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Jumbo Package: Getting Moody over signing day

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Talking Alabama’s three-star diamond in the rough, wrapping up the class, and other news.

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship Game-Alabama vs Georgia
If only this guy had gone elsewhere, we coulda got another five-star, Pawwwwl!
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Friday, everyone. Now that the buzz has died down a bit, let’s take a look at another fine haul brought in by Saban. As always, Cecil sums things up nicely.

Saban strongly refuted a question about whether Alabama “struck out.” He said Alabama did well in areas of need, especially the secondary and while he would have liked another defensive lineman and another inside linebacker, he seemed confident that those needs would be addressed next year.

People, inside and outside the Alabama program, constantly look for the first sign of a “crack” in the dynasty. Maybe this was it, maybe not. But even if it is, Saban isn’t going to let it grow any wider through neglect.

It’s the “inside,” more specifically some of the fans, that bug me the most. We have plenty of folks who can’t fully enjoy unprecedented success because they are too busy worrying about when it will end. A recruiting class that would be celebrated anywhere else in the country is almost lamented by this crowd. Take a look at Clemson, for example. Coming off of a very pedestrian 2017 class for a national contender, with only ten blue chip prospects signed, the Tigers put together a very similar 2017 class to Alabama’s. The Tigers grabbed 12 blue chips to the Tide’s 14, yet Clemson fans are universally ecstatic about their #6 class.

Sure, their average player ranking was a little higher because they got an elite QB and OT. As Cecil notes, those are positions that typically have multiple five-star talents. Considering the obvious situation at QB and the fact that five-star tackles Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Wills are currently running second string entering their sophomore campaigns, it is hardly surprising that the Tide failed to land the top players at those spots, or at RB. Last year’s historic class included four five-star talents from those positions, and those players had a profound impact on this class.

So, let’s leave the focus on the players who signed elsewhere to the ELS nervous nellies and celebrate the outstanding list of guys we did get, shall we?

We’ll start with a nice piece from the local Myrtle Beach paper on ILB Jaylen Moody.

Moody was already known as a great football player before those offers. The now 6-foot-2, 225-pounder was named The Sun News’ Toast of the Coast Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 after piling up 105 tackles, 3.5 sacks and three interceptions. He was given a North-South All-Star nod, along with several other honors from coaches and various media.

What was still in question throughout much of his senior season, however, was academics. Top-flight football schools don’t take many chances with players whom they fear may not ultimately qualify.

Moody heard the warnings loud and clear. By early January, those fears were put to rest.

“I hope that proved to everybody that you have to take your academics seriously in the beginning,” he said. “My coaches told me that I had to get right; I was a little immature. I saw the big picture around the end of my sophomore year. I saw the big picture that I could be something. I tried to stay hard on it. I skipped a lot of times going out with my friends.”

Sounds like a mature young man.

Sometimes folks forget that, with limited slots, recruiting is something of a zero sum game. Had Quay Walker stuck with his “commitment,” the Tide probably would not have Moody. The reality is that, while Walker has a higher rating, he was probably never going to play a down at inside linebacker, a position that Saban specifically mentioned as a need and one that puts out relatively few five-stars (one this year, from California). As mentioned in the article, Moody started his high school career on the defensive line and didn’t move to LB until his senior season. He has outstanding size and looks to be the big hitter that we are used to seeing in the middle. There is plenty of carnage on his highlight reel, and he also shows great instincts and hands in pass coverage. The composite has him ranked as only the 49th best ILB in the country, and Saban could have undoubtedly signed the vast majority of those ranked higher had he been so inclined. They clearly see something in this kid.

Keep an eye on Moody.

Of course, the big fish was top CB Patrick Surtain, Jr.

“The winning atmosphere, the coaches they have up there, it’s a great atmosphere for me to go up and compete,” Surtain said.

As high profile a recruit as Surtain is, nobody will be surprised to see him on the field next season. He knows it’s going to take work, though.

“I see myself playing as a freshman, but I’ve got to go in and compete,” Surtain said. “Show them why I’m one of the top corners in the nation. Compete.”

If there is a player in the country who has a chance to replicate what Minkah Fitzpatrick brought to the Tide, it is young Patrick. Surtain not only checks every box from a measurable standpoint, he has had the luxury of being coached in high school by his father, who of course was an All-Pro at Surtain’s position. Surtain understands what it takes, and it will be an upset if he doesn’t see the field very early in his career. Having his dad around the program can’t hurt, either. Cornerback was the one position on the roster that could have been an Achilles’ heel for the 2018 season, and the Tide addressed it with the best high school and juco player in the class plus two more blue chips.

The other splashy signing was Texas WR Jaylen Waddle.

WR Jaylen Waddle (Alabama) - The national champs missed on some targets at wide receiver down the stretch, but secured what may be the top slot-style wide receiver in the nation in Waddle, a player who should come in and make an immediate roster impact because of his play-making abilities. Waddle will be bringing excitement to the SEC, because he is an threat to score anytime he touches the football. He is an offensive lightning rod.

It was a Jaylen kind of Wednesday. Similarly to Moody, the Tide may not have landed Waddle had Justyn Ross decided to stay home and come to Alabama. Ross will probably have an outstanding career at Clemson, but for the current team Waddle is a better fit. The Tide have a litany of outside targets including the sometimes forgotten 6’6” redshirt freshman Tyrell Shavers, but haven’t had a prototypical slot guy under Saban. The jet sweep just doesn’t look the same with a 6’2” WR running it, and guys with long legs have a harder time with change of direction. Like any blue chip WR, Waddle’s high school tape has a bunch of deep balls, but pay special attention to his running plays, screens, and returns.

Unreal instincts, acceleration, and nobody ever gets a good shot because they can’t stay in front of him. Jaylen and classmate Slade Bolden should add a little versatility to an already loaded offense.

Alabama is certainly never shy about investing in the program.

The plans for the recruiting lounge call for the renovation of 7,447-square-feet of the first and second floors of the Mal Moore Athletic Facility.

The lounge will primarily be used for football recruiting, according to Tim Leopard, associate vice president for construction.

The work will include upgrading finishes, enhancing audio/visual systems, and new graphics and furniture. The project will also address approximately $680,000 in deferred maintenance cost by replacing old lighting and finishes.

The preliminary budget is $2 million. The project will be funded with Crimson Tide Foundation funds. Davis Architects of Birmingham will design the renovation.

A $2 million lounge, eh? Whatever it takes, I guess.

The hoops team played badly in Starkville, but fortunately Mississippi State is a respectable enough opponent that the Tide basically stood pat in the projected NCAA field.

Alabama’s Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) dropped to No. 41, per ESPN, after being at No. 35. According to CBS Sports, the Tide’s RPI is 42. Ratings Percentage Index is a tool the selection committee uses to evaluate teams for the NCAA Tournament.

Another tool that is a little easier to decipher is bracketology, and according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, Alabama is still considered a No. 9 seed following its latest road loss and would play No. 8-seed Florida State in Pittsburgh in the East’s quadrant.

Barring a total collapse, this should be a tournament team. Unfortunately, last year’s team suffered just such a collapse, and the schedule is daunting. This team has shown the ability to play up against good competition, though. Hope for the best.

Three former Alabama players made this year’s Pro Football Focus list of top NFLers:

Jones was one of three former Alabama players to appear on the PFF list, joined by San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster at No. 59 and New York Giants strong safety Landon Collins as No. 70.

Jones led the NFC in receiving yards for the fourth straight season as he caught 88 passes for 1,444 yards and three touchdowns in 2017. The former Foley High School standout added 18 receptions for 195 yards and one TD in two playoff games.

Reuben didn’t wait long to make an impact. Congrats to these three, and hope to see more in the future.

The softball team opened the season on a good note behind a shutout from Alexis Osorio.

Nice work ladies.

Speaking of exploits on the diamond, we will leave you with this little clip.

Paging Roger Myers.

Wow. Good balance, hands quick to the zone, bat speed, hand-eye coordination. Maybe Coach Bohannon could use a little extra buzz on the team this year, eh?

That’s about it for today. Have a great weekend.

Roll Tide.