Only in Tuscaloosa can a team start the day off by losing the #8 recruit in the nation and come away from it in discussion of best recruiting class of all-time.
After Daxton Hill surprisingly (Read: not surprisingly) flipped back to Michigan as the day opened up, Alabama quickly recovered by getting the LOI from Jordan Battle, a 4-star safety only slightly lower rated than Hill. The Tide went on to sign every single commit they already had aside from the three (Keilan Robinson, Byron Young, and Christian Williams) expected to sign in February. Just that alone would be enough to leave the Tide with a number 1 class most years, but the recent success of Georgia in the recruiting spheres, coupled with the high, and thus far unmet, expectations from early this season, had fans across the state venting their worries all over the message boards.
In response, Alabama signed Trey Sanders, the #1 running back and #5 overall player, and Evan Neal, a mountainous five-star offensive tackle, out of IMG Academy. In that 2 hour time frame, the Tide jumped from a barely #1 class to one that will be chasing history.
We are spoiled.
Two years ago, Alabama’s 2017 recruiting class featured 6 five star players and Jedrick Wills, who was one spot away from missing the cut. It was the best ever by many metrics. And, while high in star power, it also had four different 3-star recruits and a 2-star.
The 2019 class, however, is a little different. While it has only three 5-star players, the rest are all four stars, with Pierce Quick and Amari Kight only barely missing the cutoff. There is only one exception in Will Reichard, who happens to be the nation’s #1 overall kicker, and the recruiting services won’t give kickers more than three stars.
With 23 signed LOIs, this class is already bigger than the 2018’s small class. And, according to Saban, he still has quite a few more spots to be filled out in the second wave of signing in February. The three mentioned above will look to be part of that wave, but it is likely that their offers depend on the decisions of some higher rated players.
The biggest is #9 overall and top rated defensive tackle, Ishmael Sopsher. The Lousiana native is expected to choose between Alabama and LSU— A battle that Nick Saban is well versed in winning. If he chooses Alabama, expect Byron Jones to find somewhere else.
Henry To’oto’o and Khris Bogle are two top 50 players in the outside linebacker/defensive end mold that Alabama is still recruiting and has a good chance to win. And then cornerbacks Noa Pola-Gates and Marcus Banks are top 200 recruits still high on Saban’s list as well.
With Trey Sanders on board, don’t be surprised to see running back Keilan Robinson find somewhere else. Robinson is the lowest rated Alabama commit other than the kicker, and actually brings the Tide’s average down despite being a four star player. That’s crazy.
As of now, this class has the highest average of any recruiting class ever. It doesn’t quite have the sheer numbers of Georgia’s 2018 or Alabama’s 2017 classes yet, but pulling in Sopsher and one or two of the others mentioned above just might do it.
Switching gears, let’s look at the positional breakdown and look ahead at Alabama’s depth:
The quarterback group brought in two contenders in Taulia Tagovailoa and Paul Tyson. Both have big names to live up to and will be following perhaps the best QB to ever play at Alabama. That will be tough.
Trey Sanders should fall right in line to be the successor to Najee Harris, and maybe even a co-runner next year if he is as college ready as his lofty ranking implies.
John Metchie is the only receiver, but both of the last two classes signed a number of them, so the room is both young and deep already.
Jahleel Billingsley is the lone tight end and will fill out the already considerable depth there.
The real strength of this class is the offensive line. Neal, Quick, and Kight are all elite prospects that will make up the future of the Tide offensive line. Tanner Bowles and Darrian Dalcourt will fill out the interior depth.
Defensive line is the other strong spot, and that’s needed, as all three Tide starters may leave after 2018. Antonio Alfano is the headliner here, but is backed by Byron Young (maybe), Justin Eboigbe, Braylen Ingraham, and DJ Dale. Dale is probably the only true nose tackle unless one of the others bulks up, so again, Sopsher has to be a top priority.
Shane Lee and Christian Harris are about as dynamic a duo as you can ask for in the off-ball linebackers, while Kevin Harris and King Mwikuta round out the outside linebackers. After signing about 72 outside linebackers in the previous two classes, Harris and Mwikuta should be enough, though, as mentioned above, Saban is still pursuing one more.
Jeffrey Carter is the only true cornerback, other than Christian Williams, who hasn’t signed yet. Though Alabama is also young there, Saban would absolutely prefer to bring in one more.
Brandon Turnage can play corner, but is more likely to be a safety. DeMarcco Hellams and Jordan Battle round out the defensive backfield, so the three look to be the core of the Tide safeties for years to come.
All in all, this is about as good and well rounded of a class as one could ask for, which is much better than last year when Saban was visibly frustrated at the lack of defensive backs and interior defensive linemen at this time. Anyone else signed at this point is just gravy on the biscuit. It took him one year to adjust, and with this class he put out one very strong message:
“Either sign in December, or move on, because Alabama is not holding spots for anyone wanting to play games. We will win with or without you.”