Alabama Football Recruiting: Meet the Crimson Tide's 2017 Class

Christopher Walsh@@WritingWalshCollege Football National ColumnistFebruary 2, 2017

Alabama Football Recruiting: Meet the Crimson Tide's 2017 Class

0 of 30

    Alabama head coach Nick Saban added another stellar group of players during national signing day on Wednesday.
    Alabama head coach Nick Saban added another stellar group of players during national signing day on Wednesday.Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — It’s gotten to the point that it’s more of a surprise when the University of Alabama football program doesn’t finish No. 1 in recruiting than when it does.

    With Wednesday’s national signing day putting the lid on another recruiting season, Alabama is back in familiar territory as all of the major recruiting services had the Crimson Tide atop their team rankings—again.

    It’s a monster class, maybe the best head coach Nick Saban’s ever put together.

    “We don't look at it like that,” Saban said when asked if another No. 1 class helps continue the program’s recruiting momentum.

    “I don't know how we're rated. I don't know how many of these guys, where they were rated, how many stars they had. I don't know anything about that. We kind of evaluate the players like we’re going to draft them.”

    By that standard, with the NFL featuring 32 teams and using’s rankings as a draft list, Alabama added the equivalent of five first-round draft selections, including the No. 1 player overall, five second-round players and five third-round talents.

    Imagine what an organization like the New England Patriots could do with that, or the possibilities in a fantasy league.

    Officially, Alabama signed 14 players in addition to the 12 early enrollees already on campus, with some more ready to arrive later this month in time for spring practices.

    Three more players are poised to be added to the roster down the road and count toward the next signing class if an opening doesn’t occur, and one will be heading to a junior college to qualify academically.

    Here’s a closer look at Alabama’s recruiting class of 2017.

Najee Harris

1 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 225 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 5-Star RB, No. 1 Overall (No. 1 RB)

    High School: Antioch High School (Antioch, Calif.)

    Senior-Year Stats: Rushed for 2,776 yards and 36 touchdowns

    Other Finalists: Michigan, Ohio State, Texas, UCLA and USC

    Commit Date: 04/18/2015 *Early enrollee

    Najee Harris wasn’t your typical recruit either on and off the field. Rated the top player in the nation by, he was considered a soft verbal commitment until he showed up in Tuscaloosa after playing in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

    Harris finished his stellar high school career with 7,948 career rushing yards, the fourth-most in California history. His accolades are too numerous to fully list but include MVP of the Rivals 1000 Five-Star Challenge, Parade All-American 2016 Bobby Dodd National High School Running Back of the Year and two-time first-team All-American by USA Today

    “Najee is a very good all-around player. He’s one of the best players in the country according to a lot of people’s evaluation,” Saban said. “He has great size. He has great speed. He’s very fluid and smooth athletically. Very complete, has really good hands, is a good route-runner. Has special production as a player.”

Alex Leatherwood

2 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'6", 315 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 5-Star OT, No. 9 Overall (No. 3 OT)

    High School: Booker T. Washington High School (Pensacola, FL)

    Senior-Year Stats: NA

    Other Finalists: Florida, Florida State, LSU, Michigan and Tennessee

    Commit Date: 06/02/2015 *Early enrollee

    In a strong year for offensive linemen, Alex Leatherwood might be the best, and with Cam Robinson leaving early for the NFL, the freshman will be in the mix to compete for a starting job this season. Alabama landed him early, before his recruiting stock went through the roof and he was named a first-team Parade All-American and second-team USA Today player. 

    There's already a familiarity with the coaching staff, and as an early enrollee, Leatherwood turned heads during Alabama's on-campus practices before the national championship. 

    "Alex Leatherwood has a lot of potential," Saban said. "He's big. We've had him in camp and worked with him in the past."

Isaiah Buggs

3 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 290 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 5-Star DE, No. 2 Overall Junior College

    High School: Mississippi Gulf Coast (originally from Rustin, La.)

    Last Season’s Stats: A team-high 75 tackles, including 10 for a loss and 3.5 sacks, in 10 games

    Other Finalists: Auburn and LSU

    Commit Date: 12/13/2016 *Early enrollee

    Isaiah Buggs made his official visit on Dec. 10, committed three days later and subsequently signed. Considering Alabama’s reduced numbers on the defensive line, he will immediately compete for a rotation spot and maybe even to start.

    "Like Coach Saban said in the meeting [with us], nothing is guaranteed to anybody," Buggs said. "He said if the young guys come in and take the older guy’s spot, oh well. Nothing’s guaranteed for anybody. Coming in, fighting, pushing hard for a starting spot and not to see it happen, as long as I keep my head up and do what I’m supposed to do on and off the field, it’ll happen."

    Buggs was a first-team All-MACJC South Division selection during both of his seasons with the Bulldogs. 

Dylan Moses

4 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'2.5", 235 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 5-Star ILB, No. 14 Overall (No. 1 ILB)

    High School: IMG Academy (Bradenton, FL)

    Senior-Year Stats: 116 tackles, including eight for a loss and two sacks

    Other Finalists: LSU, Miami, Texas and UCLA

    Commit Date: 10/02/2016 *Early enrollee

    Dylan Moses, who initially hails from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, surprised everyone when he committed in October, but he’s a dynamic player who might first play at outside linebacker if it’ll mean more immediate playing time. Parade’s national player of the year is considered a game-changer on defense, and he was named the high school winner of the Butkus Award. 

    Both LSU and Alabama offered a scholarship to Moses when he was just 14, and he initially committed to the Tigers, only to eventually decommit. 

    In an article he wrote for the Players' Tribune, Moses wrote about attending a team meeting at Alabama and how the room went silent the moment Saban walked in: "I had similar measurables to pretty much all of the kids in that room. (Many of them are in the NFL now.) And every single one of them showed absolute and total respect for this man.

    "At that moment, I knew I was going to commit to Bama."

Devonta Smith

5 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 167 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 5-Star WR, No. 26 Overall (No. 3 WR)

    High School: Amite High School (Amite, La.)

    Senior-Year Stats: NA

    Other Finalists: LSU, Miami, Oklahoma and TCU

    Commit Date: 2/1/2016

    Devonta Smith was the player to put Alabama over the top in securing the top recruiting class in the nation and completed the exodus of six players from the state of Louisiana to Tuscaloosa. Two words that Saban used to describe the 5-star prospect were "Fast" and "Explosive," and he might get a look at returning punts and kicks during training camp.

    Smith cemented a reputation for being a big-game player when he led his team to the Class 3A state championship game and landed MVP honors. He took part in the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge and the U.S. Army All-American Game.  

VanDarius Cowan

6 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 235 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 5-Star OLB, No. 35 Overall (No. 2 OLB)

    High School: Palm Beach Gardens High School (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.)

    Senior-Year Stats: NA (see below). As a junior tallied 104 tackles, including 13 for a loss and seven sacks and four forced fumbles

    Other Finalists: Florida State, LSU, Miami, Ole Miss and Oregon

    Commit Date: 04/09/2016 *Early enrollee

    VanDarius Cowan actually decommitted from Florida State twice, the first without naming another front-runner, the second to flip for good to Alabama. It prompted him to get a big Crimson Tide tattoo on his arm. 

    However, Cowan was kicked off his team in October. According to the Palm Beach Post, he was pulled after being flagged for two penalties and was then apathetic on the sideline during the game that cost his team a spot in the state playoffs.

    “We did a significant amount of investigating in terms of what his character issues might have been relative to his team,” Saban said. “We interviewed a lot of people in the school. We interviewed his coaches. We spent a significant amount of time with him. We evaluated how he’s improved academically to try to make the choice and the decision as to whether he was someone that we wanted to have involved in our program.

    “I think a lot of the players in this class really like him in terms of their relationship with him, and we’re looking forward to helping him be successful here.”

Tua Tagovailoa

7 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 216 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star QB, No. 38 Overall (No. 4 QB)

    High School: St. Louis School (Ewa Beach, Hi.)

    Senior-Year Stats: Passed for 3,932 yards and 43 touchdowns

    Other Finalists: LSU, Oregon, UCLA and USC

    Commit Date: 05/02/2016 *Early enrollee

    Nick Saban has never gone farther to land an American recruit before (Australian defensive lineman Jesse Williams claims the international designation). Tua Tagovailoa is from the same high school as Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota, and they play with a similar style, although Tagovailoa throws left-handed.

    "There's a lot of things I have to work on," he said. "I have to work on my leadership keys, just many things I have to work on. I'm kind of transitioning from being a high school kid to a student-athlete in college now. So as far as being compared to him, it's an honor. It's a privilege to be compared to someone at such a prestigious level when I haven't done anything really."

    Tagovailoa finished his career with 8,158 passing yards, the most in Hawaii high school history, with 84 touchdowns, along with 1,727 rushing yards and another 27 scores over three years. The MVP of Nike's 2016 The Opening, he also participated in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge. 

Jerry Jeudy

8 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 177 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star WR, No. 52 Overall (No. 7 WR)

    High School: Deerfield Beach High School (Deerfield Beach, Fla.)

    Senior-Year Stats: 76 receptions for 1,054 yards and 15 touchdowns

    Other Finalists: Miami, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State and Tennessee 

    Commit Date: 07/28/2016 *Early enrollee

    Jerry Jeudy hopes to be Alabama’s the next great wide receiver from South Florida, following in the footsteps of Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley, but might have even more potential as a cornerback as the versatile player is an impressive combination of size and speed. Jeudy played both ways in high school.

    Regardless of where Jeudy plays, he might be too athletic not to have a regular role in 2017. A second-team All-USA selection by USA Today, he participated in the Under Armour All-America Game, Nike's The Opening and the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge. 

LaBryan Ray

9 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 255 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star DE, No. 62 Overall (No. 6 DE)

    High School: James Clemens High School (Madison, Ala.)

    Senior-Year Stats: 124 tackles, including 25 for a loss and 13 sacks, 16 quarterback hurries, two fumble recoveries and a blocked punt. 

    Other Finalists: Auburn, Florida, Ole Miss and Tennessee

    Commit Date: 2/01/2016

    LaBryan Ray was considered the best in-state prospect this year, and he might have a chance to earn a rotation spot as a true freshman. He's not only a two-time all-state selection but was twice named the Alabama Sports Writers Association's 7A Lineman of the Year. 

    In terms of playing style, he reminds some of Jonathan Allen, and he can line up both at end or in the interior. While lists his weight at 255 lbs., Alabama has him down for 275. 

Jedrick Wills

10 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 318 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star OT, No. 64 Overall (No. 10 OT)

    High School: Lafayette High School (Lexington, Ky.)

    Senior-Year Stats: NA

    Other Finalists: Kentucky, Michigan, Notre Dame and Tennessee

    Commit Date: 11/15/2016

    Although Alabama's other additions on the offensive line have been getting more attention, and Leatherwood and Elliot Baker are already enrolled, Jedrick Wills could potentially challenge for a starting job if he arrives ready to go.

    "We thought [he] was one of the best guys at his position in the entire country, at least in our evaluation," Saban said. 

    The top prospect in the state of Kentucky, Wills was rated by to be a 5-star prospect and the No. 33 player in the ESPN3000. He participated in Nike’s The Opening and the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge.

    Wills helped lead his high school to back-to-back appearances in the Class 6A state championship game, and as a senior, the Generals averaged 454.8 yards and 41.8 points per game.

Jarez Parks

11 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 255 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star DE, No. 68 Overall (No. 7 DE)

    High School: Sebastian River High School (Sebastian, Fla.)

    Senior-Year Stats: NA

    Other Finalists: Florida State, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma and USC

    Commit Date: 2/01/2016 *Slated to grayshirt

    Jarez Parks may have had the most unusual signing day of any prospect in the nation on Wednesday. He had prerecorded his announcement to attend Alabama while standing in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris but had to delay his early-morning announcement at school, which led to scores of last-second appeals from others schools. 

    With Alabama hitting its 85-man scholarship roster ceiling, he was reportedly asked to accept a grayshirt offer and accepted, per TideSports' Andrew Bone. Because Parks wanted to play that much for the Crimson Tide, he became an instant fan favorite.

    "We're restricted by numbers," Saban said without specifically mentioning Parks. "There's serious penalties for going over, in terms of what your numbers are. It's very difficult to manage.

    "We don't necessarily determine when guys are going to make decisions, so you have to try and take the best players that you can get at every position and hope that you can satisfy your needs."  

    However, Parks may not have to wait until January to enroll as Alabama often loses a player or two after the spring due to attrition. Parks played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Chris Allen

12 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 233 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star OLB, No. 74 Overall (No. 4 OLB)

    High School: Southern University Lab (Baton Rouge, La.)

    Senior-Year Stats: 82 tackles, including 14 for a loss and six sacks

    Other Finalists: LSU, Arkansas and Auburn

    Commit Date: 11/27/2016

    Another top prospect snared out of LSU's backyard, Chris Allen could potentially play at any linebacker spot. He's tall and has good length and can diagnose plays well. Following in the footstep of former Alabama pass-rusher Tim Williams, Allen had even better stats as a junior, with 112 tackles, 16 sacks, three fumble recoveries and an interception.

    Allen helped lead his team to consecutive state title appearances, winning the 2016 Louisiana Division IV championship. For an encore, he played in the Under Armour All-America game and was selected by USA Football to play on the U.S. Under-19 National Team at the 2017 North American Championship against Canada.

Henry Ruggs III

13 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 173 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star WR, No. 75 Overall (No. 10 WR)

    High School: Robert E. Lee High School (Montgomery, Ala.)

    Senior-Year Stats: 38 catches for 639 yards and nine receiving TDs, and also had 36 carries for 446 yards and seven rushing TDs.

    Other Finalists: Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Michigan

    Commit Date: 2/1/2016

    Henry Ruggs III saw his receiving numbers drop some his senior year in part due to having to take over at quarterback late in the season. As a junior, he caught 44 passes for 1,010 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has good hands and might be destined to be a slot receiver. 

    Although had him as a 4-star player, 247Sports rated him as a 5-star prospect, fueling speculation by some that he might have been a steal for the Crimson Tide. 

    Ruggs played in the U.S. Army All-American Game, the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game and participated in the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge. He was named the 7A Back of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association. 

Tyrell Shavers

14 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'6", 202 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star WR, No. 83 Overall (No. 13 WR)

    High School: Lewisville High School (Lewisville, Texas)

    Senior-Year Stats: 27 receptions for 397 yards and seven touchdowns 

    Other Finalists: Texas, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia and Texas A&M

    Commit Date: 06/13/2016 *Early enrollee

    Tyrell Shavers is a player to watch with a lot of upside. He had better statistics as a junior, with 37 catches for 803 yards and 13 touchdowns. 

    Shavers has an obvious height advantage over most defensive backs and has been timed running a sub-4.4 40-yard dash. 

    He committed to Alabama early and then shut down his recruitment process.

    "The atmosphere, the people here, I love everything about it," said Shavers, who said he's gained seven pounds since he arrived on campus and wants to add at least 10 more before the fall to play between 215 and 200.

    "I really want to work on my routes and my deep-ball situations, like going up and getting the ball."

Phidarian Mathis

15 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 293 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star DT, No. 95 Overall (No. 8 DT)

    High School: Neville High School (Monroe, La.)

    Senior-Year Stats: 41 tackles, including 12 for a loss and seven sacks, with six quarterback hurries

    Other Finalists: LSU, TCU, Arizona State, Florida and Georgia

    Commit Date: 1/31/2017

    Phidarian Mathis, who goes by the name "Phil," is exactly the kind of bulky, powerful defensive lineman that every team covets, and he has the potential to manhandle offensive linemen at this level if he continues to develop.

    He made the unusual move of announcing his collegiate destination beside the grave of childhood friend and cousin Tyrell Cameron on Tuesday. He fills a significant need for Alabama, which has seen its defensive line numbers shrink recently, and could have a chance to win a rotation spot as a freshman.

    Mathis was ranked as high as No. 37 in the ESPN 300 and led his high school team to the Class 4A state championship game in each of his final three seasons.

Xavier McKinney

16 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 192 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star S, No. 113 Overall (No. 11 S)

    High School: Roswell High School (Roswell, Ga.)

    Senior-Year Stats: 82 tackles, seven interceptions, two pass breakups, two forced fumbles and recoveries

    Other Finalists: Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State, Auburn and Florida

    Commit Date: 01/01/2017

    Xavier McKinney’s recruitment was a bit turbulent in that he committed to Alabama in September 2015, only to decommit over the summer. Clemson made a strong charge, but McKinney ended up going full circle and landed back with the Crimson Tide.

    McKinney has some swagger and will likely be a strong safety and already has the necessary size and strength to handle the run game at this level. 

    Although he had better numbers as a junior with 111 tackles, including four for a loss and two sacks, 13 pass breakups and nine interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, McKinney was named the 2016 Georgia Class 7A Defensive Player of the Year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Markail Benton

17 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 231 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star ILB, No. 124 Overall (No. 6 ILB)

    High School: Central High School (Phenix City, Ala.)

    Senior-Year Stats: NA (see below)

    Other Finalists: Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, LSU and South Carolina

    Commit Date: 06/10/2016

    Markail Benton's early commitment gave Alabama a leg up on winning in-state bragging rights again, but Auburn made a late push to try to flip him.

    He's another fast, lengthy linebacker who strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran will try to put some weight on, so Benton might be a redshirt candidate if he can't land a regular role on special teams. 

    Benton participated in the Under Armour All-America Game, the 2016 Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game and Nike’s The Opening. He helped his high school team reach the state semifinals in both his junior and senior seasons and finished his career with 129 tackles, including 10 tackles for loss and four sacks.

Kendall Randolph

18 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'5", 290 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star OT, No. 135 Overall (No. 15 OT)

    High School: Bob Jones High School (Madison, Ala.)

    Senior-Year Stats: NA

    Other Finalists: Auburn, Florida, LSU, Michigan and Tennessee.

    Commit Date: 07/31/2016

    Kendall Randolph is the brother of former Crimson Tide basketball player Levi Randolph. He has the necessary footwork and long arms to be a solid prospect at tackle, but his future may eventually be at guard considering how Saban has been recruiting so many tackles. For this season, he'll probably redshirt, although Alabama already has him listed as weighing 310 pounds.

    Randolph played in the U.S. Army All-America Bowl and the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game. He helped lead his high school to the state playoffs all four seasons and to the 2013 semifinals. 

Chadarius Townsend

19 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 190 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star ATH, No. 142 Overall (No. 8 ATH)

    High School: Tanner High School (Tanner, Ala.)

    Senior-Year Stats: Passed for 1,245 yards and 13 touchdowns and ran for 1,481 yards and 22 rushing touchdowns.

    Other Finalists: Auburn, Florida, Kentucky and Mississippi State

    Commit Date: 07/29/2015 *Early enrollee

    Chadarius Townsend’s recruitment was really never in doubt after Alabama offered in June 2015, but his eventual position is. Townsend could play either wide receiver or defensive back, yet he is the only player in the class listed as an "athlete" because the initial decision has yet to be made. 

    Despite Townsend being an early enrollee, Crimson Tide reporters didn't get to see him line up at practice when Alabama held on-campus practices prior to the national championship. 

    Regardless, Townsend is a terrific prospect in general and was twice named first-team All-State in Class 2A when he accounted for more than 5,000 yards of offense. He was also the ASWA 2A Back of the Year in 2015.

Daniel Wright

20 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 175 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star S, No. 148 Overall (No. 15 S)

    High School: Boyd H. Anderson High School (Lauderdale Lakes, Fla.)

    Senior-Year Stats: NA

    Other Finalists: Florida State, Florida, Miami and USC

    Commit Date: 12/08/2016

    He's the brother of former Florida safety and current Tampa Bay Buccaneer Major Wright and went to the same high school as former Alabama co-captain Eddie Jackson. 

    Daniel Wright made his official visit to Tuscaloosa in November, and two days after Saban visited the safety, he flipped from Florida State.

    Wright's tall, thin and very quick, making him likely to be a free safety, but he still needs to fill out some (although Alabama has him listed at 187 pounds). As a junior, he was credited with 72 tackles and four interceptions. He played in the Under Armour All-American Game and was No. 60 in the ESPN300.

Brian Robinson

21 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 218 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star RB, No. 169 Overall (No. 16 RB)

    High School: Hillcrest High School (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)

    Senior-Year Stats: 990 rushing yards on 161 carries and 18 touchdowns, plus 24 catches for 302 yards and two receiving scores

    Other Finalists: Auburn, Georgia and Ole Miss

    Commit Date: 11/29/2015

    Although Brian Robinson is being overshadowed by the addition of Harris, fans shouldn’t overlook the hometown product. For example, as a junior, he broke the state Class 6A single-game rushing record with 447 yards and five touchdowns against Clay-Chalkville.

    Robinson has a reputation for being a grinder who wears down defenses. He has a big frame and good footwork and isn't afraid to drop his shoulder on defenders and push them back. 

    The top in-state running back prospect, he helped lead Hillcrest to the state quarterfinals as a sophomore and the 6A semifinals both as a junior and senior.  

Elliot Baker

22 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'6", 280 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star ILB, No. 8 Overall Junior College

    High School: City College of San Francisco (San Francisco)

    Senior-Year Stats: NA

    Other Finalists: Auburn, Georgia, Oregon and Texas A&M

    Commit Date: 06/06/2016 *Early enrollee

    Alabama might be in the midst of piecing together an absolutely huge offensive line as Elliot Baker is expected to compete with Leatherwood and others for one of the two open starting jobs on the right side. The 6’6” measurement might be on the low side as Alabama lists him as 6'7", and he looked it when the team made a recent appearance at a Crimson Tide men's basketball game. 

    Baker has good size and strength, but his ability to play at a lower pad level will be something to watch in the spring. Saban has repeatedly made it clear that he expects junior college transfers to compete for starting jobs, and Baker helped CCSF win the 2015 national championship.  

Akial Byers

23 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'3", 275 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star DT, No. 246 Overall (No. 13 DT)

    High School: Fayetteville High School (Fayetteville, Ark.)

    Senior-Year Stats: NA

    Other Finalists: None

    Commit Date: 07/26/2016 *Will not qualify academically

    Akial Byers will head to Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, which bumps him to, at minimum, the recruiting class of 2018. He can also still be recruited by any school.

    Byers’ academic issues weren’t a secret, but Saban visiting roughly 10 days before national signing day may increase the likelihood that Alabama’s willing to keep a spot for him.

    Just before news broke that Byers won't qualify, his coach Benji Mahan told Hank South of 247Sports that if Byers went the junior college route he would attempt to come back to the Crimson Tide, but “There are definitely some options that are out there and they talked about how they are going to present that later on if they need to."

    Byers was named to the Under Armour All-America Game.

Major Tennison

24 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'4.5", 228 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star TE, NR Overall (No. 10 TE)

    High School: Bullard High School (Bullard, Texas)

    Senior-Year Stats: NA (see below)

    Other Finalists: Texas, Arkansas, Georgia, LSU and Oregon

    Commit Date: 10/23/2016 *Early enrollee

    Major Tennison is considered a solid tight end prospect who plays physical and has potential to still grow and improve. He has good size and has already gained some weight as an early enrollee (Alabama lists him at 240 pounds) but is even better known for his hands. As a junior, Tennison caught 27 passes for 603 yards and eight touchdowns. 

    At one point he was committed to the Longhorns. He told Chris Kirschner of SEC Country that he was raised to root for Texas and "hate A&M," a division rival of the Crimson Tide.

Kedrick James

25 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'6", 250 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 4-Star TE, NR Overall (No. 13 Tight End)

    High School: La Vega High School (Waco, Texas)

    Senior-Year Stats: NA

    Other Finalists: Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor and Texas A&M

    Commit Date: 7/31/2016 *Early enrollee

    Similar to Tennison, Kedrick James is a big tight end with receiving ability, but unlike outgoing tight end O.J. Howard, he is not considered to be as much of a downfield threat. More likely is that he'll develop into a potent red-zone or end-zone target in the passing game. 

    James, who also plays basketball at La Vega, helped his high school team to a 29-1 record over the past two seasons and to the 2015 Class 4A Division I state title.  

Mac Jones

26 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'2", 190 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 3-Star QB, NR Overall (No. 28)

    High School: The Bolles School (Jacksonville, Fla.)

    Senior-Year Stats: 1,532 passing yards and 29 touchdowns

    Other Finalists: Baylor, Oklahoma State, Kentucky and Texas A&M

    Commit Date: 06/07/2016

    Saban confirmed that Mac Jones is expected to enroll later this month, giving Alabama three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster for spring practice. 

    "I think it's critical for us, and really good for us, because of the quarterback situation that we have, having a freshman as the starter and the others leaving the program thinking they wouldn't have a chance to compete in the future, that we have two young guys in here who we can develop in the spring" he said. 

    Other recruiting services rate Jones as a better prospect, with the 247Sports composite rankings listing him as 4-star player (No. 12 pro-style quarterback).

    Jones participated in the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge and Elite 11 quarterback competition and was selected by USA Football to play for the U.S. Under-19 National Team at the 2017 North American Championship against Canada. He threw for threw for 2,150 yards and 26 touchdowns as a junior and led Bolles to the Class 4A state championship game as a senior. 

Kyriq McDonald

27 of 30

    Height/Weight: 5'10", 190 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 3-Star CB, NR Overall (No. 42 CB)

    High School: James Clemens High School (Madison, Ala.)

    Senior-Year Stats: 66 tackles, including 12 for a loss, three interceptions and 11 passes broken up

    Other Finalists: Florida State, Louisville and Mississippi State

    Commit Date: 01/08/2017 *Early enrollee

    Kyriq McDonald arrived with a bit of a chip on his shoulder due to being downgraded by some recruiting services for not having ideal height for a cornerback. When Saban disclosed that the position was maybe the only spot the coaching staff missed its mark in terms of numbers, he shrugged his shoulders and told reporters, "just more motivation."

    McDonald's future may be as a nickel defender, but he has a good nose for the ball. Before being limited by injuries during his final year, he was credited with 70 tackles, eight interceptions, five punt blocks and six pass breakups as a junior—when he scored 10 non-offensive touchdowns (four interceptions, four punt returns and two kick returns). 

    That just might get him on the field as a special teams player as a true freshman. 

Hunter Brannon

28 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'4", 300 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 3-Star OG, NR Overall (No. 64 G)

    High School: Cullman High School (Cullman, Ala.)

    Senior-Year Stats: NA

    Other Finalists: Florida Atlantic and Southern Miss

    Commit Date: 07/23/2016 *Gray/Blueshirt candidate


    Hunter Brannon was not listed on Alabama’s official signing day roster, but he participated in a signing day ceremony at his high school and appears to be a grayshirt or blueshirt possibility. The Crimson Tide ran into a numbers crunch, and he told Drew Champlin of in December that he’d enroll “whenever they call me.”

    Here’s all that Alabama fans need to know about Brannon: He’s the nephew of former Crimson Tide linemen Wesley, Justin and Taylor Britt, and he seems to have the same mean streak on the field. Brannon played in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game, and despite being 6’4”, he’s still growing.

Joseph Bulovas

29 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'0", 205 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 3-Star K, NR Overall (No. 4 K)

    High School: Mandeville High School (Mandeville, La.)

    Senior-Year Stats: 13-of-18 field goals, with a long of 52 yards, and averaged 45 yards per punt

    Other Finalists: Georgia Tech, Mississippi State

    Commit Date: 01/25/2016 *Blueshirt candidate

    When Brandon Ruiz was a late decommitment to stay close to home at Arizona State, Joseph Bulovas was quick to fill the gap on the Crimson Tide roster. The U.S. Army All-American Bowl kicker was about to decommit from Georgia Tech and was thought to be close to flipping to Mississippi State when Alabama called.

    Bulovas participated in a signing day ceremony at his school and appears to be a blueshirt candidate, which means he won’t go on scholarship until August so he counts against the 2018 class.

    "I can't actually comment on anyone who didn't sign an NLI [national letter of intent],” Saban said when asked about the kicker position. “I think we have someone who as you well know has expressed interest in coming to Alabama. We have a couple of guys in the program now who have that ability to kick. We will take all those guys when the fall comes, who will give us the best opportunity to be successful at that position."

Thomas Fletcher

30 of 30

    Height/Weight: 6'1", 220 pounds

    Position/Ranking: 2-Star LS, NR Overall (No. 1 LS)

    High School: IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.)

    Senior-Year Stats: NA

    Other Finalists: Florida State, Oregon and Texas A&M

    Commit Date: 06/23/2016 *Early enrollee

    Thomas Fletcher was given an offer after attending Alabama’s kicking camp last summer and quickly committed. He originally hails from Washington and briefly played at Georgetown High School in Texas.

    Known for his accuracy and consistency, Fletcher played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. 

    All recruiting rankings from unless otherwise noted. All statistics from the University of Alabama.   

    Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.

    Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.