Alabama is on the hunt for its seventh straight recruiting championship. Join us here on SEC Country for a daily recap of Alabama recruiting news, insight on what’s happening behind the scenes, and for a glimpse at what’s coming next.
The dead period ended at midnight on Thursday, which means college coaches are now free to do conduct in-home visits once again and visit recruits at their high schools.
We’re in the final stretch before National Signing Day rolls around on Feb. 1. With that being said, here are the most important questions I’ll be monitoring over the next 19 days:
Who will Alabama add on the defensive line?
In my opinion, who Alabama adds on the defensive line is the biggest storyline from here until signing day because it’s arguably Alabama’s most important priority in the Class of 2017.
The Crimson Tide are in danger of losing 4-star defensive tackle Akial Byers due to academics. Although, the team could part ways with him over performance on the field. He looked overmatched against top talent at the Under Armour All-America Game. If he doesn’t remain committed, that leaves only 4-star defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs in the class, and he has already signed his letter of intent.
Several targets remain on the board for Alabama, such as 5-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon, 4-star defensive ends LaBryan Ray and Ryan Johnson and 4-star DTs Phidarian Mathis, Javon Kinlaw and Elijah Conliffe.
Solomon and Ray are the priorities out of that group listed above. If Alabama lands both of those guys, it likely won’t add another recruit, even if Byers departs. In case you missed my projected signing class on Wednesday night, I have Alabama signing both Solomon and Ray at this time.
Solomon told SEC Country last week in San Antonio that Alabama has a huge lead for his commitment. That’s a big deal because he’s committing near the end of the month and will likely only take one more official visit, and that’s to Southern California this weekend. His recruitment should come down to Alabama, Georgia or Michigan. The Crimson Tide have felt confident in landing Solomon since he took an official visit to Tuscaloosa, but it’s going to be a dogfight. If you’ve followed Solomon’s recruitment, expect there to be many twists and turns over the next few weeks.
It would be shocking if Ray wasn’t in Alabama’s class. He’s visited Alabama countless times and has grown comfortable around the program. It also helps that Alabama has commitments from two of his best friends in 4-star offensive guard Kendall Randolph and 3-star defensive back Kyriq McDonald. Ray is Alabama’s top target at defensive end.
If Alabama misses on one or both recruits, the question then becomes who is the top choice for plan B. Though the Tide won’t admit it, it’s a two-team race for both Phidarian Mathis (Alabama and LSU) and Javon Kinlaw (Alabama and South Carolina). Mathis would be my pick to join the class if there’s space.
Will Alabama get one, both or none of its main WR targets?
Four-star prospects DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs III have been top priorities for the team since the beginning of 2016. Both of them have been strong Alabama leans for the majority of their respective recruitment process.
It looked like the Crimson Tide were going to pick up both of their commitments back in August, as they had set commitment dates. Ruggs delayed his decision because he felt like he wasn’t 100 percent sure where he wanted to play. Smith decided to push his decision back until National Signing Day because of the devastating floods that tore through his home state of Louisiana.
Ruggs and Smith appear to have two top choices and then there’s a gap between the other schools they are considering.
For Ruggs, it’s Alabama and Florida State. Alabama quarterback commit Tua Tagovailoa told SEC Country that Ruggs told him that those two have separated themselves from his other three top 5 schools: Auburn, Florida and Penn State.
Smith will likely decide from Alabama and LSU. Alabama has long been considered the favorite for Smith ever since he de-committed from Georgia back in January. The relationships he has at Alabama trump the ones he has at LSU, and it’s not even close. The Tigers have made up lots of ground for Smith, but it won’t be enough for the Tigers.
Right now, I see both prospects in Alabama’s class.
Will Alabama add another defensive back?
This is a question that may not be able to get answered until we know if Marlon Humphrey will declare for the NFL Draft. Humphrey is a likely first-round draft pick, so he’s likely going to the league. Stranger things have happened, though.
Even if Humphrey goes, it’s not a guarantee the team adds another defensive back to the class. Alabama has three DBs committed in 4-star safeties Daniel Wright and Xavier McKinney and 3-star prospect McDonald.
The Tide are recruiting 4-star cornerback Chris Henderson and 4-star safeties Devon Hunter and Todd Harris. Henderson is visiting Tuscaloosa this weekend for an official visit and Hunter is scheduled to make his decision on Jan. 20. This is seven days prior to when Hunter is supposed to visit Tuscaloosa, which he isn’t sure is happening anymore, he told SEC Country. It’s highly unlikely Hunter is going to choose Alabama.
As for Henderson, his recruitment from the Alabama side of things really comes down to Humphrey’s decision. If he chooses to go, then Alabama may ramp up its efforts for Henderson. I was told by a source inside the Alabama program that it’s possible the Tide don’t sign any true cover corners.
Harris is down to Alabama and LSU. If the Tide have space for him, it wouldn’t shock me to see him in the crimson and white.
Who will de-commit or flip?
We already mentioned 4-star defensive tackle Byers above.
Jhavonte Dean, a 4-star junior college cornerback from Blinn College (Brenham, Texas), will be on flip watch this weekend. Dean committed to the Tide last summer and hasn’t visited Tuscaloosa since then. He doesn’t have an official visit set to Alabama. He’ll visit Miami, the school likely getting his commitment, this weekend. SEC Country was told by multiple sources close to the team that Dean’s departure from the class will likely be a mutual parting of ways. Don’t expect Alabama to fight to keep him committed.
I expect Alabama to keep Hunter Brannon, but I think he won’t “technically” count for the Class of 2017. I think he will either get a gray or blueshirt. If he receives either colored shirt, it delays his scholarship until the 2018 season. For those who do not know, a grayshirt can not participate in any team activities until the following season; so, in this case, Brannon wouldn’t practice with the team until 2018. A blueshirt can practice with the team as soon as he gets to campus.
LSU will continue trying to flip Christopher Allen, a 4-star linebacker from Southern University Lab High School (Baton Rouge, La.). Allen told SEC Country earlier this month that he was in frequent communication with the Tigers staff. Even with him being from Baton Rouge, Allen has seemed comfortable leaving the city to play for LSU’s biggest rival. He even admits that he has a better chance of playing early for the Tigers than the Tide. Even that doesn’t sway him. It’s going to be hard for LSU to flip him.
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
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