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 discuss the latest with the nation’s No. 1 cornerback, Patrick Surtain Jr., and 4-star safety Leon O’Neal.
Alabama playing catch-up with Surtain
LSU has held the lead for 5-star cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr. for several months now, and the Tigers are still on top for him. The good news for Alabama’s chances is that he hasn’t committed to the Tigers yet, but he’s been close several times before.
“I have thought about [committing] for a few days,” Surtain told SEC Country’s Zach Abolverdi on Tuesday. “I have been close sometimes and then sometimes I’ve been thinking about other schools. They’re at the top and some other schools stick out as well.”
Besides Alabama, the other schools sticking out for Surtain at this time are Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Miami and Ohio State. He plans on cutting his list to five schools either later this month or next. Alabama is expected to make the cut when that time comes.
“Alabama is a very great program,” Surtain said. “Getting an offer from them is great. They win championships almost every year. They have a great tradition and they send guys to the league every year. Coach [Nick] Saban does a great job there every year.”
The nation’s No. 1 cornerback attends American Heritage in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., but the majority of his family lives in Baton Rouge, La., and New Orleans. Surtain considers Louisiana to be his home. It’s one of the main reasons why the Tigers have a stranglehold on the top spot in his recruitment.
His reason for picking a school also bodes well for LSU’s chances.
“I am looking for a school that treats me like a family,” Surtain said, which is something he stressed about LSU. “I am not scared of competition. I will bring the willpower to compete for a position when I get to college. I want to feel like I am at home.”
The Tide didn’t sign a corner in the Class of 2017 and that means corner is arguably the biggest priority for Alabama in 2018. It’s a good pitch for someone of Surtain’s caliber because early playing time is obtainable next season with Anthony Averett and Tony Brown moving on from the program and Minkah Fitzpatrick a likely candidate to declare for the NFL draft.
“We obviously try to identify needs that we have each year and I think in this class we sort of hit every spot but one,” Saban said on National Signing Day. “We wanted to recruit at least one corner, maybe two. It just worked out that it didn’t happen that way for us.”
Although the Crimson Tide have some ground to make up for Surtain, if there’s one school in the country that can quickly change the script of any recruit’s process, it’s Alabama.
Surtain wants to make a commitment either midway through his senior season or wait it out all the way until Signing Day.
Communication lacking between Tide and Leon O’Neal?
Leon O’Neal, the nation’s No. 6 safety from Cypress Springs (Texas) High School, is viewed by many in the industry to be a near lock to Texas A&M when he makes his college decision. He’s visited Texas A&M more than any other school, but that’s just because it’s less than 100 miles from his home.
He knows why many feel like he’s going to commit to the Aggies.
“It’s down the street,” O’Neal told SEC Country’s Mike Wilson. “I keep making visits there because it’s close. It’s easy to get there.”
His recruitment isn’t as cut and dried as it appears, he said.
In addition to Texas A&M, Alabama, Clemson, Florida, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Oregon, TCU, Texas and Southern California are still being considered. O’Neal is planning on cutting that list to three or five soon. There’s a chance the Tide don’t make the cut.
“I haven’t really communicated with them much since I made my top 12 [back in early April],” O’Neal said. “Coach [Billy] Napier was the one who offered me, but now he’s gone.”
O’Neal visited Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl this past season and was awed by the trip. He felt like a priority that day despite not holding an offer from the Crimson Tide just yet.
“Going to a school that you know is one of the best in the country, and they treated me like I was one of the best players in the country, was the best part,” O’Neal said. “That felt good. That was crazy. I drove all the way out there. I thought I was going to get offered that day. It didn’t happen, but they still showed me a lot of love.”
Alabama ended up offering just a few weeks later. A month later, Saban arrived at Cypress Springs in his helicopter to make sure O’Neal knew he was a priority. The Tide definitely have O’Neal’s attention, but communication needs to pick up.
“They’re always getting guys drafted,” O’Neal said. “They have a whole bunch of ballers there and win national championships. They’re just winners. That’s one thing you have to look at. They’re always going to be winners, but it’s all a business there. They’re going to get the best players and they don’t care if they stack them up.”
Miss a previous edition? Find every post of SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings recruiting notebook right here.