Here at Roll Bama Roll, we strive to bring you the very best of hot takes and differing opinions, even when we all agree that Alabama is the best. That extends even into the recruiting world (which is where I got my start at RBR).
I asked some questions to our other two recruiting gurus, CB969 and Matthew Speakman, and the three of us gave our somewhat differing thoughts on the current state of the Alabama recruiting class.
Last year, it seemed like the recruiting class was in jeopardy for much of the year, with many players not committing until the week leading up to national signing day. This time around, Alabama’s class seems to be nearly full already, with 21 total commits (including a ridiculous five 5-star players). For this class to fill out, what position(s) needs another commit or two before NSD?
Matt: Alabama could use either a safety, or maybe another defensive tackle. Da’Ron Payne has played great this season, and the team has Raekwon Davis and Josh Frazier, but it could not hurt to have another guy to make an impact like Payne did his freshman year. Adding a safety (preferably a quicker one with coverage skills) could not hurt either. The secondary has a lot of players that can play all over field, but a true, cover oriented safety would be a dream come true.
CB: I am a bit concerned that they have not gotten more pledges from defensive linemen. Jonathan Allen, Dalvin Tomlinson, and Dakota Ball are seniors. Bama has only one DL commit in 4-star Akial Byers who is from the heart of Hog country, Fayetteville, AR. Signing 5-star Marvin Wilson out of Texas would be a big step, but Alabama has a long way to go to nab him. LSU soft commit Tyler Shelvin is waiting to see what happens with the coaching staff down on the bayou.
Brent: The biggest immediate need is definitely the interior defensive line. Jonathan Allen and Dalvin Tomlinson are both vacating their positions, and D’Shawn Hand and Da’Ron Payne are the only others that have shown they can be true starters next year. Plus, there’s little young depth behind them. Right now, only Akial Byers (ranked #177) and Aaron Sterling (#391) are committed.
Rivaling that, though, is safety. Alabama brought in four talented corners in the last recruiting class, and has three more in Chadarius Townsend, Kyriq McDonald, and JUCO transfer Jhavonte Dean. Some of those seven may end up being like Eddie Jackson and be able to switch over, but a true safety would be huge.
Of the current commits, which player do you think will have the biggest immediate impact?
Matt: Alex Leatherwood, due to Alabama’s pattern of allowing freshman lineman to have an immediate impact. In the last ten years, three five-star lineman (Cyrus Kouandjio, Cam Robinson and Jonah Williams) have contributed in their freshman years. I think with the departure of Robinson after this season to the draft (most likely), it could pave the way for Leatherwood to fill in a tackle spot.
CB: The easy answer is RB Najee Harris or LB Dylan Moses. However in my eyes, Jerry Jeudy has potential to be the next great break-out wide receiver at Alabama. He could easily be the third best receiver next year after ArDarius Stewart and Calvin Ridley, both of whom will be gone at the end of the 2017 season.
Brent: If you want biggest impact, it has to be kicker Brandon Ruiz. The #2 ranked kicker in the country will enter Tuscaloosa just as Adam Griffith graduates, and will immediately be the favorite to win the starting job.
If you think I’m cheating with a kicker pick, then my next most likely will be Dylan Moses. The 8th grade wonder-child is the most athletic linebacker in this recruiting class and will be the second most athletic player on the Tide roster, behind only cornerback Nigel Knott. (This is a fact, not hyperbole. Moses recorded an astronomical 132.48 SPARQ). With Reuben Foster, Ryan Anderson, and Tim Williams all leaving, he’ll have a great shot to get himself into the mix. And even if he is beat out by someone like Mack Wilson, he’ll have a great shot to take over Wilson’s spot on special teams.
With Jalen Hurts, a true freshman, winning the QB battle this year, what do you think of Alabama’s chances of keeping Tua Tagovailoa and/or Mac Jones?
Matt: I think they will lose at least one of those guys, especially with Jalen taking the starting spot. Tagovailoa is guy who I think Alabama can keep, considering he is the top talent. Mac Jones may not want to come in, wait for his shot if that happens. It is going to be hard to keep both of them, but the Crimson Tide could convince them to be in it for the long haul. Both may not like the idea of having to wait around and then ultimately battle for the job, but we will see.
CB: Alabama has a very good chance at Tagovailoa sticking to his commitment. Jones, not so much. From all I have heard about Tagovailoa, he is a good kid, loyal and humble. He knew Hurts and Blake Barnett were already in place when he committed and now Barnett is gone. In his heart, Alabama is where he wants to be. As for Jones, he may have been sucked in by the "glamour" of what Alabama is right now. I'd say there is a 50-50 chance on him.
Brent: I believe it depends on Lane Kiffin. If Kiffin stays, then Tagovailoa will stay while Mac Jones looks for greener pastures. If Kiffin leaves to become a head coach somewhere, then Tua will decommit, and Mac Jones just might stay knowing that he doesn’t have an other-worldly Hawaiian in front of him.
I could also very easily see both decommitting and Alabama picking up some lesser known guy close to the end of the recruiting cycle.
Excluding the QBs we just talked about, what player are you most worried about losing?
Matt: Honestly, Najee Harris. Alabama has a sophomore starting at running back, a freshman as his back up, and a sophomore as the third string. All of them have looked like capable starters who can hurt a defense in at least one game this season. Alabama’s backfield is very deep. Plus, Harris has said he is not 100% on Alabama in the past. With the amount of young depth the Crimson Tide have at RB, it may be hard to convince a guy who wants to have an immediate impact.
CB: There has been a lot of chatter about 5-star offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood being a soft commit, but I get the feeling he just wants to do the press conference hat-switcheroo thing. To be honest, I am pretty confident that everyone who is currently committed to Bama will sign with them.
Brent: Left tackle Alex Leatherwood. Upon arriving, he’ll immediately be the most athletic offensive lineman on the team (he actually edged out even Cam Robinson in his SPARQ tests). Though he’s been one of Alabama’s longest tenured commits, there have been some rumblings about him. I don’t necessarily think he’s the most likely to leave, but he is the one that would give me the most heartburn if he did.
Do you think Alabama will land any more 5-star recruits? There are quite a few still on the board who are considering the Tide, but the class is already getting fairly crowded. Do you predict any surprises?
Matt: Honestly, this class looks very well rounded and solid. It would be a surprise if the team was able to pull anymore five-stars considering they already have so many. I was going to say Cam Akers was a guy to watch out for if landing a signature from Harris doesn’t work out, but he did not make his visit this weekend.
CB: As mentioned before, the Tide has a decent shot at getting the nation's top d-lineman Marvin Wilson. Top OT Foster Sarell out of Washington state and 4/5-star OT Isaiah Wilson out of Brooklyn, NY are possibilities as well. Both will visit Tuscaloosa on Iron Bowl weekend.
Brent: My biggest desire would be DT Marvin Wilson. The 6’4” 330 pound monster would help to shore up the depleted defensive line, while also giving Alabama an unheard of three-of-the-top-four recruits in the nation. Hailing from Texas, you have to hope he follows in the trend of 5-star Texas players bolting for Alabama.
However, I think JUCO offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson is the most likely. Despite already having commits from Elliot Baker and Alex Leatherwood, Wilson will hope to beat out both of those (along with Matt Womack and any other challengers already on the team) for the spot that will be vacated by Cam Robinson. He comes from the same JUCO as did both Leon Brown and Charles Baldwin before him. The ties are strong there.