Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings, a rundown of everything happening in Alabama Crimson Tide recruiting with Chris Kirschner. Today, we talk the latest with the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle.
Ishmael Sopsher talks recent Alabama visit
Ishmael Sopsher, the nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle from Amite (La.) High School, has been to Tuscaloosa numerous times since his recruitment began more than a year ago. When DeVonta Smith, his former teammate at Amite, went through his recruitment and visited Alabama, Sopsher usually tagged along.
But there was a time when Sopsher wasn’t strongly considering the Crimson Tide. In August 2017, Sopsher released his top schools list, and Alabama wasn’t in the group.
“I just wasn’t feeling them when I released it,” Sopsher told SEC Country. “I wasn’t feeling the DC, Coach [Jeremy] Pruitt. I don’t want to get into it, but I had a pretty good relationship with [former defensive line] Coach [Karl] Dunbar.”
Sopsher wouldn’t expand on his thoughts on Pruitt, but once he left the defensive coordinator job at Tuscaloosa to become the coach at Tennessee, Sopsher started having more interest in Alabama. The new coaching changes with Tosh Lupoi as defensive coordinator and Craig Kuligowski as defensive line coah have put the Tide squarely back in the mix.
“Talking with Coach Kool — I mean his name speaks for itself. He’s really a cool guy,” Sopsher said. “You can tell that he’s an intelligent, humble guy and he really cares about his players. He’s going to battle for his players on and off the field and will 100 percent make sure that they’re in the right place. And with Tosh, I’ve been knowing him for a while now. I really like those guys.”
Saturday marked the first visit to Tuscaloosa for Sopsher since the coaching changes. He not only had a chance to speak with Lupoi and Kuligowski but also his primary recruiter in inside linebackers coach Pete Golding.
— ishmael sopsher (@isopsher) April 24, 2018
“I would say these new guys are younger and wiser,” Sopsher said. “What I saw from them is that they are a great group of guys who are going to have fun, but when it comes time to work, that’s what they are going to do. But with these guys, you’re going to have fun along the way.”
Sopsher brought along his mom, dad, brother and girlfriend on his visit to Tuscaloosa on Saturday. He said all of them had a great time and couldn’t pinpoint one moment as being the best because it was that good of a trip for the family.
LSU is seen as the favorite by many recruiting experts because of its close proximity to Amite. It’s about an hour away from the high school, but Sopsher was clear that distance to his family isn’t a big deal.
“I will say that any school can get me at the moment. My recruitment is completely open,” Sopsher said. “I also don’t care how close the school is to home. That doesn’t matter. If this school is going to prepare me for the NFL and get me a good education and I feel very comfortable there, that’s the school I’m going to be at no matter where it is.”
It sounds as if Sopsher believes that Alabama is one of those schools that fits what he’s looking for.
“Alabama is always going to treat you right,” he said. “The hospitality is always great when you go there. Every time I go there, I just feel very comfortable. It didn’t feel any different this time.
“With Alabama, it’s all about competing. It doesn’t matter where you go, but you’re going to have to compete. That’s just the way it goes. They told me that Isaiah Buggs is leaving after this year and Raekwon Davis may leave early. There are definitely spots open, but it doesn’t matter to me. They can put me anywhere and I’m going to compete.”
The 5-star prospect has said he won’t announce his college decision until National Signing Day in February. He doesn’t have any leaders and no schools are standing out from others. He said he felt like LSU was recruiting him the hardest only because it is the in-state school.
Alabama is also coming after him hard. He said he has always felt like a priority to the coaches and they’re always giving him reasons why he’s wanted so badly by the team.
One of those staff members that is in communication with Sopsher is assistant director of player personnel Sam Petitto. Petitto got his coaching start at Amite High School and was a big reason why DeVonta Smith ended up choosing the Tide. Smith has said he considers Petitto a father figure in his life. While Sopsher isn’t as close with Petitto as Smith is, there is some history there.
“He’s my dad’s friend,” Sopsher said of Petitto. “I didn’t really know him as well as DeVonta [Smith] did. DeVonta is really close with Coach Petitto. My dad grew up with Coach Petitto, though. They played on the same high school team together.
“He’s recruiting me pretty hard, but our communication is on and off because he’s not the primary recruiter for me, so I talk to Coach Golding all of the time.”
Coach Golding is not only recruiting Sopsher from Amite but also 4-star wide receiver Devonta Lee. Lee is one of the Tide’s top receiver targets in the 2019 class. Sopsher said he has talked about the possibility of playing with Lee in college, but it’s not a certainty that it happens.
“We have been talking about that since the eighth grade,” Sopsher said. “I met him in the seventh grade, and we have always been talking together about playing with each other in college. But you know there may be things that I like about a school that he may not like, so we have to make the best decisions for both of us. I just want him to pick the best option for him.”
The recruitment of both Sopsher and Lee could come down to another classic Alabama-LSU recruiting war. Their former teammate, Smith, chose the Tide over the Tigers and the trio could certainly reunite in Tuscaloosa next season.
The nation’s No. 4 overall player broke down what he feels is the difference between the SEC foes.
“Alabama is a championship-caliber team, and I feel like LSU is also a championship-caliber team, too,” Sopsher said. “But, it’s all about the physicality and the work they put in on and off the field at Alabama. I’m not saying LSU isn’t dedicated to themselves, but Alabama always outworks its opponent every week.”
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