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 is fully on board with Alabama
After lots of ups and downs and twists and turns with Najee Harris’ recruitment, the 5-star running back flew from San Antonio, Texas, after the U.S. Army All-American Bowl to Birmingham, Ala., with Alabama quarterback commit Tua Tagovailoa to begin their college careers at the University of Alabama.
There was lots of uncertainty surrounding Harris’ recruitment, especially over the past month after he took an official visit to Michigan before the dead period went into effect.
So here’s what we know about everything dating back to the start of 2016:
- The concern surrounding Alabama’s program about Harris flipping was legitimate. Not one person close to the school who I talked with about Harris’ recruitment was certain what he would actually do. That was as of Saturday, too.
- There was concern that Harris was going to reopen his recruitment in the spring when he took multiple visits to the California schools. Southern California, California and UCLA were seen as the biggest competitors to flip him at the time.
- Harris visited Alabama last summer for Nick Saban’s football camp, where he spent several days with other Alabama commitments. He actually told the coaching staff at this camp in early June that his commitment was 100 percent solid.
- The 5-star prospect visited Michigan with his mother in August for the team’s cookout. This is when the interest in Michigan became serious. Jim Harbaugh held a satellite camp at Antioch (Calif.) High School, where Harris played, this summer to show him how much he wanted him on his team.
- SEC Country traveled to Northern California in November to meet with people closest to Harris. His trainer, Marcus Malu, one of the most influential people in his life, told me he hoped he stuck with his commitment to Alabama. His mentor, Mori Suesue, another one of the key decision-makers, also told me he hoped he stuck with his commitment.
- His mother told SEC Country after visiting for the Iron Bowl that she was so comfortable in Tuscaloosa.
- Harris and his mother then visited Michigan a few weeks after for an official visit. Things went so well in Ann Arbor, Mich., that Tosh Lupoi, Harris’ primary recruiter at Alabama, actually was passing through the Detroit airport when Harris was supposed to fly home to California. The Tide were very concerned that Harris wasn’t going to Alabama.
- Over the past few weeks, though, after the trips were over, sources close to Harris maintained that he would eventually enroll at Alabama. Harris just wanted to do things his way, which he did. He declined multiple interviews, said he wasn’t sure where we was going, etc.
- A key moment in Harris’ recruitment was when Saban and Lupoi flew to Northern California for their in-home visit. There, Saban and Lupoi met Harris’ mother at work, went to Malu’s gym and had dinner at Harris’ home. Though the Michigan visit went well, that in-home visit with Alabama was the deciding point in this recruitment, according to a source.
- One of the key decision-makers in Harris’ recruitment told SEC Country this past week that Michigan was causing unnecessary drama and “just hating on Alabama.” The source said the Wolverines staff fed some misinformation to reporters.
- Tagovailoa told SEC Country last week that he and Harris were going to fly together to Birmingham. That was confirmed with the Harris camp, but they weren’t too thrilled with Tagovailoa saying that because they wanted Harris to announce his decision his own way. That’s why the conflicting reports on which flight he’d actually get on started to surface over the past few days.
- Everything Tagovailoa said about Harris’ recruitment turned out to be true. They did fly together to Alabama and they will be roommates in Tuscaloosa. There was no reason for Tagovailoa to lie to the media about what he knew.
- A source close to the team said Harris’ recruitment was wrapped up Saturday night. Alabama knew he was flying to Birmingham at that point.
- If the rankings do not change, Harris will be the first No. 1 overall recruit Alabama has signed in the 247Sports composite era, which dates back to 1999.
- This was a wild recruitment to cover, especially because there was so much misinformation to sort through the past few weeks. I stuck with my prediction that Harris would enroll at Alabama because I never heard one thing from anyone in Harris’ camp that suggested Michigan was his choice.
The Aubrey Solomon saga rolls on
There may not be a more unpredictable recruit in the Class of 2017 than 5-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon. He was back to his erratic nature after speaking with our Georgia reporter Jeff Sentell in San Antonio this past Saturday at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Solomon is now down to just four schools: Alabama, Michigan, Georgia and Southern California. And, yes, that’s in order. The Crimson Tide maintain their huge lead, which he told SEC Country about early last week.
But now Michigan is somehow his No. 2 school after saying his recruitment should be considered just an “SEC fight” and after apologizing for trashing the Wolverines program in a video with a Georgia commit. He apologized for his actions. This just goes back to Solomon being all over the place in his recruitment.
He was once going to make his commitment after National Signing Day. He then said he’d definitely announce his decision before March, and now the latest is he’ll make his commitment before February.
“I am probably only to take one more official visit and then commit after that,” Solomon said. “That one will be USC and I might take an official visit to Georgia after that.
“My decision is definitely coming at the end of January,” Solomon said. “For sure. Just a lot of thinking and a lot of praying and talking to my family. Just cutting down the list finally.”
Solomon hung out, for the most part, with the nine Georgia commits in Texas this past week. He admitted that he’s closest with the Bulldogs commitments out of the other three schools he’s considering.
Does he feel that way about any other group of commitments that he might play with?
“Just Najee,” Solomon said. “ Najee Harris. That’s my boy there.”
Does he know his decision yet?
“I have got a good hint but I still have to take that one last visit because USC is really still high on my list and I really want to see what they have to offer.”
Solomon will visit Southern Cal on Jan. 12. That is expected to be his last official visit unless he decides to take one to Georgia. He ended up canceling his official visits to Auburn and Florida after eliminating them from contention.
I still think Alabama is in good shape here. The Crimson Tide have been somewhat confident in landing Solomon after he took his official visit to Tuscaloosa for the Iron Bowl. And, we already know mom is a big fan of Alabama.
Devon Hunter still seriously considering Alabama
Alabama has two of the nation’s top safeties in the country committed to the program for the Class of 2017 in 4-star prospects Xavier McKinney and Daniel Wright. But the Crimson Tide are still recruiting another top defensive back to possibly join that duo.
Devon Hunter, a 4-star prospect from Indian River High School (Chesapeake, Va.), told SEC Country at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl that Alabama remains a factor in his recruitment.
“It’s still serious for me,” Hunter said of his interest level in Alabama. (Outside linebackers) Coach (Tosh) Lupoi and (defensive backs) Coach (Derrick) Ansley recruit me hard. I see how well they coach their players. They speak highly of me. Even though they picked up two safeties, I can still go there and ball out for them.”
The Crimson Tide are not recruiting him as hard as Florida, North Carolina and Virginia Tech, he said. Hunter also said he has the best relationships with the Tar Heels and Hokies staffs. But it’s the in-state program that holds a small edge.
“I would say Virginia Tech has two more pros than anyone else just because they’re the local school and I know a lot of people going there,” Hunter said.
The Army All-American was originally set to announce his commitment on Christmas Eve, but Hunter pushed it back because he wasn’t 100 percent sure where he wanted to go.
“I have this list at my house where I actually have pros and cons on each school,” Hunter said. “The school that has the most pros at the end will be circled at the end. It’s kind of even right now. That’s why I pushed back my decision.”
Hunter, the nation’s No. 4 safety, will take an official visit to Florida on Jan. 13, then Auburn on Jan. 20 before taking his final one to Alabama on Jan. 27. He will not commit on National Signing Day. He said after he visits Tuscaloosa, a commitment will come shortly after that. If Alabama wants to take another defensive back at the time of his commitment, the timing of his visit to Tuscaloosa cannot be any better.
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
Follow Chris on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Bryant-Denny.