dame, along with his twin brother is what some term as a “package deal”, that leaves only the possible addition of Enrique Florence (Scout #5 S, Rivals #3 S) out of Valley, AL.
Florence visited the Capstone for the Penn State game, and was thought to have had a good time. But at this time, he is thought to be “leaning” to Auburn over Alabama, thus it’s doubtful he signs with ‘Bama.
Quincy Aldridge (Scout #47 S, Rivals #26 S) out of Whitehouse, TX is rumored to favor Alabama, but he has yet to receive an offer.
The addition of Eddie Williams (Early projections have him as a 4-5 Star on Scout & Rivals) from Pensacola, FL (Class of 2012) does help solidify the safety position for years to come.
Clearly, these are not the only options at safety, as Saban could be recruiting some cornerbacks or small linebackers for a position change.
Some of the targets at corner (which are addressed in the previous slide) are even listed by the recruiting sites to project at safety at the collegiate level. So don't give up hope on anymore safeties just yet. Besides, Nick Saban is a secondary coach at heart; he knows a good safety when he sees one.
Defensive Line Positions: Jadeveon Clowney
Jadeveon Clowney is the #1 ranked recruit in the Nation
With Terrence “Mount” Cody departing for the NFL this past year, Alabama has been looking for the next “diamond in the ruff” behemoth defensive tackle.
They found him in Jesse Williams (Rivals 4 Star DT, Scout 4 star DT) out of Arizona Western JC in Yuma, AZ. He is on the verge of a 5 star ranking on both sites.
Tackle is not a huge position of worry since they have Josh Chapman, Kerry Murphy, and a couple youngsters on the team already, not to mention Quinton Dial and D.J. Pettway in this year’s class already. Most coaches’ philosophy though is that you can never have enough big men on your roster.
Gabe Wright (Rivals #7 DT, Scout #7 DT) out of Columbus, GA, Viliami Moala (Rivals #9 DT, Scout #4 DT) from Sacramento, CA, and Tim Jernigan (Rivals #3 DT, Scout #1 DT) out of Lake City, FL are other prospects on ‘Bama’s board.
Jernigan is thought to be a Florida “lean”, and Moala’s interest may have peaked in ‘Bama’s favor when they signed Isaac Luatua out of California. Wright has yet to narrow his list.
After the signing of Williams, Alabama is most likely done at the defensive tackle position, but in my opinion, if Jernigan wanted to come to Alabama, his scholarship would still be waiting. Let's see if his visit to the Capstone next weekend for the Florida game influences his decision at all.
Nick Saban thinks he may have found the successor to Marcel Dareus in Rock Hill, South Carolina’s famed weak side defensive end, Jadeveon Clowney (Rivals #1 WDE, Scout #1 DE).
Considered the No. 1 overall recruit in the nation by just about every scouting service in the country, Clowney would headline this year’s signing class, and possibly make it rival the class being put together in Austin. Many "recruit-niks" consider Clowney to be the top defensive line prospect to come out in the past 5 years.
That's saying something about this young man's natural ability.
LaMichael Fanning (Rivals #10 DT, Scout #17 DE) is already in the fold in this year’s class, but it does not matter how many ends you already have on your team. When a player the caliber of Clowney comes along, you drop everything and snag him up.
Some scouts think he is ready for the NFL right now, so just imagine what a few years under Saban’s wing would do for his draft status.
It was last reported that South Carolina and ‘Bama were his top two schools, with Clemson in the mix as well. Most think he will choose ‘Bama over the home-state school because he would get more recognition at Alabama since he would be on national television every week, and the fact that he would be better coached and more prepared for a NFL career in Tuscaloosa than in Columbia.
Other possibilities at Defensive End are Jermauria Rasco (Rivals #10 SDE, Scout #3 DE) out of Shreveport, LA; Ishaq Williams (Rivals #4 WDE, Scout #7 DE) of Brooklyn, NY; Ray Drew (Rivals #2 WDE, Scout #8 DE) from Thomasville, GA; and finally Xzavier Dickson (Rivals #5 WDE, Scout #15 DE) of Griffin, GA.
Rasco is being pursued heavily by quite a few teams.
The Texas Longhorns are after him for the last spot in their No. 1 ranked signing class. LSU has been in the mix since day one, and they are the in-state school.
It will be tough to pull him out of the Louisiana recruiting hot-bed, but Saban still has his ties to the state from his coaching days at LSU, and we all know it's been done before. (Perfect example is Luther Davis, another highly touted defensive end prospect out of Louisiana from Saban's 1st signing class at Alabama that he stole out from underneath Les Miles' fingertips...Miles blew whatever gasket he had left after this coup)
Meanwhile, Williams has already visited the Capstone once over the Summer. This athlete has considerable talent, but it just seems like a tough pull all the way from New York state. But we shall see.
Ray Drew has changed favorites more than Steve Spurrier changes quarterbacks, so there's no telling where he ends up signing.
He's a stud though, and hopefully Saban can sway him during his official visit. This star in the making has got to have his head on straight, which is obviously a plus; rumor is that he is an ordained minister. He sounds like a coach's dream recruit.
Dickson may be the most likely to sign with the Tide outside of Clowney. I predict a "grunge match" fight between Alabama and Georgia all the way to signing day for his signature.
Anyway you look at it, 'Bama's Defensive Line signing class will most likely be the top in the nation this year...
Where Will They Finish?
Mark Ingram and the President at the White House after Winning the BCS Championship
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Finishing Up With the #1 Class?
With Alabama preparing to sign anywhere from 25-28 players this year, that leaves quite a few slots left in this year’s class.
With as few as seven spots left, or as many as 10 spots remaining, look for ‘Bama to end with a triumphant roar on Signing Day.
Most services have Alabama ranked in the top 3 signing classes already. Texas is the clear No. 1 in all the recruiting rankings. But with them likely to only sign one more, can they hold on to their precious lead?
Ohio State is No. 2 according to most services. They currently have 18 commitments as well, but there's not many high-profile recruits left on their board. If Alabama signs any of the heralded recruits they are after, Ohio State will be left in the dust.
Stanford and Notre Dame are not far behind Alabama at this point, but their classes are just about full. Don't look for them to move any higher in the rankings either.
Can LSU, Georgia, Oklahoma, or Florida catch up to Alabama? It's not likely with the amount of high-profile recruits left on Alabama's board.
So back to the big question once again...Can Alabama catch the Texas Longhorns?
*** If they sign Cyrus Kouandjio, Isaiah Crowell, Jadeveon Clowney, one of their tight end targets, and a few more, look for them to pass the Longhorns and finish with the Recruiting Championship once again. ***
Either way, Nick Saban has returned Alabama into the national recruiting powerhouse that they once were under Coach Bear Bryant, and don't look for that to change anytime soon.