With it being the dead period, there sure was lots of Alabama recruiting news to keep track of this weekend. We begin with some major news regarding one of Alabama’s top players on its board.
If Alabama fans had any doubts about whether or not it would land arguably its top target at wide receiver, that uncertainty was put to bed this weekend.
Devonta Smith, a 5-star prospect, according to 247Sports, told Jimmy Smith of NOLA.com that his four finalists are Alabama, Mississippi State, Nebraska and Miami. He’ll announce his commitment Aug. 15.
So why should that group of finalists be considered good news for the Crimson Tide? Well, for one, Florida State and LSU are not included. If anyone was going to beat out Alabama for Smith, it was likely going to be one of those two schools. He has never visited Miami or Nebraska. His last visit to Mississippi State was back in November.
Smith has been on Alabama’s campus several times this year despite him living 300 miles from Tuscaloosa. The other factors that bode well for the Crimson Tide include the following: He is great friends with Alabama freshman cornerback Shyheim Carter, and assistant director of player personnel Sam Petitto coached at Amite (La.) High School, where Smith plays now, when Smith was a child. Petitto was a mentor to Smith when he was younger. Also, Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was Smith’s primary recruiter when he was at Georgia. Petitto and Pruitt were two big reasons why Smith was a former Georgia commit.
The U.S. Army All-American is expected to visit Miami before he makes a commitment, and there is some familiarity with that staff because Mark Richt is now there. But still, it’s going to take something drastic for Smith to not end up an Alabama commit on Aug. 15.
Two weeks prior to Smith’s decision, 4-star Henry Ruggs III will announce his decision on Aug. 1. Expect Ruggs to also choose Alabama. Ruggs and Smith should be considered bulletproof locks.
The Crimson Tide picked up a commitment from one of the nation’s top 10 running backs on Saturday, and it came out of nowhere.
Dameon Pierce, a 2018 4-star prospect from Bainbridge (Ga.) High School, chose the Crimson Tide over the in-state Georgia Bulldogs. Why should that be considered a major win for Alabama? Bainbridge is Georgia coach Kirby Smart’s alma mater. The Bulldogs were very much in the mix.
“Alabama speaks for itself,” Pierce told SEC Country on Friday. “They have a great running backs coach in (Burton) Burns. They are on a level with how I want to do it and how I want to be the best. I want to be great back and Coach Burns can get me there. He’s an excellent coach and I think I fit well in their program.”
The 5-foot-11, 205-pounder already has scored 45 career touchdowns and has either set or tied 14 school records, including five all-time records.
Last season at Bainbridge, Pierce ran for 2,060 yards, averaged 6.7 yards per carry and scored 34 touchdowns. He was clocked at 11.2 in the 100-meter dash this spring and has mid-4.5 40-yard dash speed.
He said it’s going to take something drastic for him to change his mind, but don’t expect Smart to stop recruiting him. Pierce, the nation’s No. 3 running back in 2018, has been compared to Mark Ingram.
A commitment could be on the horizon for big Alabama defensive tackle target Akial Byers.
Byers, a 4-star prospect from Fayetteville, Ark., included Alabama, Ohio State, Mississippi State, Oklahoma and Ole Miss in his top five. The Crimson Tide is the favorite here.
The 6-foot-4, 275-pounder visited Tuscaloosa last month for camp, and according to sources, was one of the top performers.
He is expected back on campus this month with his mother, and if things go well, a commitment could be very much a possibility. He would be Alabama’s first defensive tackle commit in the Class of 2017.
Despite him being from Fayetteville, Arkansas is not in the mix.
Notes & Nuggets:
- One of Alabama’s top defensive back targets, Hamsah Nasirildeen, told SEC Country that three SEC teams — Alabama, South Carolina and Florida — are currently his top schools. Nasirildeen said he frequently changes his mind on those three schools being the lone favorite. He should be considered a plan B option for 5-star safety JaCoby Stevens. The Alabama staff has become more confident over the past several weeks with its chances with Stevens. Before visiting Tuscaloosa a few weeks ago, Alabama did not have much of a chance, as he was thought to be a lock for Georgia. It now can be considered a two-team race with Georgia and Alabama fighting it out for Stevens.
- The nation’s top all-purpose running back, D’Andre Swift, will visit Alabama in two weeks. The 5-star prospect is one of the Crimson Tide’s running back targets, but he is leaning more toward Georgia at this time. There’s time to change his mind, though, because he will announce a commitment in August.
- One of the top offensive tackles in the country, Jedrick Wills, included Alabama in his top 8. The Crimson Tide are not strongly pursuing Wills at the moment, as 5-star Isaiah Wilson and 4-star Trey Smith are the priority uncommitted tackles on the board right now.
SEC Country on the road
- I will head to Beaverton, Ore., Tuesday afternoon for “The Opening,” which is the most prestigious invitational camp for high school football players. Alabama will have 7 commits participating in the event and loads of top targets. Readers can expect to receive tons of Crimson Tide recruiting coverage this week. You should follow me on Twitter (that info is below) for up-to-date and instant coverage from the event.
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.