Six players from the state of Alabama signed with the Crimson Tide in 2016. There’s a good chance that number will expand in 2017.
Currently, Alabama has two in-state commits: four-star athlete Chadarius Townsend (Tanner, Ala.) and four-star running back Brian Robinson (Tuscaloosa, Ala.).
The quantity of overall talent in the Yellowhammer State for 2017 appears to be much greater than last year. In 2016, the state produced only seven blue-chip prospects (four- or five-star players). There are already 14 this year, which should bode well for the Crimson Tide.
Here are five players from the state most likely to end up with Alabama when signing day rolls around.
Nico Collins, four-star wide receiver, Clay-Chalkville (Pinson, Ala.)
Collins, the No. 1 prospect in the state, has made multiple visits to Tuscaloosa and is the former teammate of 2016 wide receiver signee T.J. Simmons.
The 6-foot-5, 195-pounder has said Alabama, Georgia, Auburn and Ole Miss, among others, are recruiting him the hardest.
With Alabama needing to sign multiple receivers this class after signing just two in 2016, the Crimson Tide are not going to let the state’s top prospect cross the border without making him one of their top priorities.
Kendall Randolph, four-star offensive tackle, Bob Jones (Madison, Ala.)
Randolph is expected to announce his top-five choices soon, and Alabama will likely make the cut when he puts out that list. The 6-foot-5, 270-pounder is intrigued by Alabama’s consistent ability to produce NFL offensive linemen.
“The main thing about Alabama is they are really good about developing players and getting them to the next level,” Randolph said. “The thing that stands out to me about Alabama is how they get you ready for life after football, too. It’s a great aspect of their school.”
The Crimson Tide will be in it until the end, along with in-state rival Auburn. Those two schools look to be the current favorites.
LaBryan Ray, four-star defensive end, James Clemens (Madison, Ala.)
One of the fastest-rising prospects has already said that he can see himself playing for Alabama.
“Growing up, that was one of the teams I watched,” Ray said. “I’m an in-state kid, and I watched Alabama and Auburn play. That was an important (offer).”
When he picked up his offer from Alabama in February, Ray had the opportunity to speak with coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. The defensive end said Saban’s message to him was more about what the school can offer beyond football.
“Coach Saban was talking about their success academically and football-wise, too,” Ray said. “Academics are very important to me. And of course football-wise, I would like to find a place that feels like home to me. That’s very important.”
The 6-foot-5, 283-pound future engineering major said Saban and Pruitt view him as a defensive end with the versatility to also play defensive tackle.
Henry Ruggs, four-star wide receiver, Robert E. Lee (Montgomery, Ala.)
Alabama has been in prime position to land Ruggs for a while now, and a commitment to his school of choice is expected before his senior season begins.
The 6-foot, 175-pounder has made numerous visits to Alabama, and it would be surprising if he ended up anywhere else.
Ruggs also holds offers from Florida, Georgia and Michigan, to name a few, but he hasn’t visited any school as often as Alabama.
Justin Thomas, three-star defensive end, Spanish Fort (Spanish Fort, Ala.)
Thomas’ first SEC school offer came from Alabama. His father, Atlas Herrion, played for Alabama in the early 2000s, so Thomas is familiar with the program.
“It means a lot to pick up an offer from Alabama,” Thomas told SEC Country in February. “It’s an in-state college and it’s my dad’s alma mater. It means so much to me to have them give me a chance.”
His father ended up playing in the NFL for a short period before joining the Arena Football League. Thomas’ dad has played a big role in his son’s recruitment, but he isn’t pushing him to attend the school he did 15 years ago.
“It doesn’t really weigh on my mind,” Thomas said when asked if playing at his father’s alma mater will be a deciding factor in his decision. “It’s my decision on which school I want to go to.
“(My father) has been helping me a lot. He just tells me to enjoy the ride and to stay humble because there are a lot more offers coming.”
Thomas finished with 55 tackles and 11 sacks in his junior season.
All rankings are provided by 247Sports composite.
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.