On Wednesday, the Crimson Tide had yet another spectacular Signing Day. Alabama signed 25 prospects and possess the consensus No. 1 rated class. But is Nick Saban done?
The Tide checked several needs off their list, but probably need a few more warm bodies. They look to add at least one more cornerback and could probably use another interior defensive tackle. The problem is finding them after a vast majority of incoming freshmen have already signed their LOIs. Tight end might be another target, but the feeling is that could be addressed through a transfer.
There is some talk that former starting corner Terrion Arnold might be moved to safety, a position of which most observers thought would be his intended spot upon arriving at the Capstone. But out of pure need, he was the best and healthiest of the bunch and got the starting job. One other pending question is whether Eli Ricks will come back to Bama for one more season. The junior really only had one outstanding game (Miss. State) and would probably be better served getting some more highlights on his reel.
Wednesday evening, Saban spoke to the press and addressed the question about corner.
“There’s four DBs there. A couple of guys I think we’ll try at corner. I think all the guys are capable of playing safety or Star. I think corner is one of the most difficult positions to find, and that’s still something that we’re going to continue to look for.”
Those four include safety Caleb Downs who is 6’0” 183 and ranked #6 overall by the 247sports composite rankings and is already practicing with the team. He should make an immediate impact in the secondary and very well could be a starter.
Cornerback Jahlil Hurley (6’3” 170, #38) is an excellent looking prospect as well. Tony Mitchell (6’2” 190, #54) will probably get a look at several different positions. ATH Brayson Hubbard (6’2” 185) was a two-way starter at quarterback and safety. He might need some time to develop as defense is still somewhat new to him.
TO RETURN OR NOT TO RETURN
DeMarcco Hellams has already accepted an invitation to play in the 2023 Senior Bowl. Jordan Battle, Brian Branch, and Ricks still have a pro decisions to make. Battle is expected to make the jump. Branch and Ricks are 50-50. There have also been some rumblings that Malachi Moore could be looking to transfer or jump to the pros, though that could just be internet rumors.
In an interesting development, 5-star CB Cormani McClain (6’2” 165) did not sign with Miami on Wednesday. Twitterverse assumed he was looking to the Deion Sanders Circus in Colorado. But there has been talk that Alabama might just be back in the running for the No. 2 overall prospect. Word is he may wait until February to sign.
5-star CB Desmond Ricks (6’1” 170, #23) was thought to be a slam dunk to LSU but my how things can change in such a short time. Ricks was in contact with Alabama, Florida, and LSU on Wednesday. Many of RBR’s counterparts at LSU are feeling pessimistic at this point. Ricks is scheduled to announce his college decision on Thursday evening around 5:30 p.m. CT on CBS Sports HQ.
INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINE
Not including pure edge rushers, the Tide signed the following:
- DL James Smith 6’3” 310 (Montgomery, AL) #18
- DL Jordan Renaud 6’4” 240 (Tyler, TX) #62
- DL Hunter Osborne 6’4” 255 (Trussville, AL) #144
- DL Edric Hill 6’2” 277 (Kansas City, MO) #180
It’s a good group but only Smith and Hill are the only true interior guys, and the latter may need to put on a few lbs.
TO RETURN OR NOT TO RETURN
Byron Young and DJ Dale are in the Senior Bowl. There have been no murmurs of any existing Tide defensive lineman leaving, but that could change after spring. Saban and injured Justin Eboigbe will have to decide if he will come back for a super-senior season.
Jordan Hall is announcing on Thursday around 2:30 p.m. CT. The feel is he goes UGA. 5-star David Hicks committed to Texas A&M, but won’t sign until Friday. Alabama does not appear to be going after either one anymore.
Perhaps there is some hidden gem out there in the juco ranks. When diving into the juco ranks, the Tide has had the most success with defensive linemen: Jesse Williams, Mount Cody, Jarran Reed, Isaiah Buggs, Quinton Dial.
Otherwise, we will have to look to see if anyone interesting pops up in the Transfer Portal in the new year.
Thank goodness Alabama was able to flip Ty Lockwood (6’5” 220, #235) from Ohio State. Otherwise, it might have been a big strikeout at the position. Brayson Hubbard is expected to get a look on defense but he is someone to consider down the road for tight end. Since there are no good prospects left uncommitted, this is one position that definitely will have to be mined from the TP.
TO RETURN OR NOT TO RETURN
Cameron Latu is in the Senior Bowl. I know everyone loves blue-collar Robbie Ouzts, but he will never be a major threat as a receiver. Amari Niblack has promise but the rest of this unit is underwhelming at this point.
Bama looked strong on a possible flip of Luke Hasz from Arkansas, but Alabama didn’t have a spot for his 3-star safety twin brother, Dylan. Lawson Luckie seemed to really like Alabama but stuck with Georgia - probably due to pressure. 5-star Duce Robinson will sign elsewhere where he can get more attention.
So here again, Bama will have to look to the portal. The Tide hosted Maryland rising junior CJ Dippre a few weeks ago. He also visited Ohio State which is closer to his Pennsylvania hometown. He may not announce until January. [As a side note that probably means nothing, his younger brother, Lacota Dippre, just signed with Charlotte.]
Alabama does not appear to be interested in troubled Arik Gilbert. Nobody else is on the radar as of yet but we could see someone of interest in the spring.