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.
Johnson’s lack of communication with Pruitt a concern
Gary Johnson committed to Alabama out of the blue this past March. He hadn’t visited Tuscaloosa in two years, but he knew he wanted to play for the Crimson Tide because Alabama was his dream school growing up in the Yellowhammer State.
That’s still the case today, but there is one big concern he has with his commitment to Alabama — his lack of communication with Tide defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.
The schools that are hoping to flip Johnson, such as Florida State, Ohio State, Missouri, LSU and West Virginia, all have their defensive assistants speaking to the nation’s top junior college linebacker. Johnson only speaks to wide receivers coach Billy Napier.
“I just feel like it’s weird how I haven’t talked much with my position coach as opposed to other schools that are recruiting me,” Johnson told SEC Country.
Johnson said he communicates with Napier around one to three times a week. Missouri and West Virginia are recruiting him the hardest at the moment. Both of those schools keep in touch with him almost every day.
The last interview the Dodge City Community College prospect did with SEC Country, he said his commiment to Alabama was at 70 percent. That number has not changed because he’s waiting to take visits elsewhere. His mother also thinks Alabama is one of the best college programs in the country.
Despite his lack of communication with Pruitt, he doesn’t think about the possibility of reopening his recruitment.
“I’m just weighing out my options,” Johnson said. “I don’t think much could change my mind though, besides me going on a visit to a school where I could go to that program and produce more.”
The 6-foot-1, 225-pound prospect said he doesn’t have any official visits set yet and doesn’t know which schools will get one. He thinks he’ll take an official visit to Alabama in January.
Dodge City’s all-time tackles leader hasn’t been to Tuscaloosa this fall, but he still has visions of donning the crimson and white come 2017.
“Everyone, when they are a kid, wants to say that they played for their dream school,” Johnson said. “For me to have that opportunity, you might as well take advantage of it while you can.”
Johnson has 69 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, three sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception in eight games this season. A source close to the Alabama staff has previously told SEC Country that the Tide view Johnson as a player who can immediately contribute as soon as he gets on campus.
Alabama still on top for Conliffe
After a performance that put Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen into the Heisman Trophy race, the potential No. 1 pick in the 2017 NFL draft took 10 minutes to chat with his potential successor.
Elijah Conliffe, a 4-star defensive lineman from Hampton, Va., is being told by the Alabama staff that it is planning on using him in a similar role to what Allen is doing for the Tide now. The pair got to talk after the Texas A&M game this past Saturday.
“He told me that one of the best decisions he’s ever made in his life was joining Alabama,” Conliffe told SEC Country. “He said it was a hard decision, but he pushed through it. It’s obviously paid off. It was very exciting getting to talk to him. We didn’t talk much about the game.”
Conliffe, who was on commitment watch this past weekend, chose to hold off on a decision because he is announcing his college choice in a video with Bleacher Report. That video hasn’t been filmed yet, but he’s expecting it to be filmed soon. He also said Alabama is still his top school, which should give you a hint as to which school might receive that commitment in this upcoming video.
There has been some chatter about whether a commitment from Conliffe be accepted by Alabama because of how many top defensive linemen remain on the team’s board. He said he “knows” the staff would take his commitment, and that conversation was had between he and the coaching staff.
The nation’s No. 15 defensive tackle said he talks to Alabama defensive line coach Karl Dunbar almost every day. Conliffe had some time to speak with Dunbar and Nick Saban this weekend where the message to him was about the need for several defensive linemen.
“Coach Dunbar was telling me that they are going to need some more big guys who can move up front,” Conliffe said. “I have a really good chance at coming in and making an impact as long as I come in and put in some hard work.”
More importantly to his recruitment is the fact that Conliffe made the trek to Tuscaloosa from Virginia with his mother, Kachelle Brown. This was Brown’s first college game, and she said her son has her blessing to go to Alabama if that’s the school he chooses.
“I would be comfortable if he went there,” Brown said. “I really liked the atmosphere, and I feel like he could grow there and learn a lot of things. I think he has a lot to bring to the team as well. I think they could benefit from him being there. I also think Elijah could benefit from going there and getting his degree.”
Brown was also in those conversations with the coaching staff, and she desribed them as very informative. She left those conversations without needing to ask a single question about what her son would experience if he went to Alabama.
“They were very passionate about their team and making sure that it wasn’t all about football,” Brown said. “It’s also about academics and getting them prepared for their life. That’s something I could really appreciate.”
Conliffe is planning on returning to Alabama for the Iron Bowl and could potentially return shortly after that for an official visit in December or January. He is also planning on taking official visits to Ole Miss, Louisville and Southern California.
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
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