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Wade or bust at this point for Alabama?
Alabama redshirt freshman cornerback Kendall Sheffield missed his third consecutive practice on Tuesday, and the rumors are swirling on whether or not the former 5-star prospect will ever play a down for the Crimson Tide.
“He’s definitely not on campus at this time,” Fort Bend Marshall High School (Sheffield’s HS) coach James Williams told SEC Country on Tuesday.
If Sheffield doesn’t return to the team that just heightens the importance for Alabama to land 5-star cornerback Shaun Wade. Sheffield was in the mix to potentially be the team’s fifth defensive back in Alabama’s nickel and dime defensive formations this season.
As I’ve mentioned for several months now, the Crimson Tide are fighting to flip the Ohio State commit. I’ve also stuck by my prediction that Alabama will get the job done in the coming months. Though one person told SEC Country recently that they were told it may be much harder to flip Wade than what was previously thought. I don’t believe that just yet.
On Wade’s recent trip to Tuscaloosa, which was back in June, he told SEC Country that he had a long conversation with Tide cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick. Why’s that important? For one, if the reports out there are accurate, Sheffield’s qualms with Alabama have to deal with playing time.
Fitzpatrick and Wade talked about early playing time, which is usually the biggest reason why some big-time recruits choose to not play for Alabama.
“I talked to Minkah for a long, long time,” Wade told SEC Country at the IMG 7-on-7 national championships in June. “He said (247Sports) projected that he wouldn’t play until his junior year. He kept that in his mind and went out there and competed for a starting spot.
“(The depth chart) doesn’t affect Alabama’s chances, because at any place you have to compete no matter what. Even if a school promises that I’ll play immediately, I am still going to have to compete. I know that for sure. Competition doesn’t phase me.”
Wade admitted at the time that Florida, another school he’s considering, offers the best chance at early playing time. Gators cornerbacks Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson are likely headed for the NFL draft at the conclusion of this upcoming season.
At this time though, it appears that his recruitment is just an Ohio State-Alabama battle.
Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer sat down with Wade and his mother, and promised the recruit that after graduation from Ohio State a job would be waiting for him if he doesn’t make it to the NFL. Wade also likes the Buckeyes’ mom program Meyer has. The coaching staff calls parents frequently to check in with their son’s progress on the team and in school. Both of those things are huge positives to Wade and his family.
But the nation’s No. 3 cornerback doesn’t see many glaring differences between the two programs he’s strongly considering. That’s where Alabama has a big advantage. The majority of his family lives in Montgomery and his mother is an Alabama fan.
“To be honest, they’re both the same schools to me,” Wade said. “Both of the schools have great coaches; they win championships and put their players in a spot where they can get to the NFL. I really don’t see a difference between the schools. The only difference I see is the campus and that’s not a big deal to me.”
The U.S. Army All-American is expected to be an early enrollee. He has said that he would like to have his recruitment wrapped up by the end of November.
If Wade doesn’t flip then what?
There are several options for Alabama here, but to be clear, Wade is at the top of the Crimson Tide’s wish list.
Alabama has a commitment from the nation’s top junior college cornerback in Blinn College’s Jhavonte Dean. He’ll have two years of eligibility remaining when he gets to Alabama. If he’s ready, he could step in for Marlon Humphrey who is a redshirt sophomore this season and could declare for the NFL draft.
The Tide also have a commitment from 3-star defensive back Kyriq McDonald, who can play any position in the secondary. The staff has told McDonald he will play cornerback, nickel, free and strong safety when he gets to campus.
Outside of those two guys, here are some names to consider:
- 4-star DeAngelo Gibbs, who visited Tuscaloosa last month for the team’s invite-only cookout. Alabama really isn’t the mix for Gibbs at this time though. It’s a Georgia-Tennessee battle.
- 4-star Lamont Wade — He visited Alabama this summer, but he currently doesn’t have a committable offer. He could potentially take an official visit to Tuscaloosa at some point this season. It’s looking like a Pittsburgh-Penn State battle for the Pennsylvania native.
- 4-star Brad Stewart — Stewart was supposed to announce his commitment on Wednesday, and all signs pointed to Florida being the choice. He delayed his decision though, which is good news for every other school not named Florida. Stewart earned an offer from Alabama at the Tide’s camp this summer, but there’s some catching up to do in his recruitment.
- 3-star Tariq Castro-Fields — He recently named Alabama in his top 4 and will take an official visit to Tuscaloosa this fall. Out of the names on this list, he may be the one to watch closely over the next few months.
As you see, there aren’t very many choices for Alabama at cornerback if it misses on Wade, so landing him is critical.
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.