19 December 2008
Now that bowl practice has officially started and Coach Saban has wrapped up his latest jet tour of the southeastern United States, this seems like a good time to go over the current state of Alabama's 2009 recruiting season. In a word, that state is excellent.
So let's talk details.
Since my name is not Nick Saban - no I'm not NS incognito, not matter what you have been thinking - I really don't have much of a clue about how we are going to handle the numbers game with recruiting. To all of us non-Nick-Saban types, these numbers just don't make sense.
Start with the basics. A team is allowed to have 85 scholarshipped players on the roster at any time, and is allowed to bring in 25 new scholarshipped players a year. Alabama currently has 84 scholarshipped players, which means we can bring in one more guy than the number who leave.
OK, as we have all heard on the TV many times this year, Alabama is only graduating nine scholarshipped seniors. That means we can bring in, uh, ten this year, right?
Hmmm. . . . That "ten" figure might not be right on the money, because we have already accepted commitments from, uh, twenty
, and I don't think Coach Saban was burning up jet fuel the last week and a half just to say howdy to a bunch of guys we won't have room for anyway. Obviously we are planning to accept several more commitments.
December 15 was the deadline for undergraduates to put in their paperwork for a guaranteed NFL evaluation. Although players can still put in for the draft during the next five weeks, and hope for an evaluation, it doesn't make sense to miss the deadline for a guaranteed evaluation if you are interested in going pro. Only Andre Smith and Glen Coffee put in, so it looks as if we'll probably have no more than two going pro this year, only one if Coffee comes back, which is quite possible. Mt. Cody, projected as a first-rounder by most sources, has said quite definitively that he is staying.
OK, so that means we can bring in 11, or maybe 12. Where the rest of the numbers come from is anybody's guess. Some commitments inevitably don't make the grades and never make it to campus. That number is typically below five, although it could be higher this year. Then there are upper-class folks who wash out to injury or to the realization that they will never see the field at Bama - although you would think that those who are going to wash out because they're not buying into the Saban system would've been long gone by now.
Anyway, you know as much as I know about it now. Somehow we are going to bring in a lot more than 11, and at this point in time it is not for mere morals to know how many or how it is going to happen.
That out of the way, let's look at what we need and who we're bringing in, or still recruiting, for each position.
- class appears full
Typically you want to take one QB a year. You also want to have at least four scholarshipped QBs on campus at all times, including at least three who are not being redshirted.
Technically, with the early departures of Jimmy Barnes and Nick Fanuzzi, we're a bit short on that, but that's where strong-armed walk-on Thomas Darrah comes in. Darrah handled third-string duties last year, allowing Bama to redshirt Star Jackson, and is likely to do the same favor this year for incoming freshman A.J. McCarron
, who is almost certain to be our only QB commit this year.
Rivals: #5 drop-back QB, #64 overal
Scout: #15 QB
ESPN: 83, #5 QB, #38 overall
If A.J. can throw on a few pounds before two-a-days, he could actually compete for the job, for he is said to be unusually polished for a high school QB. But at 6'4", 189, unless those few pounds happen, and hopefully even a few more after that, McCarron will be destined for a redshirt, which is what usually happens to quarterbacks.
- class appears full
With a stable of running backs returning - Ingram, Griffin, Goode, Grant, Matchett, and perhaps Coffee - Alabama was only interested in top backs this year. Looks like we got one.
The jewel in the crown of this year's recruiting class, at least so far, is 5'11", 219-pound five-star burner Trent Richardson
of Pensacola. Richardson shows as a next-level running back with thighs like a thoroughbred's haunches and off-the-charts potential.
Rivals: #2 running back, #7 overall
Scout: #4 running back, #33 overall
ESPN: 91, #1 running back, #3 overall
Also committed is 240-pound Ohioan Mike Marrow
, who rolled with the Tide over more local offers such as Wisconsin and Penn St. Given the log jam at tailback, Marrow is likely to wind up as a tight end, fullback, or linebacker, especially given his strong senior-year linebacker performance. For now he's listed as a running back.
- multiple spots still open
Already committed are a pair of four-stars, Georgian Michael Bowman
and Mississippian Kevin Norwood
Rivals, #19 WR, member of Rivals 250 overall
Scout: #49 WR
ESPN: 75, #114 WR
Rivals: #33 WR
Scout: #44 WR
ESPN: 77, #65 WR
NOTE: Tide insiders say that Norwood has been a top target since his spring workout in Tuscaloosa, and is ranked much higher by the Tide staff than by the recruiting services.
With only Nikita Stover and the little-used Will Oakley graduating, and with freshmen and sophomores garnering the bulk of our 2008 wideout duties, you might think that Bowman and Norwood would be enough. But the Tide is concerned about the possibility that Julio Jones' status as almost the only go-to wideout will extend into 2009, and apparently wants to sign a couple more top prospects. Chris Jackson has apparently already been moved to safety to make room, and rumors are that B.J. Scott will follow after the bowl game.
There are some intriguing prospects left on the board, starting with Rueben Randle
Rivals: #1 WR, #1 overall
Scout: #2 WR, #16 overall
ESPN: #1 WR, #7 overall (with a recent article declaring he is likely to move up)
It is thought to be primarily an Alabama-LSU battle, with Oklahoma and Miami probably on the outside looking in. Bama is thought to enjoy a slight edge for the services of the Louisiana speedster, and Randle is reportedly set to attend a practice in Tuscaloosa next week.
Also getting serious looks are Mississippians Chad Bumphis
and Patrick Patterson
, along with Gadsden's Kendall Kelly
Rivals: #20 wideout
Scout: #23 wideout
ESPN: 81, #15 athlete
Rivals: #4 WR, #48 overall
Scout: #45 WR
ESPN: 79, #34 WR
Rivals: #18 WR
Scout: 5-star, #3 WR, #27 overall
ESPN: 83, #6 WR, #42 overall
Expect the Tide to ink a couple more to go with Bowman and Norwood. Bama will wait til Signing Day for Randle, and the other position could go to the first to pull the trigger between Bumphis, Patterson and Kelly.
- might take one
With Walker and McCall graduating, Colin Peek to be a senior next year, and only Chris Underwood inked at tight end in the last two recruiting classes, the fact that Alabama is not heavily working the tight end market is a strong sign that the Tide brain trust plans to de-emphasize the tight end role in the future.
Nevertheless, there is some mutual interest being shown between the Tide and blue-chip Auburn commit Philip Lutzenkirchen
Rivals: #4 TE, Rivals 250
Scout: #9 TE
ESPN: 79, #6 TE
- one or two more
We have so many line commitments this year that I am not even going to try to give you a full rundown on the line class. Instead, I am just going to refer you to the Offensive Line, Defensive Line and Big Handsomes sections of our Mid-Season Recruiting Roundup,
update that, and talk about who we are still looking at.
To sum up what you will see there in very very brief, we need lots of big guys on both sides of the ball, and brother are we hauling 'em in.
We already mentioned commit D.J. Fluker
in the Mid-Season Recruiting Roundup, but we'll stop back by one more time to give you his current rating numbers:
Rivals: #2 OT, #22 overall
Scout: #25 OT (hideously wrong, I must say)
ESPN: #2 OT, #25 overall
At workouts for the recent Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game, Fluker was compared favorably to Andre Smith by the Alabama team's line coach, who has worked with both players. D.J. clocked in at 6'7", 355 for that game, and may be still growing. His feet and hands are approximately the size of 4th-grade boys.
Alabama also is thought to still lead for prep schooler Bobby Massie.
Massie isn't ranked by all the services, because he is not a high schooler any more, but he clocks in at 6'8", 335 and is ranked by Rivals as a 5-star and the #3 prep schooler overall.
Finally, the Tide remains a serious competitor for Richmond, Virginia's mammoth Morgan Moses
, a 6'7", 347-pound offensive tackle.
Rivals: #1 OT, #13 overall
Scout, #9 OT, #87 overall
ESPN: #7 OT, #49 overall
Moses is Fluker-sized, but with a mean streak.
- probably two more
Again, I'm more updating the lines than giving full rundowns.
Since our last update, we have gotten a commitment from South Carolinian Chris Bond
, a 262-pound defensive tackle with a reported 4.7 40. Bond projects as a DE in Saban's scheme.
Rivals: #11 DT, Rivals 250
Scout: #18 DE
ESPN: 80, #9 DT
The biggest DL news has been word out of Kerry Murphy's
camp that the perennial Bama commitment will actually qualify and join the team in January. Although the 6'5", 325 pound Murphy could project on either side of the line, defense is probably his strong suit and perhaps where the Tide needs him most. Since he graduated high school in 2006 and didn't play ball anywhere this fall, he is not listed as a prospect by any service, but would probably be in the high 4-star to low 5-star range if he were.
Although it's great news that a guy with Murphy's ability could be around not just for two-a-days but for spring practice, there's a fly in the ointment: this will be Murphy's third year since graduating high school, and he will be eligible for the NFL draft this time next year. You'd have to think Saban will not except his commitment unless Kerry assures him he is serious about sticking around long enough to learn his craft. If he does, this is another great addition.
We continue to be a heavy favorite to eventually grab the commitment of Montgomery Carver's 6'4", 313-pound Brandon Moore
, another either-side-of-the-ball type who really could wind up on either side of the ball. Bama is probably willing to wait for signing day on Moore.
Rivals: #23 OT
Scout: #23 OT
ESPN: 79, #29 DT
Finally, Bama is looking for at least one speed-rusher. There are several candidates, but the leading men appear to be Mississippi State commit Fletcher Cox
and Florida State commit Ed Stinson
. My guess is that we will take the first one to pull the trigger and wave bye-bye to the other guy.
Rivals: #5 weakside DE, Rivals 250
Scout: #17 DE
ESPN: 78, #36 DE
Rivals: #13 weakside DE
Scout: #67 DE
ESPN: 80, #23 DE
- will add Tana Patrick
We have no linebackers this year, but our depth is not great and we figure to lose Corey Reamer, Brandon Fanney, and most likely Rolando McClain as well after next year, so stocking up is certainly something to look at.
Bama already has commitments in hand from Andalusia's Nico Johnson
and Jonathan Atchison
Rivals: #4 inside linebacker, #33 overall
Scout: 5-star, #2 middle linebacker, #21 overall
ESPN: 84, #2 inside linebacker, #26 overall
Rivals: #24 outside linebacker
Scout: #18 strong-side linebacker
ESPN: 80, #14 outside linebacker
The Tide is probably going to take one more linebacker, and it will probably be Gadsden's Tana Patrick
Rivals: #7 inside linebacker, #79 overall
Scout: #5 strongside linebacker, #57 overall
ESPN: 81, #10 outside linebacker, #105 overall
- multiple slots remain, but only elites need apply
Rashad Johnson is graduating, three (nickel) starters will graduate next year, we are thin already, and Saban is a DB-magnet. That all adds up to a big class, but so far we have only got two commitments, from Gerald West and Rod Woodson. (See the Mid-Year Recruiting Roundup for our assessments of the sticky West and Tatumesque assassin Woodson.)
We're still looking hard at four guys, all four of whom are Rivals 5-stars, and all four of whom have January Bama visits slated: Gadsen's Dre Kirkpatrick
, Atlantans Darren Myles
and Branden Smith
, and LSU commit Janzen Jackson
Rivals: #1 CB, #10 overall
Scout: #3 CB, #31 overall
ESPN: 92, #1 CB, #2 overall
Rivals: #6 safety, #87 overall
Scout: #12 safety
ESPN: 83, #4 safety, #39 overall
Rivals: #4 CB, #31 overall
Scout: #7 CB, #99 overall
ESPN: 83, #4 athlete, #45 overall
Rivals: #2 CB, #16 overall
Scout: #12 CB
ESPN: 82, #6 CB, #76 overall
Here's how I see our chances to get these guys: Kirkpatrick is a lock. Myles I would put us at 50-50 or slightly above. Smith is a fairly strong Georgia lean, and Jackson is a stronger LSU lean, but they are both coming to T-town in January, and with our facilities and the show we put on I never rule us out on anybody who visits.
- nothin' plus nothin' leaves nothin'
As of right now, Bama's class is rated #5 by Rivals, #6 by Scout, and #6 by ESPN. Considering that we expect commitments from Kirkpatrick and Patrick and lead for Randle, Massie and perhaps Myles, you can confidently expect the Tide's team ranking to climb toward the top before all is said and done.
The only team who is also ranked high and also has a fair number of highly-ranked prospects still on the board is LSU. At the end, it may come down to Bama and LSU's battle over mega-prospect Rueben Randle that will decide which team grabs the #1 recruiting class this year. While that remains up in the air, it would be surprising if Bama finishes lower than #3.