By Jess Nicholas, TideFans.com Editor-In-Chief
July 1, 2013
One of college football’s most attractive, yet often bittersweet features is the rotation of talent through each program.
At least every five years, beloved stars, respected role players and former prospects who didn’t pan out rotate through the system, replaced by signing classes full of 18-year-olds all confident that they’ll be the next big things in town. For the coaches who recruit and later instruct these players, the summer offseason is the primary evaluation period for rising prospects – although, to the chagrin of many, the process really begins much earlier than that.
Here is a first look at Alabama’s recruiting needs and a projection for how many the Crimson Tide will sign as 2013 progresses (players’ projected eligibility class heading into the 2014 season is in parenthesis).
Players leaving: A.J. McCarron
Returning for 2014: Blake Sims (Sr.), Alec Morris (So.), Cooper Bateman (RFr.), Luke Del Rio (RFr.), Parker McLeod (RFr.)
Committed: David Cornwell (Fr.)
Analysis: Alabama will have five quarterbacks on scholarship and a sixth, Luke Del Rio, who is good enough to be on scholarship just about anywhere else. The likelihood that Alabama would take another quarterback along with Cornwell is fairly low, although there are some possibilities. Most likely, any potential second quarterback would be someone who could play multiple positions or provide a change of pace at the position, such as Ashville’s E.J. Moss or Bossier City, La.’s Brandon Harris. Cornwell’s commitment appears about as rock-solid as possible right now, so keeping him healthy is the only real concern at this point. While Sims will be the only upperclassman in house, and Morris has separated himself from the others at this point, Bateman and Cornwell are the two with the most raw potential. It’s not out of the question for Alabama to start a true freshman in 2014.
Players leaving: None
Returning for 2014: Jalston Fowler (Sr.), T.J. Yeldon (Jr.), Kenyan Drake (Jr.), Dee Hart (Jr.), Derek Henry (So.), Tyren Jones (RFr.), Altee Tenpenny (RFr.), Alvin Kamara (RFr.), Trey Roberts (Jr.)
Committed: Bo Scarbrough (Fr.)
Analysis: Injury history will forever follow Fowler and Hart, but presuming both stay in one piece for 2013 it’s hard to imagine either drawing enough attention to jump to the NFL a year early. T.J. Yeldon won’t be eligible for the draft next April, so the depth chart appears fairly set for awhile. Alabama’s one running back commitment at this point, Bo Scarbrough, may eventually end up as an H-back or on defense. Alabama is in hot pursuit of Louisiana standout Leonard Fournette, who is probably the top running back in nationally in this class. Homegrown talent Racean Thomas figures to be at Alabama if Fournette picks LSU, but both could end up as part of this class, especially if Scarbrough outgrows the position. It appears Alabama will take Scarbrough and one other player, even though the Tide will return its running back group for 2014 intact.
Players leaving: Kevin Norwood, Kenny Bell
Returning for 2014: DeAndrew White (Sr.), Christion Jones (Sr.), Amari Cooper (Jr.), Chris Black (So.), Raheem Falkins (So.), Robert Foster (So.), Danny Woodson Jr. (Jr.), Parker Barrineau (Jr.), ArDarius Stewart (RFr.)
Committed: Derek Kief (Fr.)
Analysis: At least three names on the “returning” list might not be. Either DeAndrew White or Christion Jones could jump to the pros with a strong junior season; White, in particular, had a fantastic spring. Jones could also end up on defense as soon as this fall. Danny Woodson Jr. is no longer with the program. Assuming a worst-case scenario for 2014, Alabama could wind up with just five scholarship players (Cooper, Black, Falkins, Foster, Stewart) coming back in March. Getting Derek Kief to commit was huge, but holding onto him will be just as important. Fortunately, Alabama is in on several other players and the wide receiver class is a deep one. Calera’s Ronnie Clark will be a focal point, as will slot receiver Speedy Noil (do names come any better?) from Louisiana. Look for Alabama to add at least one signee in addition to Kief, with the potential for two or three others.
Players leaving: None
Returning for 2014: Brian Vogler (Sr.), Harrison Jones (Sr.), Malcolm Faciane (Jr.), Kurt Freitag (So.), O.J. Howard (So.)
Analysis: It’s not an absolute requirement for Alabama to sign a tight end in this class, but it would be nice. Alabama currently has five scholarshipped players, listed above, plus a handful of walk-ons who wouldn’t embarrass themselves if they had to play. Jalston Fowler is also a possibility at H-back, as is incoming running back signee Bo Scarbrough. The problem going forward is that once you get past Vogler and Jones, there isn’t a lot of flexibility. Faciane is an on-the-line tight end. Howard is an H-back. Freitag could be pressed into service at Y, but he’s primarily built for the H as well. Unless Alabama wants to open 2015 with only one pure tight end, it’s important to bring one in this year. Unfortunately for Alabama, this isn’t a deep year for tight ends. Tyler Luatua, whose brother Isaac is a reserve offensive guard, is thought to be at the top of the wish list. Although he’ll need to add some mass to play on the line, he has the frame to easily do it. Look for Alabama to sign one player here.
Players leaving: G Anthony Steen, G/T Kellen Williams, T Cyrus Kouandjio (Jr.)
Returning for 2014: G/T Arie Kouandjio (Sr.), T Austin Shepherd (Sr.), C Ryan Kelly (Jr.), G/C Chad Lindsey (Sr.), G Isaac Luatua (Jr.), T Brandon Greene (So.), T Leon Brown (Sr.), T/G Caleb Gulledge (So.), G Alphonse Taylor (So.), G/T Brandon Hill (RFr.), Grant Hill (RFr.)
Committed: C J.C. Hassenauer (Fr.), T Dominick Jackson (Jr.), G/T Viane Talamaivao (Fr.), Bradley Bozeman (Fr., grayshirt)
Analysis: In addition to Anthony Steen and Kellen Williams, TideFans.com is predicting T Cyrus Kouandjio leaves a year early for the NFL Draft. As such, the offensive line will go through just as much change heading into 2014 as it did this past offseason. Alabama will have a plethora of guard-tackle combo types who are, primarily, guards. There is also the question of Leon Brown’s status, which is unknown at this time. Arie Kouandjio’s health will always be a concern, and it’s possible with a strong 2013 season that he could join his brother in making the leap to the NFL. As such, Alabama could end up with a very green lineup headed into 2014. The Tide coaches have already gotten a jump on the issue, taking a commitment from a junior college player (T Dominick Jackson), in addition to one of the country’s best centers (Hassenauer) and Viane Talamaivao, an elite prospect who can play either inside or outside. Bradley Bozeman, who signed in the 2013 class but didn’t report to campus, is slated to join the team in January as a grayshirt. But Alabama isn’t finished yet. The Tide would readily take a commitment from T Cameron Robinson, another Louisiana talent widely considered to be the best lineman in this class nationally. Montel McBride (who could also play nosetackle) and huge Damien Mama are probably the other top targets, but Alabama has offers out to at least a dozen linemen and TideFans.com expects a Signing Day haul of six or seven players.
Players leaving: E Ed Stinson
Returning for 2014: E Jeoffrey Pagan (Sr.), E LaMichael Fanning (Jr.), E Korren Kirven (So.), E Dalvin Tomlinson (So.), E Dee Liner (RFr.), T Brandon Ivory (Sr.), T Darren Lake (Jr.), T/E Dakota Ball (So.), T/E Wilson Love (Jr.), E Anthony Orr (Sr.), T A’Shawn Robinson (So.), T/E Darius Paige (RFr.), T Jay Woods (Jr.)
Committed: T. O.J. Smith (Fr.), T/E Johnny Dwight (Fr.)
Analysis: There figures to be some attrition here – all but Woods are on scholarship – before the 2014 season gets here. Off the top, Jeoffrey Pagan and Brandon Ivory both might jump to the NFL depending on what they do in 2013. Pagan in particular is a threat to leave early. Neither Love nor Orr have seen the field yet. Presuming massive O.J. Smith sticks with his commitment, Alabama has recruited defensive linemen well over the last three classes and should be fine, but teams like Alabama are apt to take talented big men whenever and wherever they might be found. The top candidates are probably Elisha Shaw and huge Matt Elam, both of whom project as nosetackles. Outside, Corey Thomas and Devon Godchaux are possibilities, but Godchaux has an LSU offer in hand and it would be a tremendous surprise if he picked Alabama over his home-state favorite. Look for Alabama to take four or five players total here.
Players leaving: MLB C.J. Mosley, MLB Tana Patrick, OLB Adrian Hubbard (Jr.)
Returning for 2014: OLB Xzavier Dickson (Sr.), OLB Denzel Devall (Jr.), OLB Dillon Lee (Jr.), MLB Trey DePriest (Sr.), MLB Reggie Ragland (Jr.), MLB/OLB Ryan Anderson (So.), OLB Jonathan Allen (So.), OLB Tim Williams (RFr.), MLB/OLB Walker Jones (RFr.), MLB Reuben Foster (So.)
Committed: MLB Zach Whitley (Fr.), MLB Shaun Dion Hamilton (Fr.)
Analysis: TideFans.com is predicting OLB Adrian Hubbard leaves with a year of eligibility remaining for the NFL Draft. With a solid junior campaign, Xzavier Dickson could do the same, but both he and Hubbard need to be more consistent. Regardless, the loss of Mosley and Patrick will put a serious dent in middle linebacker depth, which already took a hit earlier in the year when Tyler Hayes was dismissed from the team following an arrest. Trey DePriest could also make the jump to the NFL following the 2013 season, which would not be good news for the opening of the 2014 season. Alabama has plenty of pure outside linebackers on the team, but aside from current signee Reuben Foster, most of the players at middle linebacker came to Tuscaloosa either as outside players or raw athletes. It’s no coincidence that both Alabama’s early commitments, Zach Whitley and Shaun Dion Hamilton, are pure inside players. Don’t look for Alabama to be done here, either. Alabama has several other offers out, with Vincent Jackson, Raekwon McMillan and Dillon Bates probably the top candidates. All three, however, are out-of-state players thought to favor an in-state team. If Alabama offers Tuscaloosa product Keith Holcombe, the Tide will probably get him 10 seconds later. Look for Alabama to sign at least three players here.
Players leaving: CB Deion Belue, CB John Fulton, S Nick Perry, S Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix (Jr.)
Returning for 2014: S Vinnie Sunseri (Sr.), S Landon Collins (Jr.), CB Geno Smith (Jr.), CB Jabriel Washington (Jr.), CB Bradley Sylve (Jr.), CB Cyrus Jones (Jr.), S Jarrick Williams (Sr.), S Jai Miller (So.), CB Anthony Averett (RFr.), CB Jonathan Cook (RFr.), CB Maurice Smith (RFr.), S Eddie Jackson (RFr.)
Committed: CB Kalvaraz Bessent (Fr.), CB Stephen Roberts (Fr.), S Chris Williams (Fr.)
Analysis: TideFans.com predicts S Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix will enter the draft early. As such, Alabama will lose at least two starters from the 2013 team (Clinton-Dix, Belue) and two other players (Fulton, Perry) that are at the very least considered important parts of the rotation. Some prognosticators have S Vinnie Sunseri leaving as well, but we expect him to return for his senior year. Thus, the 2014 team will need at least three and preferably four players to step up from either the current roster or the incoming signing class to fill out its rotation. New players are unknowns; the problem is made worse by the fact that Jarrick Williams (long list of injuries) and Jai Miller (out of football for 10 years) are complete wild cards at the moment. So far, Alabama’s recruiting has skewed toward cornerbacks. Both Bessent and Roberts are intriguing prospects, but rare is the cornerback who can step onto the field and play a key role in Nick Saban’s defense as a true freshman. Geno Smith did it last year on a limited basis, while Kareem Jackson and Dee Milliner played extensively as true freshmen with mixed results. Alabama is thought to be a lock to land Marlon Humphrey, which would give the Tide essentially Milliner Part II. Safety C.J. Hampton is another key target. Alabama has offers out to several other players at both spots, so expect a class of five or six DBs in the final analysis.
Players leaving: LS M.K. Taylor, K Cade Foster, P Cody Mandell
Returning for 2014: LS Cole Mazza (So.), K Adam Griffith (So.), P Worth Gregory (Jr.)
Committed: K/P J.K. Scott
Analysis: Alabama will be replacing both starting kickers in 2014 and perhaps its starting long-snapper, if Cole Mazza doesn’t beat out M.K. Taylor in fall camp. Taylor had a strong spring. As for the placekicker position in 2014, Adam Griffith should slide right into it. Punter will be wide open, with signee J.K. Scott the favorite over walk-on junior Worth Gregory. There is no position on the field that sees walk-on turnover the way kicker and punter do from camp to camp, and there is reliable information to suggest Alabama will bring it at least one highly respected walk-on this fall to compete with the current roster. As for the upcoming signing class, expect Scott to be the only name in it.