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.
Who will Alabama land in the Class of 2017?
It’s going to be a battle for Alabama in order for it to win its seventh straight recruiting championship.
Ohio State currently has the No. 1 class in the country with six 5-star commits on board. That number could approach 10 by the time National Signing Day rolls around in February. Barring any major rankings changes, Alabama won’t approach that number of 5-star commits in its class, which will likely mean the highest the Tide will be ranked is No. 2. There’s nothing wrong with that at all when you factor in Alabama has two specialists committed, which lowers the class’ overall rankings.
We’re several months away from February’s signing day, but with the summer camps and visits completed, here’s the best guess of who will end up in Alabama’s class.
***indicates current commitment
***Tua Tagovailoa, 5-star, Honolulu
***Mac Jones, 4-star, Jacksonville, Fla.
Tagovailoa was bumped up to a 5-star ranking earlier this week and committed to play in the Army All-American game. His commitment is vital for the future success of Alabama football, and I do not expect him to deviate from his decision. He is planning on taking other visits, but loyalty is very important to the Tagovailoa family.
Jones has shut down his recruitment. He will not visit any other schools.
Running back (2)
***Najee Harris, 5-star, Antioch, Calif.
***Brian Robinson, 4-star, Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Harris is the big fish in this group. The nation’s No. 1 player has been committed to Alabama for more than a year now, but he has continued to hear other schools’ recruiting pitches. Michigan recently hosted the running back and his mother. A source close to him told SEC Country that “Obama couldn’t change his mind” when discussing whether fans have to worry about him decommitting. Harris is enamored with Alabama’s running backs history and loves strength coach Scott Cochran. He’s a workout freak and there aren’t many better strength coaches in football than Cochran.
Robinson grew up an Alabama fan, and almost every single one of his family members are Tide fans.
Wide receiver (4)
***Jerry Jeudy, 4-star, Pompano Beach, Fla.
***Tyrell Shavers, 4-star, Lewisville, Texas
Henry Ruggs, 4-star, Montgomery, Ala.
Devonta Smith, 4-star, Amite, La.
It came as no shock when Jeudy announced his commitment to Alabama last month. He’s good friends with Tide wide receiver Calvin Ridley and has loved Alabama for years now.
Shavers is not going to take visits to other schools. His recruitment is over and he’ll be signing with Alabama.
Ruggs was supposed to announce his commitment on Aug. 1, but decided to push back his decision. That was a surprise because Alabama was the overwhelming favorite. Trips to Penn State and Auburn made him think twice about his announcement. He is still expected to pick Alabama whenever he announces his commitment.
Like Ruggs, Smith also decided to wait out his decision. Originally supposed to make a commitment Aug. 15, Smith will now announce on National Signing Day. This definitely allows his two other finalists, LSU and Miami, to make a big push for him. But according to sources, Smith still favors Alabama behind the scenes.
Tight end (2)
***Kedrick James, 3-star, Waco, Texas
Major Tennison, 3-star, Bullard, Texas
James committed to Alabama seemingly out of nowhere, but his commitment is 100 percent solid. He does not plan on taking additional visits.
Tennison was on commit watch last month when he visited for the team’s invite-only cookout, but he did not pull the trigger. Since then, he has gone silent with his recruitment, as he’s focusing on his senior season. Tennison is still very high on Alabama, according to sources, and the Tide should be considered the favorites at this time.
Offensive line (5)
***Alex Leatherwood, 5-star tackle, Pensacola, Fla.
***Elliot Baker, 4-star tackle, San Francisco
***Kendall Randolph, 4-star guard, Madison, Ala.
***Hunter Brannon, 3-star guard, Cullman, Ala.
Jedrick Wills, 4-star tackle, Lexington, Ky.
Leatherwood is one of this class’ best recruiters even with him taking visits elsewhere. He has said Florida is his No. 2 school for quite some time now, but the Gators are not a legitimate threat at flipping at this point. He is rock solid with his commitment.
Baker, the City of San Francisco College prospect, has shut down his recruitment. No more visits for him. He is locked in with his commitment.
Randolph is the brother of former Alabama basketball star Levi Randolph. He is set with Alabama.
Brannon is not expected to take any other visits. He’s also rolling with the Tide.
Wills is the only uncommitted prospect out of this group. He was supposed to announce his commitment two weeks ago but has since pushed it back to an unknown date. He could announce his decision any day now. Alabama has been the presumptive favorite for more than a month now. But if he continues to push his decision back further, one has to wonder whether he’s got other schools on his mind.
Defensive line (4)
***Akial Byers, 4-star defensive tackle, Fayetteville, Ark.
Elijah Conliffe, 4-star defensive tackle, Hampton, Va.
LaBryan Ray, 4-star defensive end, Madison, Ala.
Justin Thomas, 3-star defensive end, Mobile, Ala.
Byers rarely talks to the media and is silent about his recruitment. He will take five official visits, but according to someone close to his recruitment, he remains solid with Alabama.
Conliffe is expected to visit Alabama in the next two weeks, and a commitment could happen if he ends up making that trip. He performed well at Alabama’s camp this summer, which led to him receiving an offer. He has named Alabama his leader for the past month now.
Ray’s teammate Kyriq McDonald committed to Alabama earlier this month, and that definitely helps the Tide’s chances of landing the state’s top prospect. Ray has visited Tuscaloosa numerous times and is expected back on campus for the Western Kentucky game. It would be a giant shock if Ray doesn’t wind up in Alabama’s class.
Thomas just committed to LSU a few weeks ago, but I am predicting a flip in the future. Now, I’m not confident with this one, but a source close to the team did tell me recently that the Tide really like Thomas’ game, but they are waiting to see who joins this defensive line class. I can see Alabama making a big push for the Tide legacy as we get closer to signing day.
***Markail Benton, 4-star, Phenix City, Ala.
***VanDarius Cowan, 4-star, Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
***Gary Johnson, 4-star, Dodge City, Kan.
Jarez Parks, 4-star, Sebastian, Fla.
Benton was long thought of as a surefire bet for Auburn’s class. About a month prior to him announcing his commitment, Alabama picked up a ton of steam and eventually landed the state’s No. 2 prospect. He has gone back and fourth about taking visits elsewhere, but he is a very strong commit.
Cowan is one of the leaders of this recruiting class. He is definitely the most vocal of the group. He surprised many when he announced that he was going to take all five official visits. Prior to that, he was adamant that Alabama was the only school he’d continue visiting. He has decommitted twice from Florida State, but I can’t see him ever decommitting from Alabama.
Johnson is someone I’m not confident about when it comes to whether he’ll stick with his commitment. He has told SEC Country that Alabama is his dream school, yet he is only 70 percent committed to the school at this point. What gives? He will take visits elsewhere and it will be a battle to hold on to his recruitment. Make no mistake about it, though: Alabama wants to hold on to this junior college prospect.
Parks’ interest in Alabama has skyrocketed over the past month ever since he visited Tuscaloosa for the team’s invite-only cookout. According to a source close to his recruitment, he nearly committed on that trip. The Tide quietly hold a lead for the nation’s No. 4 defensive end. He is listed as a linebacker here because Alabama is recruiting him at JACK, which is a hybrid of defensive end and outside linebacker.
Defensive back (4)
***Jhavonte Dean, 4-star cornerback, Brenham, Texas
***Kyriq McDonald, 3-star cornerback, Madison, Ala.
Shaun Wade, 5-star cornerback, Jacksonville, Fla.
Todd Harris, 4-star safety, Plaquemine, La.
Dean, who attends Blinn College, committed to Alabama last month and is firm with his decision. He has not decided whether he will take official visits to other schools. It may get interesting for him if he decides to take a trip to Miami because he is from South Florida.
McDonald committed to Alabama earlier this month in a commitment video with Kendall Randolph. As soon as the defensive back picked up an offer from Alabama this summer, he was bound to become a part of the Crimson Tide family, sooner rather than later. Now, it’s a waiting game to see whether his James Clemens High School teammate LaBryan Ray will join him in Alabama’s class. McDonald is expected to play all over the place for Alabama — free and strong safety, cornerback and nickelback.
I have said for several months now that I believe Wade ultimately will flip his commitment from Ohio State to Alabama. The majority of his family lives in the Montgomery area and his mother is a huge Tide fan. If he doesn’t go to Ohio State, he will go to Alabama. Forget all that talk from him about other schools. It’s a two-school race. Alabama is really the only other school in the country that can provide what Ohio State can (a legendary coach at the helm, competing for championships every year and sending multiple players to the league every draft). Wade can get the same things he can at Ohio State at Alabama, and the school happens to be close to family.
Harris was likely going to commit to LSU at some point, but 5-star safety JaCoby Stevens re-committed to the Tigers. LSU now has two elite-level safeties in its class. Will Harris want to be the third safety in that group? That’s the biggest question. If he does, then he’ll be a Tiger. If not, Alabama is the team that will get his signature.
***Chadarius Townsend, 4-star, Tanner, Ala.
Townsend is still being pursued by other schools, and he’s told SEC Country that he wants to take other visits. He visited Florida and Georgia this summer, but Alabama has been Townsend’s dream school since he was a little kid. Townsend is a true 4.4 40-yard-dash guy. He can play either corner or wide receiver in college. I’d expect him to get looks at receiver first because of how electric he is with the ball in his hands. He wants to be a kick and punt returner, too.
Special teams (2)
***Brandon Ruiz, 3-star kicker, Gilbert, Ariz.
***Thomas Fletcher, 2-star long snapper, Bradenton, Fla.
Both of Alabama’s specialist commitments have said they do not plan on taking any additional visits to schools not located in Tuscaloosa. They are locked in with their commitments.
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.