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.
What Sterling’s de-commitment means for Alabama
For months now, I have been hinting at what was bound to happen sooner rather than later. But now, I no longer have to hint at it because it finally happened. Aaron Sterling de-committed from Alabama.
Sterling, a 3-star defensive end from Tucker (Ga.) High School, decided to reopen his recruitment following a visit to North Carolina State over the weekend. Sterling wasn’t 100 percent solid with his commitment for several months now and had recently told SEC Country he was being pursued harder by South Carolina and Tennessee than Alabama. He was also unsure if he was going to take an official visit to the school that received his commitment. The signs for what happened Sunday were all there.
Now, I know some people are going to yawn over this and say, “Move on. Alabama will just replace the 3-star with a 5-star.” What I can tell you is that Alabama will likely not be adding any 5-star defensive lineman in the Class of 2017 unless there is a rankings update. Also, Sterling was coveted by the Crimson Tide staff. Both outside linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi and defensive line coach Karl Dunbar wanted Sterling to stick with his commitment. The staff members felt that Sterling’s 3-star ranking was not accurate of how he plays and what they project him to be when he gets to college.
So, this is a loss for Alabama. Sterling and his family declined interview requests from SEC Country, so it’s unclear just why he decided to reopen his recruitment on Sunday and what the main reason was.
Some fans believed Georgia was going to be the reason why he de-committed. Sterling had flirted with the Bulldogs for several months, but the recruit told me a few weeks ago that Georgia had pretty much ended its recruitment of him. I expect one of these three teams will land him: South Carolina, Tennessee or North Carolina State.
Alabama’s need of defensive linemen in the Class of 2017 is arguably the team’s biggest priority so expect the defensive staff to continue recruiting numerous targets over the next several months.
In case you missed it …
This is a good time to remind the SEC Country readers that I took a deep look at all of Alabama’s defensive line targets in the Class of 2017. I also gave my predictions on players I think the Crimson Tide will sign on the line. Sterling was not in my projections.
Johnson still hearing from Alabama
One of those defensive line targets that I discussed in the article above is 4-star defensive end Ryan Johnson. Johnson, who hails from Mobile, Ala., was on Auburn’s campus this weekend for the Tigers’ game against Texas A&M. This is the second time Johnson has been on Auburn’s campus this season. That’s a big deal because Auburn is Alabama’s biggest competition for Johnson.
SEC Country’s Auburn recruiting reporter Benjamin Wolk caught up with Johnson shortly after the Tigers’ loss to the Aggies to get the latest on the recruit’s interest in Alabama.
At one point this summer, it was Alabama that had the momentum over Auburn but that has since changed. The Under Armour All-American did tell Wolk that he still hears from Alabama weekly.
“They’re after me,” Johnson said. “I talk to them about two or three times during the week. They just stress the same issue. They’re losing a lot of people so they need people at the position.”
What’s interesting about that answer is that other defensive line targets have told SEC Country that they hear from Alabama daily. Aubrey Solomon, Phidarian Mathis and LaBryan Ray all get daily correspondence from Alabama. Could that mean that those three guys are higher on the Tide’s board than Johnson? Possibly.
Ray and Johnson are very similar players and almost the same size. From talking with sources close to the team, Ray is the preferred target at the defensive end position. As I’ve said frequently on SEC Country, I’m very confident in projecting Ray in this class. He is good friends with Alabama commits Kyriq McDonald and Kendall Randolph and has visited the school more than any college he’s considering.
It would be shocking if Ray didn’t commit to Alabama when he decides to make his commitment.
For Johnson, he will make an official visit to Alabama for the Iron Bowl. No other visits to Alabama have been planned just yet. It would be surprising if he didn’t make it back to Tuscaloosa for at least one more game. He’ll make his commitment in January.
How Alabama targets fared over the weekend
Last week, Alabama’s top two offensive skill commits put up video game numbers. Five-star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and 5-star running back Najee Harris combined for 806 yards and 12 touchdowns. Both had impressive weeks once again, but the difficulty level on that video game may have been raised.
This week, Tagovailoa had 273 passing yards and 2 touchdowns on 22 of 36 pass attempts. He also added 42 rushing yards. Harris, once again, showed why he is rated the nation’s No. 1 overall player. He ran for 261 yards on 17 carries while adding 4 touchdowns. Both players led their teams to victories.
Other noteworthy performances from commits:
• Dameon Pierce, a 2018 4-star running back from Bainbridge (Ga.) High School, rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.
• Brian Robinson, a 2017 4-star running back from Hillcrest High School (Tuscaloosa, Ala.), rushed for 64 yards and added a touchdown.
• Gary Johnson, a 2017 4-star linebacker from Dodge City (Kan.) Community College, racked up 10 tackles, 1 sack and 1 forced fumble.
• Jerry Jeudy, a 2017 4-star wide receiver from Deerfield Beach (Fla.) High School, caught 2 touchdown passes. SEC Country was at his game Friday night. Check out Jeudy’s incredible footwork in both of his touchdown receptions.
— Chris Kirschner (@ChrisKirschner) September 17, 2016
— Chris Kirschner (@ChrisKirschner) September 17, 2016
All rankings are provided by the 247Sports composite unless otherwise noted.
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