Alabama holds commitments from 21 players in the 2017 class with several important spots still up for grabs as we lead up to National Signing Day.
Currently, the Tide have the nation’s No. 2 class behind Ohio State. It’s going to be tough for Alabama to get its seventh straight recruiting crown because Ohio State is projected to land more 5-star prospects than Alabama. The Tide also have commitments from two specialists, which hurt Alabama’s overall ranking because special teams players are often ranked low.
Even if Alabama misses out on the top spot in the rankings, this class is shaping up to be excellent with several big needs expected to be filled by some of the nation’s top players.
Some of the top players Alabama will lose after the season include: safety Eddie Jackson, linebacker Reuben Foster, wide receiver Gehrig Dieter, linebacker Ryan Anderson, defensive lineman Dakota Ball, offensive guard Alphonse Taylor, defensive lineman Dalvin Tomlinson, linebacker Tim Williams, tight end O.J. Howard and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen. We also expect offensive tackle Cam Robinson to enter the NFL draft, as he’s expected to be chosen early in the first round. Defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand could potentially declare even though he hasn’t produced much for Alabama. Hand has all of the skills necessary to translate to the NFL.
Alabama could possibly lose five or six contributors of its front seven on defense, which makes those two position groups the main focus in this year’s recruiting class.
Out of Alabama’s current and expected commitments in the 2017 class, here are the most important:
Short term: Most important recruit
He’s not committed yet, but I strongly believe 4-star defensive end LaBryan Ray from James Clemens High School (Madison, Ala.) will be in Alabama’s class come signing day.
Ray is certainly the Tide’s top priority in the state of Alabama, and I can’t see them missing on him with his teammate, 3-star defensive back Kyriq McDonald and friend, 4-star offensive guard Kendall Randolph, committed to Alabama. Ray has also visited Tuscaloosa much more than any other school he’s considering. Tennessee is Alabama’s top competition for Ray, and the good news for the Tide is that the Volunteers have suddenly turned into quite a mess over the past several weeks.
The main reason why Ray should be the most important short-term recruit is because of the depth on the defensive line heading into next year. Alabama will lose both of its starting defensive ends in Tomlinson and Allen. It could also lose Hand, as mentioned above. Ray has the ability to make an immediate impact for Alabama’s defense.
Prior to his team’s first-round playoff game this past Friday, Ray had 99 tackles, 19 of those for a loss, 11 sacks, 13 quarterback hurries, four pass deflections, a blocked punt and a touchdown. That production from a defensive lineman is exactly what Alabama needs next year.
Long term: Most important recruit
It’s very possible that 5-star offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood from Booker T. Washington High School (Pensacola, Fla.) starts next year for Alabama. With Cam Robinson likely gone, Leatherwood could find himself playing one of the tackle positions.
But looking down the road, it’s very clear that Leatherwood is likely on his way to being the next great offensive lineman for Alabama. He’s already built like a future first-round draft pick and he’s only going to get stronger once he gets in strength coach Scott Cochran’s weight program. He stands at 6-foot-6 and weighs 327 pounds. The Under Armour All-American possesses a quick kick step and a powerful punch, as he showcased this summer at Nike’s The Opening camp where he dominated several highly rated defensive line recruits.
The nation’s No. 7 overall recruit is very raw at the position. He’s only played on the offensive line for a couple of years now, so what he’s been able to achieve in a short time is remarkable. He’s only going to get better once offensive line coach Mario Cristobal gets him in Tuscaloosa.
Left tackle is arguably the most important position on offense outside of the quarterback, and Leatherwood looks to be the future at the position for Alabama for years to come.
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
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