By Jess Nicholas
Jan. 31, 2016
Those who cover college football recruiting have found something as rare as a flawless diamond: Consensus.
Consensus, in this case, on a concept – the 2015-2016 recruiting season has been the hardest to predict or analyze in history. Given how many prospects treat another concept – the concept of commitment – it would be no surprise for the 2016-2017 recruiting season to be even trickier still.
Unfortunately for college coaches, 2015-2016 hasn’t just been a minefield for sportswriters or recruiting junkies. It has proven to be difficult terrain even for the coaches themselves. Is a player really committed or not? If you’re ESPN and you’re looking for Signing Day drama to drive up ratings, Wednesday is just what the doctor ordered.
At press time, Alabama had 17 commitments with the recent de-commitment of LB Riley Cole. Here’s a look at what Alabama is facing headed down the stretch:
Lost: Jake Coker, Alec Morris
Coming back: Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell, Blake Barnett
Committed: Jalen Hurts
Signed: Jalen Hurts
Recruiting: Jawon Pass
Analysis: Jalen Hurts is already on campus; he was the analog for Deshaun Watson in the lead-up to Alabama’s national championship contest against Clemson. Two weeks ago, Alabama suddenly got back in it for Jawon Pass, a current Louisville commit who was the guy Alabama picked Hurts over back in December. The only way Alabama brings in Pass at the moment is if the Tide coaches are concerned about losing either David Cornwell or Blake Barnett to transfer after the spring. Lane Kiffin’s place of employment could have an effect on either player; if Kiffin comes back (as expected at this point), it’s probably a better thing for Barnett than Cornwell. If Kiffin left for another job – at this point, more likely an NFL gig than another college coordinator position or head coaching job – Barnett might be enticed to transfer out. Either way, having Bateman, Hurts and just one other QB makes Pass suddenly a take if Alabama truly fears the transfer risk. If Alabama expects no transfers, Pass is a pass.
Lost: Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake, Michael Nysewander
Coming back: Bo Scarbrough, Damien Harris, Derrick Gore, Xavian Marks
Committed: B.J. Emmons
Recruiting: D’Vaughn Pennamon, La’Mical Perine, Amir Rasul, Brandon Simmons, Brandon Stephens, Robert Washington, Joshua Jacobs
Analysis: The concern with Emmons has always been grades. While Emmons is thought to be on track to be eligible, it’s not a given; thus, Alabama is searching for a second back for this class. The two at the top of the list are current Ole Miss commitment D’Vaughn Pennamon and late-riser Joshua Jacobs, whose offer sheet was dismal just six weeks ago. Now, Jacobs is one of the hottest commodities coming down the stretch, and just picked up an Alabama offer late last week. As for Pennamon, switching off his Ole Miss commitment wouldn’t be a surprise, but leaving the state of Texas would be. No matter what he says between now and Wednesday, he’ll be a guy no one counts until the paperwork hits the fax machine. Amir Rasul is probably the next-most likely name on the list to sign with Alabama, although Stanford commit Brandon Stephens could be a possibility. Neither Simmons nor Perine is believed to have a firm offer. If Emmons gets eligible, Alabama has enough depth to make things work in 2016 provided Bo Scarbrough stays upright. But the closer things get to Signing Day, the more likely it appears Alabama will take a second running back in this class – and possibly a third.
Prediction: Emmons, Jacobs
Lost: Richard Mullaney, Parker Barrineau, Chris Black
Coming back: Calvin Ridley, ArDarius Stewart, Cameron Sims, Robert Foster, Raheem Falkins, Daylon Charlot, Derek Kief
Committed: Trevon Diggs, Tyler Simmons, T.J. Simmons
Signed: T.J. Simmons
Recruiting: A.J. Brown, Keith Gavin, Mykel Jones, Riley Smith, Demetris Robinson
Analysis: Alabama has T.J. Simmons on campus already, but it is holding its breath with its other two commitments until the paperwork arrives. Trevon Diggs recently renewed his commitment, while Tyler Simmons is being besieged with attention from other schools late. Holding on to both players, by itself, would be an accomplishment. But Alabama is heavily involved with A.J. Brown and Demetris Robinson, and wants both badly, although Alabama trails Notre Dame with Robinson and is in a three-way, no-leader battle with Ole Miss and Mississippi State for Brown. Keith Gavin recently committed to Florida State, although Alabama isn’t going to leave him alone. Nick Saban visited Mykel Jones this week, which means the interest is real. Riley Smith, a JUCO player, may not have a firm offer, but could become part of the class if others drop out. Fortunately, Alabama has plenty of depth as is and could sustain a numbers hit this year, but things get dicier next season when either Stewart or Foster could declare for the draft following a big 2016 season.
Prediction: Simmons, Simmons, Diggs, Brown
Lost: Ty Flournoy-Smith
Coming back: O.J. Howard, Brandon Greene, Dakota Ball, Johnny Dwight, Hale Hentges
Committed: Miller Forristall, Brendan Scales
Signed: Miller Forristall
Recruiting: Devin Asiasi, Irvin Smith, Nick Eubanks
Analysis: Usually we combine this position group with the wide receivers, but enough is going on that we had to break it out for 2016. Alabama keeps most of its 2015 group together, losing only role player Ty Flournoy-Smith. Johnny Dwight may be headed back to defense, and Brandon Greene will compete for the open right tackle job. That leaves Alabama with only two on-the-line options (Hentges, Ball) and an H (Howard). Miller Forristall signed early and came to campus, but unless Alabama plans to use him as an H only in 2016, he’ll need plenty of time in the weight room. Brendan Scales is a more traditional tight end. Alabama seems determined to bring in a third player, hence the reason for its reason interest in Irvin Smith and Michigan commit Nick Eubanks. Devin Asiasi is the top target thanks to his size and athleticism, but he’s also the least likely of the bunch to end up in Tuscaloosa. Alabama is overloading this position in 2016 in preparation for the following year, when Howard and Greene both exit the program. Given the Crimson Tide isn’t after any fullback possibilities to replace Michael Nysewander, it looks as if Alabama is committed to the Ace front as its default power option going forward.
Prediction: Forristall, Scales, Smith
Lost: Dominick Jackson, Ryan Kelly, Isaac Luatua, Grant Hill
Coming back: Alphonse Taylor, Ross Pierschbacher, Cam Robinson, Brandon Greene (TE), J.C. Hassenauer, Bradley Bozeman, Dallas Warmack, Korren Kirven, Matt Womack, Richie Pettibon, Brandon Kennedy, Lester Cotton, Josh Casher
Committed: Charles Baldwin, Deonte Brown, Chris Owens, Jonah Williams
Signed: Charles Baldwin, Chris Owens, Jonah Williams
Recruiting: Landon Dickerson, Scott Lashley, Greg Little
Analysis: Alabama could stop right now and not need another OL in this class. The list of names in the “Coming Back” section above, for that matter, is enough on its own. Three of Alabama’s four commitments came in early – Deonte Brown the only one not – and Baldwin and Williams alone would give most schools a historic OL haul. Alabama is still active; North Carolina prospect Landon Dickerson is the most likely to be added to the class, although Mississippi prospect Scott Lashley is also a possibility. What isn’t known is whether either has a firm offer at the moment. The most intriguing name of the “Recruiting” list is Greg Little, possibly the top lineman in the country, who committed to Ole Miss over Alabama in December. With Ole Miss now officially under NCAA investigation, the question has been raised as to how many Rebel prospects will take a second look elsewhere. Little is still expected to sign with Ole Miss, but you can bet he got some phone calls this week.
Prediction: Baldwin, Brown, Owens, Williams, Dickerson
Lost: Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson, D.J. Pettway, Darren Lake
Coming back: Dalvin Tomlinson, Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, O.J. Smith, Da’Shawn Hand, Josh Frazier
Committed: Raekwon Davis, Kendell Jones, Quinnen Williams
Recruiting: Nick Coe, Jonathan Kongbo, Connor Murphy, Jeffery Simmons, Derrick Brown, Michail Carter, Rashan Gary, Jamar King, Marcel Southall, Malik Walker
Analysis: If you’re looking for a place to get scared, get scared here. Alabama mitigated the damage greatly by convincing Jonathan Allen to return for his senior campaign. None of Alabama’s three commitments are expected to play huge roles as true freshmen. Quinnen Williams has the look of a young Dalvin Tomlinson, Kendell Jones needs to lose weight and Raekwon Davis needs to refine his body. Any or all could play, but whether they’re ready to be part of the starting rotation is another matter. It’s no surprise, therefore, that the list of players Alabama is still recruiting is such a long one. Of that group, Alabama might not want any player more than it wants current Auburn commitment Nick Coe. Jeffery Simmons is probably wanted just as much, but pulling him from Ole Miss would be a coup. So would getting Derrick Brown away from Auburn or Georgia. Unfortunately, Alabama seems to be coming up second or third with its key targets. Alabama will also likely be the second choice for Rashan Gary, considered the nation’s top prospect. The next rung down is probably Jonathan Kongbo, Michail Carter and Jamar King, and any or all of that group, although Kongbo appears not to have a firm UA offer and will likely end up at either Florida State or Tennessee. Alabama’s competition for Carter is likely Clemson or Georgia; for King, Ohio State is the competition. Behind those is the group of Connor Murphy, who has offers from Michigan and several West Coast teams, Marcel Southall and Malik Walker. Neither Southall nor Walker has a Bama offer yet. With so little time before Signing Day, Alabama’s possibilities are probably limited to either talking Coe or Brown out of Auburn, pulling Simmons away from Ole Miss or closing the deal with Jamar King, who is a JUCO prospect and would be able to enter the playing rotation immediately. Darkhorse? Michail Carter.
Prediction: Davis, Jones, Williams, King
Lost: Reggie Ragland, Denzel Devall, Dillon Lee
Coming back: Ryan Anderson, Tim Williams, Rashaan Evans, Walker Jones, Shaun Dion Hamilton, Reuben Foster, Josh McMillon, Keith Holcombe, Keaton Anderson, Christian Miller, Mekhi Brown, Jamey Mosley, Adonis Thomas, Anfernee Jennings
Committed: Christian Bell
Signed: Christian Bell
Recruiting: Riley Cole, Dontavious Jackson, Mique Juarez, Lyndell Wilson, Ben Davis, Terrell Hall
Analysis: Even with losses of three key members of its 2015 playing rotation, Alabama has impressive depth heading into 2016. Alabama has held commitments from both Riley Cole and Dontavious Jackson at times this recruiting cycle, but neither is currently committed and Jackson is considered ruled out of the class. Cole may still join the class as a grayshirt down the road, but appears ready to move on from Alabama’s offer of such. That leaves the “Big Four” of Mique Juarez, Lyndell Wilson, Ben Davis and Terrell Hall. Davis, an Alabama legacy, will almost certainly be part of the class. The Crimson Tide apparently made huge inroads with Juarez lately, and he’s now considered an Alabama lean. It would be a surprise if Wilson didn’t attend Alabama, although Kirby Smart’s move to Georgia gives the Bulldogs a slim chance. The real coup here would be to get Terrell Hall out of Washington D.C. He’s a true Jack linebacker and would give Alabama some insulation against disaster in 2017, when both Ryan Anderson and Tim Williams will exit the program. Alabama’s only other Jack possibilities after the upcoming season are Christian Bell, Christian Miller, Mekhi Brown and Anfernee Jennings; the first three will need to continue to add weight, while the latter could end up at tight end or defensive end. If Alabama gets everyone it wants, the Tide will have the top LB haul in the country.
Prediction: Davis, Wilson, Juarez, Hall, Bell
Lost: Cyrus Jones, Geno Matias-Smith, Jabriel Washington, Bradley Sylve
Coming back: Marlon Humphrey, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Eddie Jackson, Tony Brown, Maurice Smith, Shawn Burgess-Becker, Dionte Thompson, Laurence Jones, Anthony Averett, Ronnie Harrison, Kendall Sheffield
Committed: Shawn Jennings, Joshua Perry
Signed: Shawn Jennings
Recruiting: Mecole Hardman, Shyheim Carter, Kristian Fulton, Nigel Knott, Jared Mayden, Nigel Warrior, Brandon Jones, Deontay Anderson
Analysis: Like linebacker, Alabama has good depth here regardless of what happens down the stretch. Shawn Jennings is already on Alabama’s campus. Both he and Perry are safeties only, and with the departure of Cyrus Jones, Bradley Sylve and Jabriel Washington, Alabama needs more bodies that can play cornerback. Bama’s top two possibilities are likely Shyheim Carter (a one-time Alabama commitment) and Nigel Knott, who both fit the bill. Speed is the name of the game with both. Jared Mayden is next-most likely name; he can play corner or safety and is physical. Neither Brandon Jones (Texas/Texas A&M) nor Deontay Anderson (Ole Miss) are likely, even though Alabama has offers out to both. The same goes for Kristian Fulton, who appears headed to Florida. That leaves Mecole Hardman and Nigel Warrior as the two players in the battleground zone. Hardman appears headed to Georgia, while Alabama trails with Warrior, who appears to be choosing between Tennessee and Auburn. The key player here could be Mayden, who looks like an ideal fit for Alabama’s Star position.
Prediction: Carter, Knott, Mayden
SPECIALISTS – No scholarships expected
Alabama would sign 27 players if all on this list send in paperwork on Wednesday. Alabama was able to backcount several players in January, however, so Bama is not over the signing limit and still has headroom to add one or two more players on Signing Day that aren’t projected to UA at this time. The most likely of those would be DL Nick Coe, WR Mykel Jones or a third running back, likely Amir Rasul.
If Alabama brings home the 27 players listed above, this looks like another top-five recruiting class. Adding Coe, Jones and Rasul could pull it into the top three.
Follow Jess Nicholas on Twitter at @TideFansJessN
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