April 14, 2012; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban during the spring game at Bryant Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE
The A-Day game typically yields a commitment or two on the recruiting trails for Nick Saban and company, and A-Day 2012 was no different, as defensive back Anthony Averett and athlete / wide receiver Deon Johnson have committed to the Crimson Tide. Per Matt Scalici:
[Anthony] Averett, a four-star safety from Woodbury, New Jersey, chose the Tide over offers from Penn State, Rutgers, Iowa and South Carolina. He is rated as the nation's No. 9 safety prospect by 247Sports.
[Deon] Johnson, a multi-talented, four-star player ranked among the top prospects in the state of Alabama for 2013, chose Alabama over Auburn and also held offers from LSU and Mississippi State.
Of the two commitments, Averett is easily the biggest surprise, as quite obviously small town, southwestern New Jersey isn't exactly a recruiting hotbed for the Tide. Offhand, not counting Keith Saunders back in 2003 -- who was really more of a late throwaway signee weeks before fall camp -- I believe this is the first Alabama commitment from the New York / New Jersey area since Derrick Lassic almost twenty-five years ago, so consider this one a definite sign of the national reach and appeal that the 'Bama football program now has. Averett himself largely summed it up best, "Nick Saban is a legend, so why not?"
As a prospect, Averett's commitment has taken off in recent weeks. He picked up several early offers from a variety of Big East schools and other smaller programs, but in the past six weeks he gained offers from Penn State, Iowa, Tennessee, South Carolina and then ultimately Alabama. Keeping his commitment until the fax arrives on National Signing Day could be an issue given the distance factor here, but for the moment he seems very high on 'Bama, and with him already foregoing the Penn State offer it's hard to see another program closer to home that would cause him to spurn the Tide. And furthermore, in all fairness, college football is largely an afterthought in the northeast, where nearly all of the sports enthusiasm is absorbed by MLB, the NFL, and basketball, so it is very common for top prospects from the region to attend colleges far away.
Either way, as an athlete and a prep player it is hard to deny Averett's ability and it is relatively obvious why he garnered the offers that he did. He plays a variety of roles in high school, including defensive back, kick returner, and tailback, and was generally a standout at all three. Furthermore, Averett won the New Jersey Indoor 55 meters this past season and took home the state long jump crown. With that athletic background to go along with a 6'1 and 180 pound frame, Averett would figure to make a relatively quick impact in Tuscaloosa, and the size makes him a combo prospect who could legitimately play either cornerback or safety.
Meanwhile, Deon Johnson, who was actually the first commitment of the day, is more of a conventional 'Bama target. Hailing from Spanish Fort, Johnson is a 6'1 and 175 pound prospect who was an in-state battle between Alabama and Auburn. In fact, more than a few observers actually believed that Auburn held the lead in recent weeks, though clearly that was either inaccurate or has since changed.
Johnson is considered by many as the top wide receiver in the state in the 2013 class, and given his quickness and prep production he certainly looks the part. He turned a sub-4.40 in the 40-yard dash recently at a Nike camp, and this comes on the heels of a junior season in which he caught 68 passes for 869 yards and 19 touchdowns against 5A competition in the state's most prolific recruiting hotbed. In all likelihood 'Bama would use him as a wide receiver out of the slot, but given his size and speed he could certainly project as a defensive back as well.
The concern with Johnson is largely academics. He's not necessarily a sign-and-place given how much time he has before he would matriculate, but even so it is well understood that he has work to get done in the classroom before he can make it through the NCAA Clearinghouse. Given the recent scholarship restrictions which have been imposed, programs no longer have the luxury of taken on risky academic cases, so if Johnson cannot take care of his academics in the next ten months, do not be surprised if he goes the way of Casey Gladney.
Johnson and Averett become the tenth and eleventh commits of the 2013 recruiting class.
Addendum: We'll have video on Johnson later, but in the meantime the obligatory YouTube highlight film for Averett: