Welcome to the first edition of the SEC Country Alabama recruiting mailbag.
Each week, we hope to answer some of the most pressing questions asked by our readers. You can either ask me on Twitter (@ChrisK_AJC) or comment below this article and we’ll use the best ones for next week’s mailbag.
With that being said, here are the top questions from our readers this week.
Outside of Nico Collins, who are other WRs Alabama is targeting?
Wide receiver is a big position of need for Alabama in the Class of 2017 after only signing just two in 2016: four-star Trevon Diggs and three-star T.J. Simmons. The Crimson Tide are in the mix for several elite receivers. Here are four others besides Nico Collins, who is the state of Alabama’s No. 1 prospect.
Devonta Smith, four-star, Amite, La.
Smith backed off his commitment to Georgia shortly after a Bulldogs assistant left for Alabama in January. He visited Alabama recently and told SEC Country where things stand with the Crimson Tide.
“They are one of my top schools because of the relationships with the coaching staff and how comfortable I am with the school,” Smith said.
The 6-foot-1, 165-pounder has close relationships with Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt from his days at Georgia and Alabama assistant director of player personnel Sam Pettito. Petitto has been in Smith’s life for years now. It’s one of the main reasons why many people in the recruiting industry believe that when Smith makes a final decision, he’ll choose the Crimson Tide.
Jerry Jeudy, four-star, Pompano Beach, Fla.
At one point, Jerry Jeudy named Alabama as his top school, but things have changed for the wide receiver.
Jeudy, a four-star prospect from Deerfield Beach (Fla.) High School, told SEC Country’s Zach Abolverdi at Nike’s “The Opening” regional camp in Miami a few weeks ago that Alabama no longer leads for him, but it’s nothing Crimson Tide fans should worry about.
“I don’t have a leader,” Jeudy said. “All of the schools are equal right now, but Alabama is a lovely school. Every time I go up there, they treat me like family.”
Along with Alabama, the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder mentioned Tennessee, Florida, Miami, Ohio State, Clemson and Southern Cal as other schools that stick out to him at the moment.
Henry Ruggs, four-star, Montgomery, Ala.
Alabama has been in prime position to land Ruggs for a while now, and a commitment to his school of choice is expected before his senior season begins.
The 6-foot, 175-pounder has made numerous visits to Alabama, and it would be surprising if he ended up anywhere else.
Ruggs also holds offers from Florida, Georgia and Michigan, to name a few, but he hasn’t visited any school as often as Alabama. He is currently in Gainesville on a visit.
Other receivers to keep an eye on: Jeff Thomas (four-star, East Saint Louis, Ill.), Trey Blount (four-star, Atlanta), Jeremiah Hollomon (four-star, Covington, Ga.), Tyjon Lindsey (five-star, Corona, Calif.)
Can you name someone who might commit in the next month or so?
Most of Alabama’s targets are planning on taking several more months before they make a commitment. But two guys come to mind as possible prospects that could pop come April 30 (a month from now) — Jeudy and four-star linebacker VanDarius Cowan.
Jeudy is expected to visit Alabama for A-Day (April 16) and it would not be a surprise if he ends up committing during the trip. For one, he’d follow in the footsteps of Calvin Ridley, who committed at A-Day two years ago. As I mentioned earlier, Alabama is in desperate need of some more receivers and having Jeudy on board this early would be a good start for the Tide’s receiving corps in 2017. You can guarantee that coaches will be trying hard to get Jeudy on board if he does make that visit.
Cowan may be a surprise to see on this list, but hear me out on why I’m including him. I recently asked him for an interview, and he told me that he specifically wanted to wait until April 8 — the day he visits Alabama. I’ve never had a recruit tell me he doesn’t want to talk until he visits a school. That definitely raised my eyebrows. Cowan is currently committed to Florida State, but Alabama has been in the mix for a while now. He’s a priority to this staff and it would not surprise me at all if he ends up flipping on that day.
Is this the year Alabama focuses more on in-state talent?
Alabama signed six players from the Yellowhammer State last season, the fewest its signed since 2011. One reason for that was because the talent level, as far as the amount of blue-chip prospects (only seven four- or five-star players) are concerned, was not top heavy.
This year, there are 14 blue-chip prospects in Alabama, and the Crimson Tide are recruiting several of them.
Alabama already has two in-state commits from four-star athlete Chadarius Townsend (Tanner, Ala.) and four-star running back Brian Robinson (Tuscaloosa, Ala.). The Tide are in good position with the state’s top prospect, four-star wide receiver Collins; four-star offensive tackle Austin Troxell (Madison, Ala.); four-star offensive tackle Kendall Randolph (Madison, Ala.), four-star defensive end LaBryan Ray (Madison, Ala.), four-star wide receiver Ruggs, four-star linebacker Tadarian Moultry (Birmingham, Ala.), three-star linebacker Monty Rice (Madison, Ala.), three-star defensive end Justin Thomas (Spanish Fort, Ala.) and three-star linebacker K.J. Britt (Oxford, Ala.).
That’s 11 prospects in-state that Alabama is high on, and the feeling is mutual from those players, too. The talent level this year in the state is the highest it has been in years, and that’s going to help Alabama out tremendously when National Signing Day 2017 rolls around.
Of the offered quarterbacks, what order do you believe Alabama wants them in?
Alabama lost its Class of 2017 quarterback after Jake Fromm de-committed and flipped to Georgia. Since then, Alabama offered three quarterbacks and re-affirmed an offer to one.
Seven quarterbacks in the 2017 recruiting class claim offers from Alabama, in no particular order: Davis Mills (Norcross, Ga.), Bailey Hockman (Powder Springs, Ga.), Tua Tagovailoa (Honolulu), Fromm (Warner Robins, Ga.), Tristan Gebbia (Calabasas, Calif.), Jake Bentley (Opelika, Ala.) and Lowell Narcisse (St. James, La.). All seven are four-star prospects.
Mills (Stanford), Fromm (Georgia) and Bentley (South Carolina) are currently committed to other programs. I believe those three are locked into their programs and there’s going to be nothing other teams will be able to do in order to flip them. That currently leaves four quarterbacks for Alabama. Two of those four, Gebbia and Narcisse, have not been associated with Alabama in months.
That really leaves two guys currently on Alabama’s radar, Tagovailoa and Hockman.
I think Alabama’s No. 1 target at quarterback right now is Tagovailoa. He was the first quarterback the team offered after Fromm’s de-commitment. The only issue is the fact that he lives more than 4,000 miles away from Bryant-Denny Stadium. SEC Country talked to him after he included Alabama in his top eight, and the interest in the Crimson Tide is real.
“I didn’t even know I was in Alabama’s range to get offered. It says a lot for them to go this far for someone like me,” Tagovailoa said. “I really do take this into consideration because it’s something that is very meaningful because Nick Saban has taken almost everyone that he has recruited to a national championship. That says a lot about his program.”
Alabama is also in good position with Tagovailoa because of Saban’s religious beliefs. He made it clear that he needs to connect with a coach, spiritually, in order to consider that program.
“Coach Saban has talked to us and his beliefs are God first before anything,” Tagovailoa said. “Every school is going to have good academics. Every school is going to have good football. But when you have a coach like Saban, who believes in God and is a defending champion, that makes it even more special.”
Now with Hockman, he does have Alabama in his top five along with Tennessee, North Carolina, Florida State and Auburn. He explained to SEC Country why the Tide are in the mix.
“They just played in a national championship on the biggest stage,” Hockman said. “If you go there, you’re going to get drafted, most likely. They’re just a really good team and they have great coaches.”
Hockman, who was originally committed to Georgia, chose the Bulldogs over the Crimson Tide last year.
I think there’s definitely a gap between Tagovailoa and Hockman. But until Tagovailoa visits — he’s planning an official visit to Alabama — it may be hard to earn his commitment with him being in Hawaii.
If you had to predict the 2017 recruiting class right now, who would be some of the big names in it?
We are 11 months away from National Signing Day, so these names will change drastically over the next several months.
I think there’s a good chance Alabama ends up with three of the nation’s top five players. The Crimson Tide already have a commitment from the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit in running back Najee Harris (Antioch, Calif.) and are in very good position with outside linebacker Dylan Moses (Bradenton, Fla.), the No. 2 recruit, and defensive tackle Marvin Wilson (Bellaire, Texas), the No. 4 recruit.
Moses lists Alabama as his leader, and has done so since late December. Here’s what he told SEC Country as to why Alabama is on top.
“They lead because of their defense,” Moses told SEC Country. “For me, I see myself in it, thriving and being pushed to the absolute limit. I also think Nick Saban is a fantastic coach and can adapt to any situation. If I could learn everything he has to teach me and master it, I feel like I can improve not only as a great player but later on as a better man as well. It’s not just about football with him.”
His visit Monday to Alabama reassured the Tide’s standing at No. 1.
Still, it’s going to be an intense battle with LSU when it comes to Moses’ signature. He was committed to LSU before backing off of his pledge last summer, but he’s still extremely close to the Tigers coaching staff, specifically Les Miles. It also helps LSU that he’s from Baton Rouge.
Wilson’s recruitment may also come down to Alabama and LSU. He hasn’t released a top five yet, but he told SEC Country that those two schools are already cemented as finalists.
“Those are going to be the two schools that will be there until the end,” Wilson told Jeff Sentell of SEC Country. “I already know that. I don’t have a set Top 5 or a Top 10, but if I did I know those two schools would be in there.”
He expanded on why he’s so high on Alabama.
“I really like the family environment at Alabama,” Wilson said. “It is like that home environment, but it is a united family environment because you know everybody hates Alabama because they win so much. If you don’t have it together, then you can’t succeed there. They grind it out together and work real hard to overcome all that stuff.”
Currently, Harris’ commitment level to Alabama is unknown. He’s a unique recruit. He doesn’t have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — the same social media platforms where recruits tell the world about how many offers they have, where they’re visiting, etc. Harris doesn’t do any of that.
He does visit other schools though and will continue to do so. He has visited UCLA and Southern Cal numerous times. He wants to visit Ohio State and Notre Dame, too.
He’s said that his commitment to Alabama is solid, but just how solid remains to be seen.
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Chris Kirschner covers Alabama football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Bryant-Denny.