Spring practice began Friday, and from the amount of recruits Alabama hosted, you would have thought the team was about to square off against Auburn in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The Crimson Tide hosted more than 20 elite prospects on campus and several of them are likely to end up committing to Alabama when they make their commitment.
Here’s a recap of all the weekend’s action and Alabama’s status with some of those marquee visitors:
Alabama commit Xavier McKinney didn’t really know how big of a priority he was before taking a trip to Tuscaloosa Friday for the start of spring practice.
There was a point where McKinney, a four-star safety from Roswell (Ga.) High School, wasn’t hearing from the Crimson Tide coaches. After this trip to Alabama though, he said it reinforced his commitment to the Tide.
“I needed this trip. It was good for me to take,” McKinney told SEC Country. “It was good for me to know that they still want me there, tremendously, as well as my family.”
McKinney has taken several trips to Georgia since coach Kirby Smart was hired. And while the amount of trips to see the Bulldogs could be concerning to Alabama fans, McKinney does not come off as someone who is actually thinking about flipping or de-committing.
In fact, when asked if de-committing ever crossed his mind when Alabama wasn’t paying him too much attention, McKinney said it had not. He doesn’t want to be one of those recruits that backs off a commitment.
Crimson Tide fans can expect him to take more visits, but his commitment to Alabama seems firm.
Markail Benton, a four-star outside linebacker from Central High School (Phenix City, Ala.), was shown Alabama’s linebacker big board on his most recent trip to Alabama and stared at it in disbelief.
“I don’t know if they were supposed to show me that, but I was at the top,” Benton told SEC Country. “They were just telling me they needed me badly and, as I saw, they need linebackers.
“I was kind of shocked to see the board. Most people don’t have the opportunity to say they are at the top of Alabama’s list.”
That recruiting tactic definitely made an impact on Benton, who is the No. 2 overall prospect in the state of Alabama. You could hear it in his voice how genuinely happy and excited he was knowing just how big of a priority he is to the reigning national champions.
Most in the recruiting industry believe Benton is a lock to go to Auburn. According to his 247Sports Crystal Ball, 100 percent of recruiting analysts believe he’ll commit to the Tigers.
The Under Armour All-American has visited Auburn countless times, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s committing there. After all, it is just a quick 30 minute drive to the campus.
Just this last year, five-star defensive tackle Derrick Brown, who ended up committing to Auburn, made countless trips to Georgia. He was there almost every single week and most believed he was a slam dunk for the Bulldogs. On signing day, Brown chose the Tigers.
So just because Benton is going to continue to visit Auburn several more times, his interest in Alabama is very high. He tentatively scheduled a return trip to Tuscaloosa next weekend with his family and will be in attendance for the spring game.
While Benton may be the No. 1 priority at outside linebacker, Tadarian Moultry may be the top choice at inside linebacker.
Moultry, a four-star prospect from Jackson-Olin High School (Birmingham, Ala.), told SEC Country that he was told Friday at spring practice that he is Alabama’s guy at inside linebacker.
“Nick Saban was like you’re a huge target for us,” Moultry said. “He just looked at me and smiled and said ‘that’s my baby.’ All of his linebackers are like his babies.”
Heading into his visit to Alabama this past Friday, Auburn was atop Moultry’s leaders, but now the two in-state rivals are tied.
When the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder ends up making his commitment, it should come down to these two schools.
He would like to play for a program that is family-oriented, and thinks Auburn has a better environment than Alabama. But, after this past trip to Tuscaloosa, Moultry believes Alabama is also family-oriented, and he thinks the Crimson Tide offer him the best opportunity to make it to the NFL.
Malik Cunningham plays quarterback for his high school, but when he attended Alabama’s practice last Friday, he was focused on the Crimson Tide’s safeties.
Cunningham, a three-star athlete from Park Crossing High School (Montgomery, Ala.), doesn’t have an offer from Alabama yet, but if he gets the chance to play for the Tide, it will come at safety.
He’s confident he will receive an offer soon because his strongest relationship with any college coach is with Alabama defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley.
“That was my recruiter at Kentucky so we have a pretty good relationship,” Cunningham told SEC Country. “He was straight-up with me and was like they will be back in the spring and they would offer once they see me work out at safety.”
Cunningham said he would be open to a position change in college. He wants to play a position that will make him see the field the quickest.
If Alabama does end up offering him, expect the Crimson Tide to be one of his top schools.
All ratings and rankings are from 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.