By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
Feb. 6, 2013
Alabama fans can certainly understand the fatigue setting in around the rest of the country, as fans of other programs, members of the media and rival coaches have had enough of Alabama to last them a couple of decades, at least.
But Alabama fans simply don’t care. And fortunately for them, neither does Nick Saban.
The Crimson Tide followed up national championship No. 15 last month with another recruiting national championship this month. Alabama signed the top class in the country, just as it did last year, which means for anyone wishing for a Tide backslide, it won’t happen due to a regression in the total talent level anytime soon.
The Crimson Tide signed 10 players ranked a perfect 10.0 on the NARCAS rating scale, one more than a year ago. Alabama’s class carried an overall ranking of 9.84, one of the highest ever recorded in NARCAS’ 16-year span of tracking recruiting, but slightly lower than last year’s 9.86 average.
Here’s a look at each player who signed, and their ranking.
Name POS Ht Wt 40time Rating Hometown/school
1. A’Shawn Robinson DL 6-5 310 5.1 10.0 Fort Worth, Texas/Arlington Heights
Alabama’s top signee might just be the one it got at the very end of the process. A’Shawn Robinson was the last prospect of the bunch to hold his Signing Day ceremony, and it was certainly worth the wait. Robinson can play inside in a four-man front, and either inside or outside in a three-man front. After several years of taking smaller players and beefing them up, or getting a larger project player and waiting on him to develop, Robinson gives Alabama a defensive lineman who should be ready to not just play early, but enter the top rotation at the position. He is expected to qualify.
2. Altee Tenpenny RB 6-0 210 4.5 10.0 North Little Rock, Ark./N. Little Rock
Despite a new coach at Arkansas (Bret Bielema) and a new commitment to running the football, Tenpenny stood up to the pressure of staying in-state and elected to follow through on his commitment to Alabama, where running the football hasn’t been just a promise in recent years. Tenpenny drew multiple comparisons to Trent Richardson in terms of running style during the recruiting process, and it would not be a surprise to see him get plenty of early playing time. He is expected to qualify.
3. Darius Paige DL 6-4 300 4.9 10.0 Foley/Foley
Paige committed to Alabama early and as such might be a bit forgotten late in the process, but if he qualifies, he would give Alabama a tremendous 1-2 bunch as a 3-4 DE along with Robinson. Paige has quickness and size to rival Robinson’s and plays with the obligatory mean streak that coaches like to see in interior linemen. The key will be academics, and while Paige has a long road ahead of him, the road isn’t insurmountable.
4. Reuben Foster LB 6-2 245 4.5 10.0 Auburn/Auburn
Foster’s recruiting saga took several twists and turns. Like Brent Calloway two years ago, Foster originally committed to Alabama, then switched to Auburn, then finally came back home to the Tide. If Foster can focus his immense talent, he can be as good as any linebacker ever to play for Nick Saban. There were times in his senior year, though, when Foster appeared to lose focus, and some of his earlier-career highlights were more impressive. There is also the issue of academics; like Paige, Foster has some work ahead of him, but qualifying is in reach.
5. Robert Foster WR 6-2 180 4.5 10.0 Monaca, Pa./Central Valley
As impressive as pulling Altee Tenpenny away from hometown pressures in Arkansas was, getting Robert Foster to eschew signing with in-state Pitt may have been an even bigger coup. Foster has a similar playing style to Amari Cooper, but might not have Cooper’s downfield pull-away speed. Regardless, Foster was considered at worst a top-five receiver prospect nationally, and he stands a good chance at seeing early playing time even with Alabama’s crowded depth chart. Grades may be close, but Foster is expected to make it.
6. Tyren Jones RB 5-9 200 4.4 10.0 Marietta, Ga./Walton
If Tenpenny is the next Trent Richardson, Tyren Jones might be the next Mark Ingram. Smaller and with a lower center of gravity than Tenpenny, Jones is manhole-cover tough and runs well in traffic. All of Alabama’s running back signees will compete for immediate playing time, but Jones might be the one to most benefit by a redshirt year for conditioning. Once he does get to the field, though, Tide fans will be happy with his cutting ability and forward-leaning style of rushing. He is expected to qualify.
7. Cooper Bateman QB 6-3 210 4.6 10.0 Murray, Utah/Cottonwood
Alabama badly needed a top-flight quarterback prospect in this class, and the Crimson Tide got it in Cooper Bateman. Bateman’s physical and mental makeup are very similar to that of incumbent starter A.J. McCarron. While Bateman will almost certainly redshirt in 2013 given Alabama’s depth at the position this year, he did arrive on campus early and will thus be going through spring camp with the team.
8. Derrick Henry RB 6-3 240 4.6 10.0 Yulee, Fla./Yulee
Henry is perhaps the most intriguing prospect Alabama signed, if for no other reason than he isn’t the prototypical running back. Henry is built similar to and runs in a similar style to former Auburn quarterback Cam Newton, which is a compliment despite Alabama fans’ natural aversion to Newton’s name. Speculation is wide about Henry’s eventual collegiate position, but he intends to play running back and that’s where he’ll begin his Alabama career. H-back and linebacker are other potential landing spots for him, but as long as he’s productive at running back, his oversized-for-the-position physique simply makes him unique. He has enrolled early and will go through spring training with the team.
9. Jonathan Allen DE 6-3 240 4.5 10.0 Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge
Allen is an intriguing prospect for several reasons, not the least of which is he might be bigger than 240 pounds already, and is still growing. As it stands now, he’s an ideal defensive end in a four-man look and a possibility at Jack linebacker as well. Like Paige, Allen’s early commitment to the Tide probably sets him under the radar at this point, but the fact is he could turn out to be the top signee in this class. He’s somewhat of a combination of Xzavier Dickson and Damion Square. He’s expected to qualify.
10. Raheem Falkins WR 6-4 200 4.5 10.0 New Orleans, La./Carver
Falkins was one of Alabama’s first commitments in the 2012-2013 cycle, and once Robert Foster committed down the stretch, many people lost track of him. But Falkins is a massive talent at receiver in his own right, possessing great height, speed and route-running ability. He gives Alabama an outside receiving threat to complement Cooper, and the thought of Falkins, Cooper and Foster together on the field is a quarterback’s dream. Falkins is already enrolled at Alabama and will go through spring practice.
11. Leon Brown OL 6-7 310 5.5 9.9 Brooklyn, N.Y./ASA College
It’s sometimes hard to get overly excited about JUCO offensive tackles; they don’t play a glamour position, and there seems to be something about a player with a pre-programmed one- or two-year collegiate career that causes them to be overlooked. But given Alabama’s need for a right tackle in 2013, Brown is one of the most important players in this class. Brown is already on campus, and he’ll enter the spring in immediate competition with Austin Shepherd and possibly Arie Kouandjio for the starting job. Brown has drawn comparisons to James Carpenter, but he’s taller and more lithe than Carpenter was. He’s also a good bet to slide to left tackle in 2014 if Cyrus Kouandjio heads to the NFL a year early.
12. Tim Williams DE 6-3 230 4.6 9.9 Baton Rouge, La./University Lab
Alabama snuck Williams out of Louisiana late in the process, as LSU didn’t put on a heavy push for his signature. It’s not clear the reason for that, given that Williams is an ideal Jack linebacker/stand-up end who reminds many observers of LSU’s Bar’Kevious Mingo. Williams has excellent quickness and a good first step when playing with his hand down, but still has the fluidity to play a linebacker position if need be. He could go in either direction in college. He is expected to qualify.
13. Alvin Kamara RB 5-9 175 4.4 9.9 Norcross, Ga./Norcross
Kamara figures to slide into the Dee Hart role at some point, with the time variable for doing so tied to Hart’s ability to come back from yet another knee injury. Kamara can play slot receiver or a third-down back role in Alabama’s base offense. While not the ideal size for an SEC running back, he’ll have plenty of packages designed to get him the ball in space. He is expected to qualify.
14. Dee Liner DL 6-2 275 4.9 9.9 Muscle Shoals/Muscle Shoals
Like Reuben Foster, Liner was a one-time Auburn commitment who changed to Alabama late in the process. Liner isn’t as big as Alabama’s other defensive line signees, but he has the frame to add plenty more weight and possibly even move inside to the nosetackle position at some point down the line. Liner briefly ran into some disciplinary trouble early in his senior season, but that seemed to pass and not be a factor down the stretch. He is expected to qualify.
15. Maurice Smith CB 6-0 180 4.5 9.9 Sugar Land, Texas/Dulles
Smith is a big, physical cornerback in a mold similar to that of Johnthan Banks of Mississippi State. Given the loss of Dee Milliner to the NFL and spotty depth, Smith could find himself playing very early in his Crimson Tide career. He is expected to qualify.
16. Anthony Averett CB 5-11 180 4.4 9.9 Woodbury, N.J./Woodbury
Averett isn’t as big or physical as Smith, but he is extremely quick, athletic and fluid and reminds some of a faster Marquis Johnson. Averett is another early-cycle commitment who was sort of forgotten closer to Signing Day, but he’ll be in the mix for playing time from day one. He’s expected to qualify.
17. O.J. Howard TE 6-5 227 4.6 9.8 Prattville/Autauga Academy
Howard was one of the Tide’s first commitments, and is already enrolled and on campus. Howard’s high school productivity didn’t jump off the page, despite his playing in a league where he had few peers, but Howard was an all-star camp demon who rose to the occasion when the competition level went up. He’s not big enough to play the Y in Alabama’s offense right now, but with a gaping hole at the H-back position, he’s well in line for a starting job in 2013. Howard could also help at wide receiver.
18. ArDarius Stewart WR 6-1 190 4.5 9.8 Birmingham/Fultondale
Stewart was the top receiver prospect in Alabama this year and physically is reminiscent of current Tider Kevin Norwood. Stewart probably has the most work to do, physically, of the Tide’s wide receiver class before he’ll be ready to get on the field, but he has the potential to be just as productive as his classmates before his career is done. He is expected to qualify.
19. Eddie Jackson CB 6-2 185 4.4 9.7 Lauderdale Lakes, Fla./Boyd Anderson
Every year, there are players that seem to come from nowhere late in the recruiting process and wind up being eventually more productive than many of the ones deemed to be stars in the preseason. Jackson is one of those players. Big and physical, Jackson’s game developed nicely as a high school senior and he probably has the most raw potential of Alabama’s three cornerback signees. He is expected to qualify.
20. Brandon Hill OL 6-7 370 5.5 9.6 Collierville, Tenn./Hargrave Military
Massive Brandon Hill was originally part of the 2011-2012 class, but failed to qualify. He recommitted to Alabama, wavered a bit to Ole Miss in the middle of the process, but eventually returned to the Tide’s fold. Hill is massive and will need to lose a bit of weight as soon as possible – he topped the 400-pound mark at one point in 2012 – but he has quick feet and is surprisingly agile for a man his size. Hill might end up a guard before everything is done. He is already enrolled and will go through spring practice with the team.
21. Grant Hill OL 6-6 300 5.2 9.6 Huntsville/Huntsville
Grant Hill has a solid frame and good footwork, and like Brandon Hill, could be a factor either at guard or tackle. He figures to get his first look at right tackle, but like most offensive linemen, would probably benefit from a redshirt his first year. He is expected to qualify.
22. Bradley Bozeman OL 6-5 305 5.5 9.6 Roanoke/Handley
As of yet, Bozeman is not technically a member of this class in terms of Alabama receiving a signed NLOI from him; he agreed to take a grayshirt in order to help Alabama meet its numbers. But with Alabama missing on a couple of late targets, it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Bozeman to be a part of this class at some point before everything goes final. Bozeman, like Grant Hill, could play either guard or tackle, with guard being the more likely destination. He is expected to qualify, and unless plans change, will join the team next January.
23. Jonathan Cook CB 6-0 180 4.5 9.5 Spanish Fort/Spanish Fort
Like Eddie Jackson, Cook’s stock shot up during his senior year. He is a physical cornerback with good size and can also play safety if needed. Cook’s biggest challenge may end up being academics; qualifying will be very close.
24. Walker Jones LB 6-2 230 4.7 9.5 Cordova, Tenn./Evangelical Christian
Walker, the brother of Barrett Jones and Harrison Jones, figures to end up either at middle linebacker or possibly at H-back on offense. Jack linebacker is also a potential destination. Jones is a good athlete and versatile, although probably more of a longtime project than either of his brothers. He is expected to qualify.
25. Parker McLeod QB 6-2 200 4.9 9.4 Marietta, Ga./Walton
McLeod is one of the most interesting players in the class, simply from the standpoint that there is a wide range of opinion about his skills. Alabama thought enough of him to pick him over Riley Ferguson and other quarterbacks. The question is whether McLeod will be more like Greg McElroy, or whether he’ll be more like Phillip Ely, who hasn’t developed as quickly as Alabama originally hoped. McLeod is already enrolled and will go through spring practice with the team.
26. Cole Mazza LS 6-2 235 5.0 *.* Bakersfield, Calif./Liberty
Alabama does not rank specialists, therefore Mazza did not receive a NARCAS ranking. Having said that, he was widely considered the best long-snapper available in the 2012-2013 recruiting cycle. Mazza is almost a dead-solid lock to start in 2013, as Carson Tinker exhausted his eligibility and only walk-on M.K. Taylor remained on the roster after the 2012 season ended. Mazza is expected to qualify.