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.
Most important visitor this weekend
LaBryan Ray, a 4-star defensive end, is one of Alabama’s most-wanted recruits in the Class of 2017, and he’ll be in Tuscaloosa this weekend for the Western Kentucky game. Don’t be surprised if you see Ray cheering for the Hilltoppers, though. His brother, Brandon, is a redshirt junior offensive lineman for Western Kentucky.
Ray is quite familiar with Alabama. He’s been to Tuscaloosa so many times now that it’s hard to keep up with every trip he makes. This visit will be a little different for him, though. He’ll be flanked by two Alabama commits, Kyriq McDonald and Kendall Randolph. All three of those players are from Northern Alabama. McDonald and Ray are teammates at James Clemens High School, and Randolph goes to Bob Jones High School.
McDonald and Randolph committed together in a video last month. Both of the Tide commits wanted Ray to be a part of their video, but he isn’t ready to announce a decision just yet. But with his friends on board, Alabama’s chances with Ray have increased.
“It helps them out a lot,” Ray said in a recent interview with SEC Country. “I’ve known Kyriq and Kendall for almost my entire life. It’s definitely something to think about. Just to see them commit there, I’m happy for them.”
The Under Armour All-American is expected to take his five official visits before making a commitment, but he has said that if he gets that gut feeling, it’s possible a decision could be made on one of those trips. As his recruitment stands now, it’s an Alabama-Tennessee battle, according to a source close to his recruitment. Auburn, Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Florida are in that second tier.
Ray is intrigued with the possibility of joining a program on the rise in Tennessee, he said, and with Alabama, he knows the school will compete for championships every single year.
“Alabama is a great school,” Ray said. “With them (McDonald and Randolph) two committing, it’s even better. But they both understand that it’s what’s best for me and my family, too, if I don’t go to Alabama. They’re going to be supportive either way.”
The state’s No. 1 prospect said those schools mentioned above are “locked in.” Don’t expect any other school to get in the mix for the nation’s No. 3 defensive end.
Alabama has a serious need for defensive linemen in the Class of 2017, and Ray may be the Tide’s top target on the defensive line. The Tide have two DL commitments in 4-star defensive tackle Akial Byers and 3-star defensive end Aaron Sterling. Sterling is viewed by outside linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi as a JACK, which is a hybrid of outside linebacker and defensive end.
Other targets on the defensive line include 4-star defensive tackle Elijah Conliffe, who Alabama leads for, 4-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon, 4-star defensive end Isaiah Buggs, 4-star defensive end Ryan Johnson and 3-star defensive end Justin Thomas. There are several other names to know, such as 5-star defensive tackle Marvin Wilson and 4-star defensive tackle Tyler Shelvin. I do not expect those two guys to end up in Alabama’s class as of today.
If I was offering a projection as to who I see in Alabama’s defensive line haul, I’d go with Byers, Conliffe, Ray and Thomas, who is currently committed to LSU. I do expect Sterling to de-commit at some point, though the staff is enamored with his game. He recently told SEC Country that South Carolina and Tennessee are pursuing him harder at the moment.
Smith plans on being back in Tuscaloosa
After delaying his commitment date last month because of the tragic flooding in the state of Louisiana, Devonta Smith, a 4-star wide receiver from Amite (La.) High School, told SEC Country that he is planning on being in Tuscaloosa this weekend.
If Smith had gone through with his commitment last month, there’s no doubt in my mind Alabama would have been the pick for him. LSU and Miami were the other two finalists at the time.
The Army All-American has now slowed down his recruitment and will take it all the way until National Signing Day. Alabama is still in an excellent position to pick up one of its biggest targets at wide receiver.
Other visitors for Western Kentucky game
***Note this is not the full list nor official list***
4-star QB Mac Jones (Jacksonville, Fla.)
4-star OG Kendall Randolph (Madison, Ala.)
4-star RB Brian Randolph (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
4-star LB Markail Benton (Phenix City, Ala.)
3-star OL Hunter Brannon (Cullman, Ala.)
3-star DB Kyriq McDonald (Madison, Ala.)
2018 5-star CB Kelvin Joseph (Baton Rouge, La.)
2018 4-star WR Seth Williams (Cottondale, Ala.)
2018 4-star DE Alfred Thomas (Montgomery, Ala.)
2018 4-star WR Malik Heath (Jackson, Miss.) — committed to Mississippi State
Honors for several commits
Georgia freshman quarterback Jacob Eason won the Maxwell Football Club’s National High School Football Player of the Year Award last season, and several Alabama commits are in the running to win the prestigious award this year.
Five-star prospects QB Tua Tagovailoa, RB Najee Harris and OT Alex Leatherwood made the cut along with 4-star prospects WR Jerry Jeudy and LB VanDarius Cowan. Sixteen semifinalists will be named on Nov. 12, then six finalists will be announced on Dec. 15. The winner will be crowned on Jan. 18, 2017.
Former Alabama running back Derrick Henry won the award back in 2012 when he rushed for 4,261 yards and scored 56 total touchdowns as a senior at Yulee High School. Imagine if he didn’t win after putting up numbers like that?
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
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