After an uncharacteristically slow start to the 2016 class, Alabama has really picked up steam in June. The class has moved up to 5th overall by 247's rankings. Linebacker Jaquan Yulee and kicker Eddy Pineiro have also joined the ranks in June, and CB has write ups on each of them here and here.
In this article I will mention SPARQ. This is a number used by Nike in an attempt to combine all of a prospects athletic tests into a single number. The higher the number, the more athletic that player is. Here is my previous article going more into the details of SPARQ.
At 5'11" 177, Carter is a versatile athlete with experience at pretty much every skill position on the field. His 40-yard dash of 4.50 seconds is definitely adequate (and he's also been officially clocked as high as a 4.33) for any position he would like to play. With a blistering 20-yard shuttle time of 4.03, Carter has elite short area acceleration, and it definitely shows in his game. All said, his SPARQ rating is 110.55. If considered a cornerback, this means that Carter is more athletic that about 93% of all college defensive backs.
Carter is an all-around athlete with no glaring weaknesses. I have seen nothing from his game to point out, besides the fact that he has almost no film of him actually playing cornerback. I have no way of analyzing his ability to cover. That aside, he's a ferocious tackler for someone of his size, and displays the ability to win jump balls and twist his body in the air, despite only being 5'11". Offensively, put the ball in his hands. His elite lateral agility makes him extremely slippery, and defenders have all kinds of issues even putting a hand on him. His trademark move is a simple sidestep and instantly accelerating back to full speed, and it works. He also has great patience and vision when setting up blocks and finding lanes to run through.
Carter is an impressive kick returner too, and excels in the open space that it affords. He can play running back, receiver, defensive back, and ever quarterback. He reminds me considerably of the just-graduated Christion Jones. Although listed as a corner by most sites, I could very easily see Carter ending up somewhere on the offensive side of the ball.
Cole is one of the lowest ranked players in Alabama's 2016 class so far, with a star rating somewhere between 2 and 3. At 6'3" 208, Cole is significantly smaller than the size of a normal Alabama linebacker, and he will without a doubt need to put on quite a bit of muscle mass, or switch positions. His 4.82 forty yard dash is a bit short of impressive for a small linebacker, but his 4.15 20-yard shuttle shows that Cole has elite short area-quickness. His powerball toss of 37 inches is also very impressive for someone his size. His final SPARQ score of 92.64 actually means that Cole is surprising more athletic than almost 80% of all collegiate linebackers, despite his poor 40 time.
The main word that comes to mind with Cole is energy. The guy never stops. EVER. As a linebacker, he is a chase-and-tackle type of player. While he struggles to shed blocks, he gets around that by taking great angles and running down any ball carriers from sideline to sideline. His tackling technique is good and consistent, although not very powerful. His team likes to line him up on the edge of the line as a pass rusher, but Cole is in no way suited to do that. He has little tape at covering in the passing game, but I would guess that due to his quickness and instincts, he could be quite effective in that aspect.
He is a special teams menace, with multiple blocked kicks/punts, and is always the first man to the ball carrier on kick returns. Surprisingly, Cole is also a very effective receiver/tight end. He runs very nuanced routes to leave defenders in the dust, and displays soft hands too. He's aggressive after the catch, plowing full speed into any would-be tacklers.
Though he's expected to play linebacker, I could see Cole ending up as an H-back type of player for the Tide, and a four year contributor on special teams.
Baldwin is considered one of the top Junior College players in the nation and is the top offensive lineman in the JUCO ranks. He is 6'5" 305, and is the prototypical size for an offensive tackle. Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, Baldwin falls into the interesting string of Alabama offensive lineman coming from the northeastern states.
Many offensive tackles get a reputation for being a big, cuddly bear. Baldwin is not. He's a jerk on the field. He is an aggressive player who seeks out the defenders before they have a chance to even rush him, and blocks well into the play's end... sometimes longer. He is light and quick on his feet, and never seems to get off balance, and uses his lower body to do most of the pushing. His arm strength, however, is a little lacking, and he often has to resort to slight holds to get the job done.
He is a tremendous pass blocker, but can be a bit inconsistent in the run game, often struggling with an initial push. His lead blocking for backs in the second level, however, is unparalleled. Baldwin plays right tackle for his junior college, and will likely stay there after coming to Alabama, but I think he could make a seamless transition to left tackle if needed. I do not, however, expect him to be able to transition to any interior line position. Baldwin could very easily become a starter for the Crimson Tide from day one, but may be a bit of a penalty magnet.
Continuing on the recent trend of Alabama taking commits from dual-threat quarterbacks as opposed to a more pro-style player, Jalen Hurts is a true mobile QB. At 6'2" 208, he has enough size to see the field well, but not so tall as to lessen his effectiveness as a ball carrier. He officially ran a 4.85 forty yard dash, but is much faster than that on tape. His overall SPARQ score of 82.71 ranks him as more athletic than about 73% of all college quarterbacks.
Hurts has four attributes that really stand out to me. The first is his sleight of hand. He really gives an effort to sell any sort of play fakes, both on play action and on read option type plays. He does not take off running too early after a fake, and lets defenders chase the decoy ball carrier before he starts his run. He also has an innate timing on pump fakes, especially when rolling out of the pocket. The next is that he throws a beautiful slant route. That may seem like a minor thing, but it's an underrated quality in quarterbacks these days. Slants are hard to throw right, and Hurts is flawless with letting his receivers catch them without even slowing down. Next, his release is close to perfect. He keeps the ball high above his head, and throws quickly. There is almost no wind up before he throws, which will make it really difficult for pass rushers to strip the ball from him. Lastly, his pocket presence is amazing. He's calm and poised, completely unfazed by free rushers. He will sidestep pressure, and continue to climb up into the pocket, rather than bailing out backwards like many mobile quarterbacks do. Even when he has to reset, Hurts does a great job keeping his eyes on his receivers and still finding an open man.
The main flaw I saw in Hurts' game is his footwork. He has a tendency to throw off of his back foot rather than stepping all the way into his throw. While his arm is adequately strong, it is not a cannon arm that can compensate for poor footwork.
As a ball carrier, he will never be mistaken for a running back or receiver. That aside, he has impressive speed and good enough elusiveness as a quarterback to always be a real threat carrying the ball. He does, however, need to go ahead and get into the habit of sliding or ducking out of bounds instead of taking hits.
Hurts definitely fits into the system that Lane Kiffin ran last season with Blake Sims, and I have very high hopes for him. Although Lane is known for changing his offense to fit a QB, I actually think Hurts would be more effective in the offense we saw last season than Sims, David Cornwell, Jacob Coker, or even Blake Barnett would be.
The 2016 class is now up to 14 commitments so far, so there is room for at least 10 more until February. This class is already an interesting one, and there is plenty of space for it to really get fun over the course of the season. Keep your eyes peeled, guys, this cycle could get really fun.