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.
LaBryan Ray to Alabama isn’t a slam dunk?
MADISON, Ala. — Ever since he received an offer from Alabama in February, LaBryan Ray, the nation’s No. 2 strong-side defensive end, has been projected by many recruiting analysts to eventually become a part of the Crimson Tide’s Class of 2017. That still looks like a likely scenario because of the significant amount of visits he’s taken to Tuscaloosa over the past several months and two of his best friends, 4-star offensive guard Kendall Randolph and 3-star defensive back Kyriq McDonald, are solidified in Alabama’s class.
But if you ask James Clemens coach Wade Waldrop about Ray’s recruitment, he says it’s not as cut and dried as we may think it is.
“He’s not leaning anywhere,” Waldrop told SEC Country. “There are people writing that he’s a heavy lean here or there. I can tell you right now and I would tell God and everybody that he has zero clue where he’s going. He does not know. All these people writing all this stuff about Alabama is the furthest thing from the truth.”
Waldrop said Tennessee is firmly entrenched near the top of his list, too. That holds true to what Ray has said all along. He can see himself playing for the Volunteers because of the strong relationships he’s established with the staff. Waldrop said it seems as if Tennessee’s entire staff is recruiting Ray to join its program.
Waldrop said Ray’s decision will come down to either Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, Mississippi State or Ole Miss — his top 5 schools.
“It is going to be one of his last five,” Waldrop said. “I would not be surprised if it is Tennessee. It just would not surprise me because of the relationship there. It is crazy how hard the coaches on that staff want him for their team.”
Maybe Waldrop is right when it comes to Ray’s recruitment. If it’s clear that Alabama is the school Ray wants to attend, he likely would have made his decision by now, no? Ray is one of the nicest kids in the Class of 2017 and not one who would play games with reporters or coaches at the schools he’s considering.
“Honestly, I still don’t know what I want to do,” Ray said. “It’s such a hard decision. I know I want to take all of my visits before deciding. If it does go until signing day, it does.
“All of the schools I’m looking at are in the need of my position. Now, it’s just about finding the best place for me and the best feel. I try not to pay too much attention to all of the coaching changes because they can always leave.”
Ray will visit Tennessee on Jan. 13 and Florida on Jan. 27. He will also visit Alabama and Mississippi State, but those dates have not been finalized just yet.
I still believe Ray will ultimately choose Alabama because Nick Saban rarely misses on in-state recruits who are major priorities, but Tennessee is definitely strongly in the mix for the 4-star Under Armour All-American prospect.
How Buggs’ commitment affects the DL board
One giant domino fell Alabama’s way on Tuesday when the nation’s No. 1 junior college defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs committed to the Crimson Tide over LSU. Because he’s a midyear graduate in junior college, he’ll be allowed to sign his letter of intent on Wednesday, which is what he’ll do.
Alabama now has two defensive line commitments in this year’s class in Buggs and 4-star defensive tackle Akial Byers. Several targets still remain on the board for Alabama, including Ray, who we mentioned above.
Here’s where things stand with the other defensive linemen the Tide are after:
5-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon
Solomon has been Alabama’s top defensive line target for several months now. At one point, the Crimson Tide led for his services before he abruptly committed to Michigan. Alabama, Georgia and Michigan are considered the favorites here, but his decision should come down to the SEC schools.
Alabama coaches visited Solomon three times during the contact period and Saban will see him in January. Saban didn’t see him during the past contact period because he was focusing on recruits who are making their decisions known in the near future. Solomon won’t decide until signing day at the earliest.
The Crimson Tide staff likes where it stands with Solomon, but so do the Bulldogs. His recruitment will have several twists and turns when it’s all over.
4-star defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw
Kinlaw has surged up Alabama’s wish list in the past couple of months. He de-committed from South Carolina in late November and took a visit to Alabama for the Iron Bowl shortly after. He still loves the Gamecocks, but the Crimson Tide are going to be extremely hard for South Carolina to beat, even though he is from the state.
Kinlaw won’t be committing on junior college signing day on Wednesday. He’ll enroll at the school of his choice in May.
4-star defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis
Mathis remains a recruit who Alabama would love to add to its roster. That was confirmed by a source close to the team earlier this week. It’s an Alabama-LSU race for him. Now that Buggs, who was considered to be a strong LSU lean, has committed to Alabama, expect the Tigers to aggressively pursue Mathis.
He doesn’t have a commitment date set.
4-star defensive tackle Elijah Conliffe
Conliffe was once thought of as a sure-fire Alabama commitment. Things have changed. The guys listed above are the priorities in this class. Alabama will need to miss on some of those guys in order for there to be space for the Virginia native.
Brian Robinson ready to get to Alabama
Brian Robinson, a 4-star running back from Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa, is surely one of the most overlooked commitments in Alabama’s Class of 2017. That’s because the Crimson Tide have a commitment from the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit in Najee Harris, who happens to be a running back like Robinson.
Even with Harris committed to Alabama, Robinson has never been fazed by that. He’s ready to compete alongside him and all of the other running backs at Alabama.
“I just want to be an impact player for Alabama,” Robinson told SEC Country. “I’m looking forward to competing. That stuff about the loaded backfield doesn’t really bother me. I know I’m going to have to compete regardless if I had a Heisman frontrunner in front of me or not. Competition is what I look forward to.”
Robinson was thinking about taking some visits to other schools such as Auburn, Georgia and Ole Miss before the dead period began this past Monday, but he elected to not visit any other program. There was no need to see any other college campus because he’s dreamed about playing for Alabama since he can remember.
“It was kind of pointless to me to visit other schools because I knew where I wanted to be,” Robinson said. “I wasn’t going anywhere else, so I just wanted to stay loyal with my commitment.”
The nation’s No. 11 running back went to several Alabama home games this season, and each time he was in Tuscaloosa, a giant smile found its way on to his face.
“It’s such a wonderful feeling, man,” Robinson said. “It’s such a wonderful opportunity. It’s a great feeling to tell people that I’ll be out there playing next year on that field. I probably wouldn’t get that feeling anywhere else I go.”
The 6-foot-1, 224-pound prospect plans to sign his financial aid agreement this week, as he is an early enrollee and will begin his Alabama career this January.
Those documents are non-binding. They protect the recruit by ensuring the school holds a scholarship for him, but the prospect is still free to choose any school. The benefit for the program is that it allows for unlimited contact between the football staff and the recruit, even once the dead period began this past Monday. He technically can sign as many financial aid agreements as he wants, but Robinson won’t be doing that.
Robinson said Saban has told him that his versatility in the backfield is what may separate him from the other running backs in Tuscaloosa.
“He told me that I have all of the running back skills he looks for — catching, blocking and can carry the ball,” Robinson said. “It’s really like a one-in-a-million running back who can do all of those things at a high level. He told me it’s easy to base an offense around a running back who can do all of that.”
Tagovailoa receives statewide honor
Alabama quarterback commit Tua Tagovailoa’s 2016 season continues to get better. After being named the Elite 11 MVP, becoming the state of Hawaii’s all-time leading passer and helping lead St. Louis High School in Honolulu to a state title, Tagovailoa received some more good news on Tuesday.
Tagovailoa, the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback, was named the 2016 Gatorade Player of the Year in Hawaii after throwing for 2,669 yards, rushing for 727 yards, and combining to rush and pass for 35 touchdowns in 2016.
Tagovailoa has maintained his commitment since May and hasn’t visited any other school. He spoke with SEC Country on Monday about how Lane Kiffin’s departure to Florida Atlantic affects his recruitment.
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