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Alabama’s commits are letting Ruggs know they want him to join
PHENIX CITY, Ala. — Henry Ruggs may be the fastest wide receiver in the country.
Ruggs, a 4-star prospect from Robert E. Lee High School (Montgomery, Ala.), accounted for 269 total yards and 3 touchdowns on Friday night. What’s more impressive about those stats is that a lot of that yardage came when Central High School’s defense knew the ball was coming his way.
It’s no wonder why Alabama views Ruggs as one of the most explosive recruits in the country and why he remains a top priority for the Tide.
The 6-foot, 175-pound prospect still has Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State and Penn State in his top 5, and he said those are the only schools he’s focusing on at this point. Those five schools are likely going to get his five official visits.
Alabama may have a slight advantage in one area — relationships with other commitments. Four-star linebacker commit Markail Benton and 4-star quarterback commit Mac Jones are spearheading the recruitment of Ruggs to Alabama.
“The Alabama recruits are coming at me the hardest,” Ruggs told SEC Country. “I talk to those guys more than anyone. I talk to Markail a lot because I’m close to him and Mac (Jones). He tells me that ‘Bama is home.”
Ruggs was originally going to make his commitment on Aug. 1, but he decided to push back his decision to an unscheduled date because he was not 100 percent ready to announce one, he said.
Now, a decision is likely going to come in December or January. If he had made his commitment back in August, it looked like Alabama was the slam dunk choice. Things are less clear now, but the Tide are still being considered very heavily.
“I’m not saying they are a leader or anything like that or toward the bottom, but they are definitely in the mix,” Ruggs said. “Outside of football, everybody just sticks together as a family there. I like that a lot.
“It’s a brotherhood there, and it’s great knowing that the school is right down the road from home, so I’m not too far away from family.”
Alabama, Florida and Florida State are the schools recruiting him the hardest at the moment. An interesting omission is Auburn, who was thought of as the school which seemed to get some momentum over the past several months.
Though the Tigers are not recruiting him the hardest, he’s still interested in Auburn.
“That’s another in-state school that’s right down the road,” Ruggs said. “Just like Alabama, they have a very homely environment. It’s like 45 minutes way from home, so it’s an easy drive. I have a former teammate at Auburn (Daniel Thomas), and he kind of runs me through everything that’s going on there.”
Alabama is drilling its need for wide receivers in his head. The Tide only signed two wide receivers in the Class of 2016, and they are looking to sign four this year. Alabama is hoping Ruggs is one of those receivers along with 4-star commitments Jerry Jeudy and Tyrell Shavers, along with uncommitted 4-star prospect Devonta Smith.
“They are just telling me that they aren’t that deep at the receiver position,” Ruggs said. “They don’t have many receivers on scholarship. They need another receiver to come in and make plays for them.”
After speaking with Ruggs on Friday night, I still believe Alabama should be considered the team to beat when it comes time for his commitment. Not only is he closest to the Tide’s commitments, but the majority of his family members are Alabama fans.
Alabama commit firmly locked in with his commitment
Alabama 4-star linebacker commit Markail Benton has been to every one of the Crimson Tide’s home games this season, and he’s planning on being at the rest of them.
Benton, the nation’s No. 5 outside linebacker from Central High School (Phenix City, Ala.), is locked in with his commitment to Alabama. To demonstrate just how locked in he is, Benton said he doesn’t talk to any college coaches anymore if they aren’t on Alabama’s staff.
That’s the true “my recruitment is over” speech that a lot of commitments say. Some recruits may say their recruitment is over, but it’s not officially done until you stop communicating with other coaches.
The Under Armour All-American is also not planning on taking any trips outside of Tuscaloosa.
“As of right now, I’m done. I’m not visiting anywhere else,” Benton told SEC Country. “Alabama just has a wonderful coaching staff. The atmosphere on game day is incredible and it’s just a great college campus.”
Even with four linebackers committed in the Class of 2017, Benton isn’t worried about it one bit. In fact, he was ecstatic when he heard the news that 5-star Dylan Moses committed two weeks ago.
“That’s just another great player who wants to come to Alabama and win a ring with us,” Benton said. “I was up there in Tuscaloosa the weekend he had committed. I talked to him for a little bit. I had no clue he was going to commit, but it’s great.”
At one point in his recruitment, Auburn was thought to be the favorite to land Benton. He even told SEC Country at his commitment ceremony that the Tigers did hold a lead at one point in his process, but Auburn is just an afterthought now.
Benton will be suiting up for the Crimson Tide in 2017. He won’t be an early graduate. He’s electing to enroll at Alabama in the summer of 2017 because he wants to play basketball for Central this winter and spring.
Benton’s funny moment with Ruggs after the game
After Central beat Lee 59-28 Friday night, Benton and Ruggs embraced near midfield. What happened next further illustrates how committed Benton is to Alabama.
Benton spotted an Auburn towel hanging from Ruggs’ waist. He grabbed it from Ruggs and walked across the field to the nearest trash can. Benton exchanged Ruggs’ Auburn towel with his Nike one.
“I told him that he can’t be wearing stuff like that around me,” Benton said with a laugh.
Ruggs thought Benton’s act was funny himself.
“He asked me what I was doing with that Auburn towel,” Ruggs said. “I told him that I didn’t have another towel, so that’s why I had it. He snatched it from me and gave me his.”
One of Benton’s top recruiting priorities is Ruggs. The two have a very close relationship and talk often. On Friday night, Benton had a chance to tell him in person that he wants the electric wide receiver at Alabama next season.
“I think we have a great chance because I talk to him so much, and I don’t think anyone is in his ear like I am,” Benton said.
Alabama may have a major advantage with top 2018 target
Justyn Ross, the state of Alabama’s No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2018, is in no rush to make a commitment mainly because his mother is stationed in Kuwait with the National Guard, and she won’t get back to the states until June 2017.
Just because she’s located over 7,000 miles away, it doesn’t mean she’s not aware of what’s going on with her son’s recruitment.
“She’s still in group text conversations with coaches, so she’s still very involved with my recruitment,” Ross told SEC Country. “She’s told me that when the day comes to commit that I’m going to be the one to make the decision and not her.”
Two of those group conversations she’s in are with coaches from both Alabama and Auburn — the two perceived favorites in his recruitment. Ross said his recruitment remains wide open, but those two teams are the ones recruiting him the hardest right now.
Alabama may have a bit of an edge though because he hears a Crimson Tide pitch every single day from his teammate, Benton. Ross has a former teammate at Auburn, freshman cornerback John Broussard, but he isn’t in Ross’ ear as often as Benton is.
The Alabama commit makes sure he tells Ross how Tuscaloosa has a family feel and how the coaches take care of their players, which is exactly what the 2018 recruit is looking for in his college of choice.
“He’s just really trying to get me to go there with him,” Ross said. “I already know he wants me there badly, but I’m going to make my own decision when the day comes.
“Markail is my brother, though. I think he’ll be pissed off for a couple days if I didn’t go to Alabama.”
Ross and Benton will be back in Tuscaloosa this weekend for Alabama’s game against Texas A&M.
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
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