QB Mac Jones Flips to Alabama: Crimson Tide Now Claim Two Elite 11 Finalists

Tyler Donohue@@TDsTakeNational Recruiting AnalystJune 8, 2016

Credit: Student Sports

The Alabama Crimson Tide reeled in another blue-chip quarterback recruit Tuesday night when longtime Kentucky Wildcats pledge Mac Jones flipped his commitment to an SEC foe.

Fresh off an appearance at Elite 11 national finals in Redondo Beach, California, the 4-star Florida prospect announced a change of plans on Twitter:

Jones, a marquee member of Kentucky's 2017 class since last summer, expressed gratitude for the Wildcats interest but ultimately couldn't pass up a chance to compete in Tuscaloosa.

"I would like to thank the University of Kentucky for recruiting me, however, an opportunity of a lifetime has presented itself to my family and me," he wrote.

The 6'2", 180-pound passer spent time at Alabama this week, returning to campus for the second time since head coach Nick Saban extended a scholarship offer in April. His commitment was the culmination of a lengthy back-and-forth between him and the team's legendary leader.

"Coach Saban likes to take his time with quarterbacks. We'd be in contact a lot with like a weekly phone call," Jones told Bleacher Report. "It took some time on both of our ends, because he wants to move slower with quarterbacks and I'm over here still committed and trying to figure out what I want to do. Saban always said he wanted me but things really clicked on this last visit. When he presented the opportunity, it took like two seconds to say 'yes'. All the coaches were really excited."

Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin reacted on social media with an emoji that surely stung in Lexington:

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Jones, rated No. 14 nationally among pro-style quarterbacks in composite rankings, joins fellow Elite 11 finalist Tua Tagovailoa in a talent-laden Alabama recruiting class. Before either player pledged to the program, Saban secured a commitment from No. 3 pro-style passer Jake Fromm, who eventually flipped to the Georgia Bulldogs.

"From the time Alabama started recruiting me, the coaching staff told me they were going to take two quarterbacks and they wanted me to be one of them," Jones said. "That's been factual and we're on the same page in terms of that. There's not any lying going on or anything like that and I knew exactly what I was going to be dealing with."

Alabama added scintillating dual-threat Texas talent Jalen Hurts to its roster this past winter, while 2014 Elite 11 MVP Blake Barnett is approaching his second season in Tuscaloosa. With Jones and Tagovailoa also on board, Saban now boasts one of college football's most compelling young crops of quarterbacks. 

Jones tallied more than 2,100 passing yards and 26 touchdown tosses as a junior at The Bolles School of Jacksonville, according to Tre Hogue of SEC Country. His preseason pledge to Kentucky occurred before the recruitment process really ramped up.

Arizona State, Indiana, Rutgers, Washington State and Illinois each extended offers during a busy February stretch that spanned just over a week. Cal, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Missouri and Pittsburgh joined the pursuit in May.

Jones' commitment to Kentucky remained in place for more than 10 months, but many wondered whether it would actually reach national signing day as alternative options opened across college football. The dismissal of offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson, who served as his primary recruiter, didn't do the Wildcats any favors in terms of staff rapport.

Alabama sealed the deal with his latest trip to campus.

"I just felt that click with everyone there—Coach Saban, all his assistant coaches and the support staff," he said. "I really like how Saban has everyone focused team-oriented instead of individual. I live by that and think that's how you have to be in order to have success."

Less than 24 hours after his commitment flip, Jones is already at work attempting to attract other top talents to Alabama. He publicly targeted 4-star Louisiana receiver Devonta Smith on Wednesday afternoon:

His presence in this class should further enhance Saban and Kiffin's sales pitch to interested offensive prospects. Though he didn't make the cut at Elite 11 finals for an invitation to The Opening, an annual showcase held in July at Nike's world headquarters, Jones has firmly solidified himself among America's most promising high school passers.

Meanwhile, Tagovailoa was arguably the premier competitor at Elite 11 finals, where the Hawaiian punched his ticket for The Opening. He registered the highest score in Pro Day sessions, threw seven touchdowns and just one incomplete pass in seven-on-seven action and made a strong case for consideration as the cycle's No. 1 overall quarterback recruit.

Tagovailoa, accustomed to working in a spread offensive attack at St. Louis High School (Honolulu) that produced Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, proved he can adapt to various offensive attacks. Questions surrounding his ability to thrive in a pro-style setting were largely alleviated last weekend.

Elite 11 head coach and Super Bowl champion quarterback Trent Dilfer issued a challenge to Tagovailoa two weeks earlier at a regional camp in Oakland.

"I told him, 'Hey, Tua, the way you play the position, even though it looks great, doesn't translate to the next level. It lacks discipline. It doesn't benefit the way you move in the pocket. You can't throw in tight spaces. You have to work on this," Dilfer said during Bleacher Report's exclusive reveal of Elite 11 selections.

Tagovailoa, who totaled 3,100 total offensive yards, 33 touchdown tosses and just three interceptions last season, per MaxPreps, answered the bell in a big way.

"I have never seen a kid since I've been doing this change more in two weeks," Dilfer said.

Just one day after Tagovailoa earned Elite 11 status, he suddenly became paired with Jones in an Alabama class that could threaten to become Saban's seventh straight haul atop national composite rankings on signing day. At the expense of an SEC opponent, the reigning College Football Playoff champions continue to put together components for future title runs.

"I know Tua pretty well, got to see him throw and he seemed like a cool kid [at Elite 11 finals]," Jones said. "We're completely different players from completely different areas so it will be interesting to see how this all works out."

All quotes obtained firsthand by Bleacher Report National Recruiting Analyst Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted. All player ratings are courtesy of 247Sports' composite rankings.

Follow Tyler via Twitter: @TDsTake.

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