Attrition hits hard every year when you’re a team like Alabama that develops high school talent into 1st round NFL draft picks with such regularity that most college football Twitter heads believe the Tide has a never-ending supply of 5-star recruits as backups.
2019 proved that wasn’t the case, as the mass departures the year before, coupled with a small legion of season-ending injuries, derailed the Crimson Tide defense before the season ever really started.
But you didn’t come here to listen to lamentations or excuses for the season past, instead looking forward to the future. With Early Signing Day fast approaching, we’ll break down each position group for the Tide going into next season and hopefully get a good count of how many recruits are needed for each spot.
I’m going to assume Tua Tagovailoa goes pro here. It’s obviously a highly public debate right now, but I think he ends up leaving.
So returning, we have Mac Jones who will be a redshirt junior, Taulia Tagovialoa (So) and Paul Tyson (RFr). With three players spanning the freshman-junior range, Alabama doesn’t need any QBs in this class, but Nick Saban has typically seemed to prefer to keep 4 QBs on the roster for insurance against transfer/bust.
And when you have Bryce Young, the #6 overall player in the nation, committed, it’s a luxury.
Alabama currently has two juniors, and I expect Najee Harris to go pro while Brian Robinson, Jr. stays.
Robinson will be a senior next year and expected to start, though there will be competition from Trey Sanders (RFr). There’s also Jerome Ford (Jr) and Keilan Robinson (So). Chadarius Townsend has spent some time at RB as well, but I still consider him a receiver, not a true runner.
There’s one back for each age group, so Alabama could use 1-2 more to round out the depth and have people ready to go not necessarily in 2019, but in 2020.
And, fortunately, the Tide has two commits in 4-star Roydell Williams and 3-star Kyle Edwards. While the previous two years have seen Keilan Robinson and Jerome Ford as speedy hybrid backs, both Williams and Edwards are in that ideal 210-220 range for an every down back in the future.
Unless rising senior Miller Forristall decides to go pro for some reason, Alabama should return all the tight ends on the roster. Major Tennison (RJr), Jahleel Billingsley (So), Cameron Latu (RSo), and Michael Parker (RSo) all return, unless Latu moves back to his original position of outside linebacker.
Alabama usually runs 5-6 deep at tight end, so while there’s not a huge need in 2020, Billingsley, Latu, and Parker are now all the same class, which could create a vaccuum in a few years (particularly considering Latu might change positions, and we’ve yet to even see Parker in two seasons, leading to him potentially being a transfer candidate).
Currently, Alabama has a commitment from 3-star Caden Clark out of Ohio, but is strongly pursuing 5-star Darnell Washington. There’s likely room for both, but if Alabama does get a commitment from Washington and find themselves tight on roster limits, Clark could wind up encouraged to look elsewhere.
Usually Alabama likes to hover around the 9-10 range for receivers on the roster (basically three deep for each outside and slot receiver positions). While one of Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, and Henry Ruggs III might decide to return for their senior season, I don’t expect it. All three have done everything as a trio (along with Tua Tagovailoa and Najee Harris), and I expect that whole crew to leave together.
Which means rising junior Jaylen Waddle will be the lead receiver. Behind him will be John Metchie (So), Slade Bolden (RSo), Tyrell Shavers (RJr), Xavier Williams (RSo), and Chadarius Townsend (RJr). With six on the roster (one of which is sometimes a running back), I’d expect Alabama to want 3-4 receivers in this class.
Thaiu Jones-Bell, Javon Baker, and Traeshon Holden are all committed, but Baker has been the subject of some speculation, as he doesn’t intend to sign early for some unknown reason. Athletes Kristian Story and Brian Branch could also play receiver, but I expect both to wind up on the defensive side of the ball.
As such, Alabama is still looking for one more receiver. Kayshon Boutte and Rakin Jarrett are both LSU commits that Alabama is recruiting heavily, and Floridian Arian Smith is a top target as well.
The Tide will lose Matt Womack to graduation (hey look, an actual senior graduating), but there are a number of other candidates for leaving early. Jedrick Wills, Jr. is expected to leave for the pros, and Alex Leatherwood might leave as well. Landon Dickerson and Deonte Brown will both graduate but have one year of eligibility, and I could see either or both of them going pro as well. But I’m going to assume we hold on to Deonte Brown for one more seaon.
Chris Owens and Scott Lashley will enter their redshirt senior seasons and could be candidates for graduate transfer if they don’t win starting jobs this spring.
With that out of the way, Evan Neal and Emil Ekiyor will both be sophomores and likely to be starters. Hunter Brannon and Kendall Randolph will both be 4th year juniors, Tommy Brown will be a redshirt sophomore, and the rest is filled out by Pierce Quick, Darrian Dalcourt, Amari Kight, and Tanner Bowls, who I think all will get their redshirt and return as freshmen next year.
So that leaves Alabama with anywhere from nine to fourteen linemen on the team, with my best guess at 11. Usually Alabama aims for 14-16 linemen on any given year, so I would expect them to want three commits at a minimum, if not more.
Unfortunately, it hasn’t quite worked out that way. 3-stars Dameion George and Seth McLaughlin seem set to join, but that’s it. Alabama is recruiting Central Pheonix OT Javien Cohen heavily, but it will be tough to wrest him out of Auburn’s back yard. Past that, I don’t know of any OL recruits that Alabama is close to securing. Look for Saban to be scouring the transfer portal and maybe even JUCO ranks for an OL or two this spring.
Raekwon Davis and Tevita Musika will both graduate, but Alabama will return the rest of a very young DL group.
LaBryan Ray should get an injury redshirt and return as a RJr along with Phidarian Mathis. Christian Barmore and Stephon Wynn will both be Redshirt Sophomores, and the trio of DJ Dale, Justin Eboigbe, and Byron Young will all be true sophomores. Ishmael Sopsher and Braylen Ingraham should both get their redshirt and return as freshmen.
That leaves 9 players, with the bulk of them being underclassmen. Alabama doesn’t really need any DL at all, but it’s always good to have a couple in every recruiting class anyway so that there isn’t a vacuum in 3 years.
Currently, Alabama has commits from Timothy Smith, Jason Jones, and Jamil Burroughs, all of whom are 320+ lbs nose tackles, and Jah-Marien Latham, who’s more of a big defensive end. I wouldn’t be surprised if one of Smith, Jones, or Burroughs winds up going somewhere else. Jones has already been one rumored to be looking.
I can’t know for sure, but I am going to assume Dylan Moses goes ahead and leave for the pros. Josh McMillon may be able to apply for a medical redshirt and return for a 6th season, but I’m going to assume he goes ahead and moves on as well.
That leaves three juniors in Markail Benton, Jaylen Moody, and Ale Kaho, and two sophomores in Christian Harris and Shane Lee. Alabama usually likes to keep a minimum of 6 inside linebackers and two in every class.
They currently have commits in Demouy Kennedy and Jackson Bratton, though Quandarrius Robinson and Drew Sanders could also both play inside linebacker or rush the passer as an OLB. Alabama is probably set here.
Terrell Lewis will almost assuredly go pro, and Anfernee Jennings will graduate, leaving a massive hole in starting talent at pass rusher. Ben Davis (RSr) and Chris Allen (RJr) will return as the senior leadership, while Jarez Parks (RSo), King Mwikuta (So), and Kevin Harris (RFr) will round out the younger depth. Alabama likes a bare minimum of 6 players here, but one can NEVER have enough pass rushers. Take all that will commit.
Currently, the Tide has commits from 5-star Chris Braswell, 5-star Drew Sanders (though he could wind up on the inside or even on offense), Quandarrius Robinson and Will Anderson. All are top-100 recruits. And Alabama is still heavily recruiting the #42 overall player in Phillip Webb out of Buford, GA.
Alabama loses some significant senior leadership in Trevon Diggs and Shyheim Carter, while freshman Scooby Carter is still in the transfer portal (though he hasn’t gone anywhere yet). There are no draft-eligible juniors though, so there shouldn’t be any other departures.
Juniors Pat Surtain II and Josh Jobe should bring some leadership, and junior Eddie Smith can play either safety or corner. The rest of the depth will be some combination of Jalyn Armour-Davis (RSo), Marcus Banks (RFr), and Brandon Turnage (RFr). Alabama usually runs with 8-9 players, though theres often overlap with the STAR corner and the safeties, so the numbers get a bit fluid. Regardless, I’d expect the Tide to want 2-3 corners to fill out the class.
Malachi Moore can play both safety and corner, but with his size, I expect him to lean more towards cornerback, and Jahquez Robinson is the other committed corner. Alabama has also been connected for months to JUCO Nadab Joseph, but there’s a chance he again doesn’t academically qualify, so I’m not sure Saban is going to put too much emphasis on him.
Alabama will lose Jared Mayden to graduation and Xavier McKinney to the draft (most likely), and will return RJr Daniel Wright and sophomores DeMarcco Hellams and Jordan Battle. Typically, Alabama runs with 5-6 safeties on the roster, so expect 2-3 recruits there.
Brian Branch is receiver/safety that’s expected to play safety full-time in college. Then there’s Kristian Story a 210-lb QB who plays safety as well. Story supposedly wants to give QB a shot in college, but most expect him to end up a safety. With his size, he could be a terrifying in-the-box safety or hybrid linebacker.
Joseph Bulovas, Will Reichard, Skyler DeLong, and Thomas Fletcher should all return. Which, quite honestly, is a lot of scholarships for only two starters. Don’t expect Alabama to add any specialists in this class.