Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings, a rundown of everything happening in Alabama Crimson Tide recruiting with Chris Kirschner. In this edition, we talk the latest with one of Alabama’s top defensive backs.
Nick Cross leaves Alabama impressed
Nick Cross hadn’t visited Alabama until he landed in Birmingham before driving to Tuscaloosa on Saturday night. It was important to get Cross on campus for an official visit because the nation’s No. 4 safety will make his commitment before DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.) takes the field for training camp in August.
Before he returned to Maryland, his teammate, 4-star safety DeMarcco Hellams, committed to the Crimson Tide. Hellams and Cross are very close so it certainly doesn’t hurt the Tide’s chances at landing Cross, too.
“Oh man, Marcco is a beast,” Cross told SEC Country. “He is a great teammate. I love playing with him. He is big, strong, physical and has great knowledge of the game. It’s great to have someone with his knowledge and playing ability next to me. He is just an awesome player. Alabama is getting a monster.”
Alabama has two other defensive back commitments in cornerback Christian Williams and Brandon Turnage, who’s recruited as a corner and safety. The Tide are still recruiting several other targets, who I’ll touch on below, and Cross is near the top of the team’s list.
Now that Hellams is on board, does that help Alabama’s chances with Cross?
“We have touched on it a little bit and he did what’s right for him and I’m going to do what’s right for me,” Cross said of Hellams’ decision. “If that means Alabama for me as well, then so be it.”
It does seem that Alabama made a big impression on Cross. He was impressed with how the players are treated outside of football. He loved how compassionate the coaches were to every player on the roster. He mentioned how caring they were toward everyone.
The 4-star prospect hung out with cornerbacks Saivion Smith and Trevon Diggs for most of his time in Tuscaloosa. Both Smith and Diggs told Cross how much they’ve grown as players, and also as people. It’s something that made Alabama stand out from the other visits he’s taken.
“They really spend a lot of money on getting mental treatment and psychologists and other people in there to help with their mental makeup,” Cross said. “Coach [Nick] Saban is big on second chances and not just giving the death sentence, so to speak, for one mistake. They really focus on making the right decisions. They bring in people to talk about every topic under the sun to help their players be role models off the field.
“That’s important to me because I’m just not a football player. I’m a person who plays football and I need to be a role model, a positive one at that, in society. I need to be able to go where that is worked on and developed so that I know how to be a better person, son, a better player and the whole nine yards.”
Cross isn’t the first person to recently tell me how big of an impact the off-field training has made on him. Kevin Harris, who committed to Alabama in April, told me that the Tide’s alumni program, 1st and Ten, was a major reason why he decided on Bama.
Saban, in particular, always has made it a point to talk to recruits about not only football but how being at Alabama helps transforms the players as people in society, which is something that Cross is looking for in a school.
“Their attention to detail and attention to treating every player as an individual stood out,” Cross said. “They just focus so much on developing their players into not only outstanding football players but outstanding people in life.”
The 6-foot-1, 208-pound prospect has one more official visit set for the summer and that’s to Florida State on June 22. Florida and Florida State are two of Cross’ top contenders and Alabama’s biggest competition. He didn’t name any leaders, but the Tide definitely made their best case to him.
“We will just have to see,” Cross said when asked where Alabama stands. “I will sleep on it over the next couple of nights, pray and ask for God’s guidance and just go from there.”
Other Alabama defensive back targets
As mentioned above, Alabama has three defensive backs committed in Christian Williams, Brandon Turnage and now DeMarcco Hellams. I do not think Turnage is going to end up signing with the Crimson Tide and have been saying that for quite some time. I think the team will add two or three more DBs, so the number come February should be either four or five total in the secondary.
At safety, Cross is a clear top target for the Tide. We’ll see what happens with his Florida State official visit in two weeks, but, again, having Hellams in his ear every day is a positive.
Daxton Hill, a 5-star safety from Oklahoma, will take an official visit to Alabama this weekend. Hill was in Tuscaloosa for A-Day in April and is one of the team’s top overall targets. Oklahoma is likely the biggest competition for the Tide.
At cornerback, Noa Pola-Gates, a 4-star prospect from Arizona, seems like the likeliest addition for the Tide in the secondary. Alabama has led since his visit in February and nothing has changed. He’s expected in town in two weeks for the Champions Cookout. It wouldn’t surprise me to see him commit that weekend.
Jeffery Carter, a 4-star prospect from Texas, has Alabama in his top four along with Oklahoma, Texas and Texas A&M. He’s also expected in Tuscaloosa in two weeks. From talking to some people close to the Alabama program, the Tide feel like they are in good shape here.
Akeem Dent, a Florida State commit, is also a name to keep in mind. From our last interview with Dent, he didn’t seem like someone who was 100 percent committed to the Seminoles and he specifically mentioned Alabama as one of the schools that was trying to change his mind.
And don’t forget that Jaylen McCollough, a 4-star safety from Georgia, is still in the mix. I think the Hellams commitment certainly affects McCollough the most. He’s one that the staff has gone back and forth on about whether they should accept his commitment. With Hellams on board, it makes McCollough being in this class more challenging with Cross and Hill still on the board.
There are other targets still out there, such as Jalyn Phillips, Mississippi State commit Jarrian Jones and Tyrique Stevenson, but the names above are the ones to watch closely.
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