I've written at length about my hatred for the modern day recruiting melodrama, but nevertheless recruiting is the lifeblood of a football program and coaches spend insane amounts of time and energy wooing the best prospects for a reason. With that in mind, a quick round-up on 'Bama recruiting:
With the recent commitment of 2013 linebacker Reuben Foster out of LaGrange, Georgia, Alabama may already have its premiere signee of the 2013 class in the fold. The film on this kid is just amazing to watch, especially considering he was only a sophomore at the time, and most expect that he will be one of the top handful of players in the nation in the 2013 class. For Alabama, though, the concern is far less about raw talent than it is about our ability to hang onto him 'til it counts. NSD 2013 is still some twenty months away, and opposing coaches will not concede the point on a player as good as Foster. He will be pursued heavily but every major program from now until the time he signs a letter of intent, so while the commitment is highly encouraging it's still far too early to declare victory. If 'Bama can hang on to the Georgia native, though, it will be Alabama's biggest coup in the Peach State to date.
O.J. Howard made it two commitments for the 2013 class in the same day when he also gave a verbal commitment to Alabama on Monday. The general rule is that to get a firm offer this early you have to be a particularly impressive prospect, and that seemingly holds true for Howard. He won't be as heavily recruited as Foster, but he looks to be an impressive prospect in his own right, and it's hard to find people with his raw size and athleticism. The biggest short-term issue will be finding a definitive position for the Prattville native, as he could play several upon his arrival at UA. Linebacker is clearly a possibility, especially if the reported height of 6'5 is not accurate (which I do not believe it is), and defensive end may not entirely be out of the question depending on how he develops physically. For now, though, given our relative dearth of athletic pass catchers at tight end, the smart money is likely on him beginning his collegiate career there.
Jameis Winston plans to announce his decision on August 3rd, and for the time being no one has a firm grasp of where he is headed. Winston is arguably the state's best quarterback prospect since JaMarcus Russell, and his upside is largely unlimited. 'Bama would figure to be the frontrunner here, and may in fact be, but both LSU and Florida State have made strong runs at Winston, and 'Bama's interest in him is somewhat uncertain due to the fact that Winston is a highly-touted MLB prospect who has made no secret of the fact that he will not turn down big guaranteed money to star as one of the boys of summer. Your guess is as good as mine as to who Winston commits to, but in the end it's almost certain to be an irrelevant decision regardless of where he commits, and if anything his commitment to UA would only hurt us bring in a quarterback who will definitely be here next fall. You would hate to see an in-state quarterback as talented as Winston sign elsewhere, but given his baseball dreams that may be the best thing for 'Bama in the end.
Gunner Kiel remains the other elite quarterback that UA is heavily in the mix for, but his recruitment is about as certain as the stock market at this point. It was long thought to be an Alabama v. Oklahoma battle for the Indiana product, and many felt that a commitment to 'Bama was imminent several weeks ago. That never came to fruition, though, and now Oklahoma looks to be conceding defeat entirely by flipping QB Trevor Knight from Texas A&M. By this point, however, it looks like Kiel is seriously considering in-state Indiana and may be giving Tennessee a look as well, and frankly it seems like he has no real idea about what he plans to do moving forward. Normally the clear preference would be for 'Bama to sign Winston and let Kiel do as he pleases, but Winston's MLB future clouds the picture and realistically if 'Bama is likely to get a highly-touted QB in this class it will have to be Kiel. To be sure, there are a fair number of concerns over Kiel and in my book Winston is the superior prospect, but it looks like Kiel is our best bet at the moment.
Geno Smith, the heavily-touted cornerback out of Atlanta, will be taking an unofficial visit to Tuscaloosa tomorrow with his mother, and many think 'Bama will get his commitment then. Despite having offers from nearly every major program in the country, including in-state Georgia and Georgia Tech, this one has shaped up to be an Alabama v. Auburn battle, and hopefully 'Bama pulls it out in the end. No real use speculating further on this one with a decision perhaps being imminent, but either way fingers crossed on Smith. He would be our best corner signee in this class, and arguably our biggest pick-up yet out of Atlanta.
Justin Shanks, the standout defensive end of out Prattville, now looks to announce his decision this January at the Army All-American Game in San Antonio. 'Bama has long since had a firm pipeline into Prattville, and most expected Shanks to follow the same route to Tuscaloosa, but he has worried many in recent weeks with his interest in Florida State and by canceling a few unofficial visits to Tuscaloosa. Others have said that he just mainly enjoyed playing the recruiting game and that it was largely all fluff, and the decision to delay his commitment several months seeks to confirm that line of thinking. This one isn't a given just yet, but delaying his announcement probably helps us, and a longer recruitment probably plays in our favor.
Finally, lots of unconfirmed speculation that Alabama is recruiting 2011 tailback prospect Jeremy Hill. If you will remember, Hill was an LSU commitment a year ago when the story broke that he and a friend had been accused of pressuring a 14-year old girl to perform oral sex on them (allegedly they had the whole thing on video, too), and as a result LSU wouldn't take him once Signing Day rolled around. Months later, though, it looks like Hill is steering clear of Angola, and from what I can tell it's possible the charges may have been dropped entirely. Who knows if the interest from UA is legitimate, but there is a lot of discussion to that effect, and clearly 'Bama could use some depth at tailback. Ordinarily I would say there is no chance this ever happens, but I'd have said the same thing on Aaron Douglas as well, and we saw how that one turned out last December. In all likelihood, we'll have to wait until the 105-man roster is released later this August before we get a definitive answer on this one.
Quick Hitters: Jack linebacker prospect Ryan Anderson looks to enroll early at UA this January. 'Bama looks good at the moment for Landon Collins, but pulling him away from LSU will clearly be difficult come February. Mobile DE Chris Casher is transferring from Faith Academy to Davidson High School and will not play his senior season per local rules. 2011 commit Shannon Brown is transferring from East Mississippi Community College, a move that likely ends any chance of him enrolling early at UA, and many now have him likely to end up at Georgia. WR Chris Black is expected to make a decision sometime in late August, though for obvious reasons that could be subject to change. QB Will Gross committed to Memphis.