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.
Najee Harris goes way back with Steve Sarkisian
Arguably the two most important commitments in Alabama’s Class of 2017, 5-star running back Najee Harris and 4-star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, have a long-standing relationship with new Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian.
There was a time when many in the recruiting industry thought both of those players would wind up playing for Southern California, which is where Sarkisian was coaching before he came to Alabama last season. Harris’ and Tagovailoa’s relationship with Sarkisian was a big factor for why the Trojans were viewed as having a good chance at landing the recruits.
Fast forward, and now there are no other commitments in Alabama’s Class of 2017 who were more positively impacted by the Sarkisian hire than Harris and Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa already spoke with SEC Country about his thoughts on Sarkisian, and a source close to Harris’ recruitment told SEC Country about being thrilled that Sarkisian is getting a second chance.
“Coach Sark is a really good person,” the source said. “We’ve got nothing but love for coach Sark — Najee also.”
Again, Harris and the people closest to him are much closer to Alabama outside linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi than Sarkisian. Several people close to Harris credit Lupoi for being one of the first college coaches to believe in Harris’ abilities before he became the nation’s No. 1 overall recruit.
Lupoi has been recruiting Harris since the Army All-American was in the eighth grade — dating back to his days as an assistant at the University of Washington. That relationship with Lupoi is extremely important when talking about Harris’ recruitment. Harris’ mother, Tianna Hicks, has told SEC Country before that she is very comfortable with sending her son cross country to Tuscaloosa because of her relationship with Lupoi.
“That’s family. He’s my boy. That’s my boy,” Hicks said last month. “We’re very close with him. He has a great personality. He really is looking out for Najee, as far as keeping in touch and making sure he is doing the things needed to get where he wants to be, so I appreciate him.”
The source who spoke about Sarkisian said when Lupoi and Nick Saban traveled to Antioch, Calif., to visit Harris at his home and his mother at work two weeks ago believes that visit may have sealed up his commitment to Alabama. But, he also acknowledged that Harris had a great visit to Michigan and is still thinking things through. So, it’s not a done deal just yet. But it sounds like Alabama still is in good shape.
Despite the momentum Michigan has gained, due in part to Harris’ outstanding relationship with Harbaugh, the length of time he’s known Alabama’s coaches seems to be a big hurdle for the Wolverines to surmount if they were to flip his commitment.
“Alabama has been in the picture before this kid became somebody,” the source said. “Everyone else came in after all of the hype started to surround him. People can get mad at Alabama all they want, but they were one of the first schools to believe in him.”
Harris committed to the Crimson Tide in April of 2015 on the first visit he ever made to Tuscaloosa. I still believe the relationships he, his family and coaches have made with the Alabama staff are going to be a lot to overcome for Michigan or any of the California schools he’s considering. Until I hear anything significant to make me believe Alabama won’t be the school he chooses, I’m sticking with my prediction that the Crimson Tide hold on to him.
And, remember, he is an early enrollee, so this recruitment will officially end in a few weeks.
Mac Jones speaks with Sarkisian
Another one of Alabama’s most important commitments has already spoken with Sarkisian — 4-star quarterback Mac Jones. Sarkisian and Jones spoke over the phone on Saturday, just one day after being named the next Tide offensive coordinator.
There have been several rumors on the Internet regarding the status of Jones’ commitment to Alabama. He recently picked up an Oklahoma State offer, plus Missouri and Kentucky have still been recruiting Jones consistently over the past several months. There’s also the notion that some people feel like Jones is the “second quarterback” in the Class of 2017 because of the commitment of Tagovailoa. He doesn’t listen to the noise, though.
“I still feel really comfortable with Alabama,” Jones told SEC Country. “I don’t know why people think I’ve been changing. Schools are coming after me and I’m not going to tell them don’t do that. I’m going to listen to people because I think it’s the right thing, but I feel comfortable with Alabama.”
Jones said he felt even more comfortable with attending Alabama after his conversation with Sarkisian. The two didn’t talk much football and how he views the recruit in his offense moving forward. The conversation focused on just getting to know each other.
The nation’s No. 14 pro-style quarterback said Sarkisian checked off two boxes that are very important to him in the recruiting process.
“It seems like he’s very honest and is passionate about the game,” Jones said of Sarkisian. “He sounded so grateful for his second chance. That showed me that he could be a father-like figure to me when I get there. He’ll be able to help me when things get tough.
“Just talking to him, he seems like a laid back and chill type of coach. That’s good to have because it’s already stressful enough being a quarterback. It seems like he’ll be a person where I can just talk to, be with and help with any problems I may have.”
One of those problems Jones is currently going through is fighting Bolles High School (Jacksonville, Fla.) on allowing him to graduate early so he can get to Alabama in January. It’s been known for several months now that Jones was likely not going to be an early enrollee because Bolles doesn’t allow its students to graduate in December. That hasn’t stopped him from trying.
If he can’t find a way to leave high school in the coming weeks, Jones will just enroll at Alabama in May. But even with the extra time in his recruitment, there shouldn’t be any cause for concern whether he’ll stick with the Tide until signing day.
Missouri and Kentucky are the schools in contact with Jones the most. Both SEC schools have presented their cases to him, but he said neither have negatively recruited Alabama.
“They are just presenting their cases and showing me who’s on their roster and how it’s a good scenario for me,” Jones said. “They never bash Alabama or anything. They just tell me that I’m a good player and they’ll see how I compete if I choose their school.”
Jones will take his official visit to Alabama next month, but the date hasn’t been locked in yet. He’s already visited Kentucky before — as he was originally committed to the school — and he doesn’t plan on going back next month. As far as a possible visit to Missouri? That doesn’t seem likely either.
“I’ve had the offer for a while and if I wanted to visit, I probably would have done it by now,” Jones said. “I don’t feel like I’ll visit anywhere else.”
He’s 100 percent committed to Alabama. Check out his senior highlights below:
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
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