Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings, a rundown of everything happening in Alabama Crimson Tide recruiting, with Chris Kirschner. Today, we discuss the latest with Henry Ruggs and how Alabama adding a kicker affects numbers.
Two-team race still for Ruggs?
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — In a small room directly across the gym inside Robert E. Lee High School after the Generals defeated Selma High School, 81-54, in basketball on Tuesday night were roughly 20 members of 4-star wide receiver Henry Ruggs’ family, close friends and coaches singing happy birthday to the new adult. By the door, singing along, was Alabama defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley.
Every school he’s still considering either texted him happy birthday or sent an edited picture, like what Florida State did. But no one, other than Ansley, was there in person singing happy birthday.
Ansley has been at Lee High School every week since the contact period began two weeks ago. That’s how big of a priority Ruggs is to the Alabama staff. Ansley and Ruggs have grown tight over the past several months, and it’s one of the main reasons why the Crimson Tide are squarely in the mix to land him come signing day when he makes his decision.
“It’s a great relationship,” Ruggs told SEC Country. “He is always keeping in touch with my family, so that’s a good thing. I can talk to him whenever I want to. We basically talk on a day-to-day basis, so that’s another good thing.”
Ruggs and his family were in Tuscaloosa last weekend for an official visit — one of many trips the family has taken to Alabama. They have visited Alabama more than every other school he’s considering (Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Penn State), and it’s not even close.
In one ways, the familiarity has helped Ruggs and his family grow comfortable in Tuscaloosa, if he did end up signing with Alabama next Wednesday.
“It’s a very good school,” Nataki Ruggs, Henry’s mother, said. “I’ve been impressed with the coaching staff. The program is exactly what we’re looking for. There are others that are right up there with them. We’ve seen more of Alabama and have developed a strong relationship with those coaches. We’ll see how it goes next Wednesday.”
Ruggs echoed his mother’s comments on Alabama being a program he is exactly looking for.
“I can agree with that,” Ruggs said. “They pretty much have handled their business in every aspect of the program when it comes to my recruitment. Pretty much every school has that, but some are going to have more support than others.”
Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama’s 5-star early enrollee quarterback, told SEC Country at the Army Bowl earlier this month that Ruggs was down to Alabama and Florida State. Ruggs didn’t say that was the case, but he did say that those two schools have separated from the pack a little bit.
“I would say that those two are the ones I keep in contact with the most,” Ruggs said. “I’m still exploring my options, though. You’ll see who’s serious and who’s not about what they’re saying over the next few days. I’m sure the main schools are going to keep steady with what they’re doing.”
His mother could see him winding up at Florida State. When Ruggs was younger, he was always intrigued by the Sunshine State.
“I can see that being possible,” Nataki Ruggs said. “As a child, he was always interested in Florida.”
Most in the recruiting industry believe his commitment will come down to Alabama and Florida State. Those are the two schools where he and his family have developed strong relationships. Even though Ruggs’ mother has visited Tuscaloosa more than Tallahassee, that doesn’t necessarily give them an advantage.
“I wouldn’t say my relationship with Alabama is better than the other schools,” Nataki Ruggs said. “We’ve just visited them more. You just develop a better relationship the more you’re around something. Florida State has a really great program. I wouldn’t be disappointed if he chose to go there. He’s narrowed it down to some top schools. I wouldn’t be disappointed with any choice.”
He still doesn’t know if he’s going to make it to Penn State this weekend for his scheduled official visit. It’s highly unlikely because he has basketball games Thursday, Friday and Saturday. He’d have to leave almost immediately after his basketball game to fly north.
What’s going into his decision
When Ruggs makes his commitment known on Wednesday, academics will be a big part of why he chose that school.
The Army All-American wants to major in computer engineering at the school he chooses.
“Since he’s been a kid, he has always been interested with how the computer works,” Nataki Ruggs said. “He’s broken a couple of my computers to try and fix them. He’s always had an inquiring mind about computers. He was able to fix a couple of kinks we were having on our computer.”
On his official visit to Alabama, academics were a main subject for Ruggs and his family. He learned how the support staff helps the players get adjusted to college and how he could balance playing for one of the nation’s top programs and be an engineering major, too.
“I got to see a more extended version of the academic side as far as the classes I would be in and the instructors I would be around,” Ruggs said. “School comes first to me. You have to do well in school to be able to play.”
Nataki said Alabama nailed the academic presentation this past weekend. Every question she had, the advisers answered them.
“Academically — yeah, hooray for the sports — I want to see him come out of school with a degree,” Nataki Ruggs said. “There is life after football. Alabama has really, really touched me as far as making sure that we are comfortable with their academic program.”
It’s a big reason why if he does choose Alabama, she’d be more than happy for her son.
“I would be very much comfortable,” Nataki Ruggs said.” They have shown me that they embrace all of the boys coming in. As a mom, when you send your son off for the first time, you want to make sure they have a very comfortable atmosphere and have people there that will look out for their best interests. I’m very comfortable if he chooses Alabama.”
Outside of the academic pitch he received, Ruggs already knows the reason why he would choose Alabama.
“First of all, it’s in-state and it’s a family-oriented program,” Ruggs said. “They do a great job of keeping in touch with me on the recruiting side of things. Football-wise, I have a lot of friends that are going there. I know the recruits very well there.”
What kind of player is a school getting in Ruggs?
Ruggs wasn’t even focused on playing football until his 10th-grade year. He had played peewee football for the Montgomery Chiefs when he was in elementary school and then played in middle school. But once he got to high school, he stopped. He thought his future was going to be on the hardwood.
Ruggs is only 6-foot, 170 pounds. There aren’t many NBA players that small who are at the top of the game. Lee football coach Tyrone Rogers, who played for the Cleveland Browns from 1999-2004, knew he’d have a better chance for the NFL with his athleticism.
“After years of ‘dating’ him, I was finally able to convince him to play for us in 10th grade,” Rogers said with a laugh.
That move paid off big time for Ruggs. 247Sports rates him as the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver. The 247Sports composite lists him as the No. 11 wide receiver.
According to his mother, Ruggs’ first play in the 10th grade was a kickoff return for a touchdown. It was the only position she felt comfortable letting her son play in high school.
“The coaches were just telling me, ‘Mrs. Ruggs, please just let him play,'” Nataki Ruggs recalled. “I told them they could use him on kickoffs only. He did so well and he just wanted to keep doing it.”
The 4-star prospect has turned into one of the most electrifying prospects in the country. College coaches tell Rogers all of the time that they don’t care that he’s just 6-foot because of the explosiveness he possesses.
“They have seen the big-play ability that he has and it supersedes everything else they see,” Rogers said. “You’ll also rarely see Henry drop a ball. There have only been a few occasions where I’ve seen a ball hit Henry in the hands and he doesn’t catch it.”
Ruggs accounted for 20 touchdowns on 102 touches this season. He had 38 catches for 639 yards and 9 touchdowns, 36 carries for 446 yards and 7 scores, seven kickoff returns for 352 yards and a touchdown. He also played quarterback some and went 11 of 23 for 186 yards and 3 touchdowns.
One assistant coach at Lee said if Auburn offered him at quarterback, “he would have been better than Nick Marshall.” That assistant is an Auburn fan, and, for what it’s worth, thinks Ruggs is going to choose Alabama. The front-office lady who checks in visitors thinks it’s been Alabama and Florida State. She also thinks Ruggs is going to Alabama.
That would be great news for the Crimson Tide, as he is one of the top prospects on Alabama’s wish list for the Class of 2017. His coach thinks Ruggs has the potential to have a long career in football.
“It’s just like Michael Jordan,” Rogers explains, “If there are three seconds on the clock, you want the ball in Michael Jordan’s hands. That’s what we feel with Henry. He put the team on his back. He didn’t mind the pressure at all.
“If he continues to work the way he has these past couple of years, he’ll write his own ticket. His work ethic is just exemplary — even more so this past year when he already had these big offers.”
In case you missed it, Ruggs previewed what looks like a commitment video he will release on signing day. His coach said Lee High School will have a ceremony at 11 a.m. next Wednesday.
Loading⏳… Stay tuned?‼️ pic.twitter.com/8viLDRIPye
— 01/24? (@__RUGGS) January 24, 2017
Huge in-home visit on Thursday
In case you missed it from earlier this week, Alabama will have an in-home visit with 5-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon and his mother on Thursday. Coach Nick Saban and the entire defensive staff is expected to be there.
Solomon is Alabama’s top defensive tackle in this year’s class. Just a few weeks ago, the Army All-American told SEC Country that Alabama had a “huge” lead for his commitment. That looks like it’s changed quite a bit since then, as Michigan appears to be the team trending.
But, no one knows what Solomon is going to do. One source close to Solomon told SEC Country a few days ago that even Solomon has no idea what he’s going to do. Alabama, though, should have a pretty good idea of where it stands with less than a week until signing day after this visit.
It’s going to be the last time the staff gets to see him in person before he decides.
Alabama finds a kicker in 2017 class
The Crimson Tide picked up a commitment from Army All-American kicker Joseph Bulovas on Wednesday. With his commitment, Alabama is up to 25 commitments in the class.
A source close to the Mandeville (La.) High School program told SEC Country that it’s a full scholarship, at the moment.
He will no longer take an official visit to Tuscaloosa this weekend, so a blueshirt, which would delay his eligibility until 2018, could still be in play; however, Bulovas is under the impression that it’s a full scholarship.
There are still several important targets remaining for Alabama in this class, but the numbers will work themselves out. I was told two days ago that Alabama is only planning on signing 27 players. We’ll see if that’s the final number next Wednesday.
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All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
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