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Alabama Recruiting 2015: Front Seven

Want to know who the new kids in Crimson will be come fall? You have come to the right place.

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

For some, it's like Christmas morning. The off-season roster churn can be one of the most intriguing aspects in the sport of football. The NFL draws extraordinary amounts of attention with the free agency and draft periods. College football has National Signing Day.

Thousands of eager (and likely obsessed, like your dear author) fans and couch analysts are already erasing the departed seniors and juniors and filling in the new freshman, trying to predict where they will land on the ever-important two-deep depth chart... Only to have Nick Saban list three players as "or" so that the rest of us never actually know who the starters will be.

My upcoming series will break down the influx of fresh talent joining the Alabama Crimson Tide this offseason, and hopefully acquaint you with the names in red over the next 3 years.*

*Because they will all go pro after three years

To kick off this series, I will introduce all of the players recruited to play a front seven position: Defensive End, Defensive Tackle, or Linebacker. Earlier in the season, the nomenclature of these two positions were broken down here and here. Also, I will use SPARQ as an athletic measuring tool for the athletes, and the math behind SPARQ can be found here.

Without further rambling, its time to meet the freshmen of 2015:

Daron Payne is a true defensive tackle. He was considered by many to be the top player in the state of Alabama, and is the 41st best player in the nation by 247Sports' composite rankings. Payne is a disruptive force that excels at pushing the center of the offensive line into the backfield and just being an all around nuisance to the opposing offense. While unrefined technique-wise, Payne is an athletic phenom, posting an 84.0 SPARQ score, a whole standard deviation above the average defensive tackle.

Though listed at 348 pounds, Payne has stated that he plans to play around the 320-330 range in college, and has the versatility to play both the 0-Technique in a 3-4 scheme or a 1-Technique in a 4-3.

Though Payne's upside is undeniable, he is still a very raw player at a position in which Alabama is completely set and already has solid depth. The Prediction: Will redshirt in 2015

Jonathon Taylor, DT

The signing of Taylor has been discussed and over-discussed over the last couple of months, so this section will avoid that. In case you missed it, he was dismissed from Georgia for a couple of criminal charges, and went to junior college. Nick Saban gave Taylor his approval and Taylor has already enrolled at Alabama this spring and will participate in spring practices. Taylor is massive and talented player that will be a junior in his first season with the Tide. The Prediction: Rotational defensive tackle on early downs.

Anfernee Jennings is a 3-star defensive end and is one of the lowest rated players in Alabama's 2015 class. Jennings is a bit of a 'tweener, which is jargon for "doesn't have the right size for his position, and may play something else." At 240 pounds, Jennings looks like a pass-rushing linebacker in Nick Saban's 3-4, but plays mostly with his hand in the dirt and even at defensive tackle. He is a solid all around player, and has a very uncanny knack for timing the snap. He likely will need to get into the weight room with coach Scott Cochran and bulk up by 20-30 pounds before he will be ready to contribute to the Tide on the defensive line. The Prediction: Will definitely redshirt

Mehki Brown is one of the longest-standing committed players of the 2015 class. The four-star defensive end/linebacker is considered the 56th best player in the nation, and has tremendous athletic upside. He recorded a 68.76 SPARQ score, which is slightly above average athleticism for players at his position. At 6'5", however, Brown has the frame to add as much as 30-40 pounds without losing speed and becoming an absolute terror on the defensive line. Brown is an extremely charismatic and intelligent person, and was one of the most outspoken players in his attempts to recruit others to Alabama this season. He reminds many of former top-ten NFL draft pick Dion Jordan, and has limitless potential as either a pass rusher or rangy linebacker. The prediction: Redshirts in 2015


Adonis Thomas is the 175th ranked player in the nation, and the 11th best outside linebacker. He is one of the most intriguing and versatile defenders in this class. Thomas was the starting safety for his high school in his underclassman years, and bulked up to become both a linebacker and defensive end by his senior year. He is lightning quick as a pass rusher, and gives offensive tackles fits around the edge. Although officially listed at 4.61, Thomas has been reported to run a sub-4.5 forty dash. He is observably comfortable and fluid in coverage due to his experience at safety, and has untapped potential as a pass rusher. He still plays smaller than his size, and will need to work on his tenacity as a tackler and block-shedder to become a linebacker at the next level. The Prediction: Becomes a key contributor on special teams and occasionally gets on the field in mop-up duty.


Josh McMillon is a 4-star linebacker who was ranked just outside the top 200 players in the nation. He is the prototypical Alabama middle linebacker, and looks to follow in the footsteps of Rolando McClain, Dont'a Hightower, Nico Johnson, and Trey DePriest. He is a powerful run stopper with highly impressive tackling a block shedding techniques. His recognition and decision-making skills are unrivaled. He boasts a 4.3 High School GPA with plans to major in Aerospace Engineering at Alabama. His mind is his most defining attribute, however, and did not test well athletically. He only ran a 4.92 forty yard dash, and recorded a 79.11 SPARQ score, which is only barely above average for middle linebackers. The Prediction: Makes the two-deep depth chart at middle linebacker, and gets in on a little action in mop-up duty (or more if/when Rueben Foster knocks himself out again).


Keaton Anderson is a three-star outside linebacker, and the lowest ranked player of Alabama's 2015 class. He is a bit undersized at 6'1" 215, but makes up for his size with insane production. He recorded over 200 tackles in his senior season, and is ALWAYS near the ball. He has very good instincts and the speed to go from one sideline to the other chasing offensive players. With his limited size, he will likely be limited to a situational dime linebacker in his career at Alabama, but could always develop into a quality weak-side linebacker. The Prediction: Becomes a fan favorite as a special teams ace.

Defensive End Christian Bell also committed to the Tide this spring, but will take a grayshirt and enroll next spring with the 2016 class.

This is a promising and unique group of front seven lineman that embody Nick Saban's attempts to get quicker and more athletic up front. This group has everything from abnormal speed to freakish size to cunning intelligence, and will make up the core of the defense in years to come.