Tide wraps up another top-rated class

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By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief

Feb. 5, 2014

 

With Nick Saban at the helm of the University of Alabama’s football program, National Signing Day has often seemed to be more about Alabama competing with itself rather than the Crimson Tide competing against other rivals.

 

In such a comparison, the 2014 class might take the title for best of the Nick Saban era, if national recruiting services are to be believed. Alabama signed an impressive class that hit home runs everywhere except for the inside linebacker positions. It once again was the best class among SEC teams. Saban’s prowess on the recruiting trail is causing journalists everywhere to run short on synonyms for the word “outstanding.”

 

The Crimson Tide signed 8 players ranked a perfect 10.0 on the NARCAS rating scale, two less than a year ago. Alabama’s class carried an overall ranking of 9.84, tying the 2013 class’ overall ranking for the second-highest in school history as judged by the NARCAS scale, but slightly lower than the 2012 class’ 9.86 average, which remains the highest ever recorded at Alabama.

 

Here’s a look at each player who signed, and their ranking.

 

Name POS Ht Wt 40time Rating Hometown/school

1. Cameron Robinson OL 6-6 325 5.3 10.0 West Monroe, La./West Monroe

Robinson was the top offensive lineman available in this class, and Alabama pulled him from under LSU’s nose. Robinson has enrolled in school already and will compete for the starting left tackle job in the spring. He’s a massively powerful lineman, more like Andre Smith than Cyrus Kouandjio for those looking for a comparison. His footwork and quickness are top-notch and if necessary, he has the skills to move inside. He is already in school, and will be with the team in the fall.

 

2. Christian Miller LB 6-4 215 4.6 10.0 Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley

Alabama went looking for an upgrade in speed off the corner and found it in Miller, who figures to have an impact at either strongside linebacker, the Jack position or both. Miller has an impressive first step and plays stronger and bigger than his size suggests. Several observers had him ranked as the top outside linebacker available in this class. He figures to be in the mix for playing time immediately, and is expected to qualify.

 

3. Da’Shawn Hand DE 6-4 260 4.6 10.0 Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge

Hand was the top 3-4 defensive end in the class and some services had him ranked the top overall player in the country. Hand spurned Michigan to sign with the Tide and will be in the mix for playing time immediately. He can play inside or outside in with a three- or four-man front. He is considered a top-flight pass rusher who is also strong enough to maintain leverage against bigger lineman in run defense situations. He is expected to qualify.

 

4. Marlon Humphrey CB 6-2 180 4.4 10.0 Hoover/Hoover

The top cornerback available in this class, Humphrey is also a track star. He also has sufficient bulk and can go up against larger receivers without giving up the physical edge. Humphrey has drawn plenty of comparisons to the Seattle Seahawks’ Richard Sherman, and could challenge for a starting job as a true freshman. He is expected to qualify.

 

5. Josh Frazier DL 6-4 345 5.1 10.0 Springdale, Ark./Har-Ber

Frazier has the body of a pure nose tackle, but he also has the athleticism to play tackle in a four-man front as well as end in a 3-4. Frazier’s stock zoomed up the charts after the season was finished. He has immense strength, but is also light on his feet and surprisingly athletic for his size. He also plays with a mean streak and is the ideal 3-4 flex lineman for Alabama’s scheme. He is expected to qualify.

 

6. David Cornwell QB 6-5 240 4.8 10.0 Norman, Okla./Norman

Cornwell is similar to Jacob Coker, who Alabama will also receive in the fall as a transfer from Florida State. Cornwell has good mobility, size and arm strength. Currently, however, Cornwell is recovering from major knee surgery, so while he will be on campus for spring practice, will likely not get a legitimate shot to win the job until the fall, after his rehabilitation has concluded. Cornwell is also very raw, and would benefit from a couple of years of seasoning before being handed the reins to the job. Still, he’s unlike any recent Alabama prospect at the position, given his impressive set of tools. He is qualified and on campus.

 

7. Rashaan Evans LB 6-3 215 4.6 10.0 Auburn/Auburn

Evans pulled a Signing Day shocker when he spurned hometown Auburn – where his father once played – for the Crimson Tide. His skill set is not much different from fellow signee Christian Miller, and like Miller, Evans is a prospect at either the strongside or Jack positions. Evans might also find himself competing for an inside linebacker slot, at least in certain packages. He has impressive speed, coverage ability and could probably be an option at safety for some teams. He is expected to qualify.

 

8. Cameron Sims WR 6-4 200 4.5 10.0 Monroe, La./Ouachita

Sims is the kind of long, big-bodied receiver that teams have begun to covet in recent years. Sims boasts above-average speed, good hands and good fluidity in his routes. Opinions vary on whether LSU made Sims a priority, but either way, Alabama got a good prospect who will be on campus for spring practice and should be a candidate for early playing time.

 

9. Tony Brown CB 6-0 195 4.4 9.9 Beaumont, Texas/Ozen

Brown is a speed merchant at cornerback and was considered by some observers to be one of the top two corners available in this class. He has good size to go along with his speed and figures to compete for time at both corner and Star in Alabama’s defense. He is currently enrolled in school and will participate in spring practice.

 

10. Laurence Jones S 6-2 210 4.5 9.9 Monroe, La./Neville

Jones became one of the most important signees in this class once Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri both opted for early entry into the NFL Draft. Whether he can grab a starting spot is yet to be seen, but Jones has all the tools to be an early contributor. He has good height, speed and flies to the ball. Like any defensive back Alabama signs, learning Nick Saban’s defense will be his biggest challenge. But Jones is already enrolled in school and will go through spring practice, which may give him the edge he needs as he chases a starting job in 2014.

 

11. Dominick Jackson OL 6-5 305 5.2 9.9 Cupertino, Calif./College of San Mateo

Jackson was widely considered the top junior college offensive tackle available in this class, and he is expected to immediately contribute. With the left tackle position open, Jackson could eventually be the answer. Jackson’s footwork is exemplary, and he’s considered as good a run blocker as he is a pass blocker. He may be a more natural fit at right tackle, which could effect some shuffling of positions among the returning players. Qualifying will be close, but Jackson is expected to make it.

 

12. Bo Scarbrough RB 6-1 235 4.5 9.9 Tuscaloosa/IMG Academy

Scarbrough was a high school legend in Tuscaloosa before heading to Florida and IMG Academy for his senior year, likely an attempt to shore up his grade sheet. As a football player, Scarbrough is a prospect at no fewer than four positions. He will start out at running back at Alabama, but could easily wind up at fullback, H-back, receiver or perhaps even on defense. As a running back, some observers had Scarbrough in their top three nationally. While he lacks elite speed, he is a tough runner with good vision and shows promise in the passing game. Qualifying will be close.

 

13. D.J. Pettway DE 6-3 265 4.7 9.9 Pensacola, Fla./East Mississippi CC

Pettway had a breakout season as a true freshman at Alabama two years ago before running into legal trouble and getting removed from the team. After a year at East Mississippi Community College, Pettway rejoined the Alabama program. In his year away from the Capstone, Pettway put on some weight and is now purely a defensive end prospect. Alabama fans are already familiar with his pass-rushing acumen, and despite the added size, his ability to create havoc behind the line of scrimmage didn’t change in junior college. Pettway is already enrolled in school and will go through spring practice with the team.

 

14. Ronnie Clark S 6-3 210 4.6 9.9 Calera/Calera

Clark’s future could be linebacker or even wide receiver, but he’ll start off at safety. Clark has an impressive combination of size and strength for the position, but remains fast enough to play at the SEC level. Clark is regarded as a good hitter and excellent in run support. He is expected to qualify.

 

15. Derek Kief WR 6-5 200 4.5 9.8 Cincinnati, Ohio/LaSalle

Kief committed early in the process and flew under the radar a bit as recruiting season wound down. While Kief’s speed isn’t bad, he’s considered more of a possession receiver who can use his height to great advantage and cause mismatches with smaller defensive backs. He is expected to qualify.

 

16. Josh Casher OL 6-1 295 5.0 9.8 Mobile/St. Paul’s

Casher is a prospect at both guard and center who is reminiscent of former Alabama lineman Marico Portis. He is aggressive, has quick feet and was a dominating run blocker in high school. He is expected to begin his Alabama career at guard but depending on what happens with other signees, could wind up at center. He is expected to qualify.

 

17. J.C. Hassenauer C 6-2 295 5.1 9.8 Woodbury, Minn/East Ridge

Hassenauer was considered the top center prospect available in this year’s class, although he could also play at guard and might start out there given Alabama’s depth at the center position. Hassenauer is considered a technician at the center position, but his raw strength and footwork as also impressive. He is expected to qualify.

 

18. Jarran Reed DL 6-3 310 5.1 9.8 Goldsboro, N.C./East Mississippi CC

Reed is projected as a nosetackle in Alabama’s 3-4 defense, but he has more quickness and straight-line speed than Alabama is accustomed to having at the position. Reed is not only considered a top run stopper, he is also considered to have good pass-rushing skills and will immediately compete at a position that didn’t develop in 2013 as well as Alabama’s coaches had probably hoped it would. Reed is already enrolled in school and will go through spring practice with the team.

 

19. Johnny Dwight DL 6-3 290 5.0 9.8 Rochelle, Ga./Wilcox County

Dwight is the prototypical 3-4 tackle/end combo player, and has drawn comparisons to former Alabama player Damion Square. He also has the frame to get bigger, but would need a redshirt year to do so if that’s the direction Alabama’s staff wants to travel. Dwight isn’t as polished as some of Alabama’s other line signees, but may have more total upside because of his flexibility. He is expected to qualify.

 

20. Ross Pierschbacher OL 6-3 295 5.2 9.7 Cedar Falls, Iowa/Cedar Falls

Pierschbacher was originally evaluated as a center/guard prospect, but he could end up eventually at right tackle. He has much the same makeup as current starting right tackle Austin Shepherd, able to play just about anywhere across the line. His run-blocking skills are already strong and some observers think he’s a candidate to get playing time sooner rather than later. He is expected to qualify.

 

21. Ty Flournoy-Smith TE 6-3 245 4.7 9.7 Moultrie, Ga./Georgia Military

A tight end likely wasn’t on Alabama’s radar screen until Lane Kiffin joined the Bama staff. Alabama made a late move for Flournoy-Smith and secured his signature, which likely means an increased focus on using the tight end as a receiving option. Flournoy-Smith, a former Georgia Bulldog prior to running into off-field trouble, is considered a receiver first and a blocker second, although he is not a blocking liability. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining and will report to campus in the fall. He is expected to qualify.

 

22. Montel McBride OL 6-5 350 5.3 9.7 Plant City, Fla./Plant City

The massive McBride is considered a prospect at guard, but could also play right tackle. It remains to be seen how effective he’ll be at his current weight, but 2013 signee Brandon Hill is making it work at a similar number. McBride has a powerful drive step and excels when moving downhill. He is expected to qualify.

 

23. Keith Holcombe LB 6-3 210 4.6 9.6 Tuscaloosa/Hillcrest

Holcombe is almost a carbon copy of former Tide linebacker Cory Reamer. He has good coverage skills, but has enough size to move inside and likely will fill the Reamer role of strongside linebacker/inside nickel linebacker for the Alabama defense. He is expected to qualify.

 

24. O.J. Smith DL 6-1 325 5.1 9.5 Bossier City, La./Airline

Smith is a fireplug nosetackle in the same vein as former Tider Josh Chapman. He is strong against the run but will need to continue to develop his pass rushing skills. Smith displays good footwork and is quicker than his size might indicate possible. He is expected to qualify.

 

25. Shaun Dion Hamilton LB 5-11 230 4.7 9.5 Montgomery/Carver

Hamilton is the only pure inside linebacker signed in this class, and as a result his chances at early playing time are quite good. He is big enough to plug the middle and plays with an aggressive streak. He fills the hole eagerly and should be an asset in run defense. He is enrolled in school already and will go through spring practice with the team.

 

26. J.K. Scott P/PK 6-5 190 *.* *.* Denver, Colo./Mullen

Scott was the top-ranked punter available for the 2014 class and is considered the odds-on favorite to be Alabama’s punter for games this fall. He is also a good kicking prospect and should compete for the kickoff specialist’s position as well. He is expected to qualify.

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