Recruiting classes have an unpredictable value until the players actually have the chance to make an impact on the field. With that in mind, SEC Country is taking a look at Alabama’s last two recruiting class (2014-2015).
On Thursday, we took a look at the 2014 class. Here’s how the stock of Alabama’s 2015 recruiting class has gone up, down, remained even or is still be to be determined as they head into their second season on campus. (Guys who are no longer on the team because they were dismissed or transfer were not included — Desherrius Flowers, Shawn Burgess-Becker, Adonis Thomas and Jonathan Taylor).
Calvin Ridley, 5-star wide receiver
Portfolio: According to the 247Sports Composite, Ridley was the highest rated member of Alabama’s 2015 recruiting class, and the South Florida native has quickly lived up to his 5-star billing. It took Ridley a few games to fully break out, but once Alabama made its trip to Athens, Ga., Ridley was unleashed on the Bulldogs and the rest of the country soon after.
Ridley roasted the Bulldogs for 120 yards and a touchdown on five catches, including a 50-yard bomb from Jake Coker. Ridley went over 100 yards receiving four times on the season, and finished the year with 89 receptions for 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns.
This spring, Ridley became one of Alabama’s top return men on special teams, making him even more valuable. He returns for his sophomore season as Alabama’s top receiver, as well as one of the best in the SEC and the country.
Kendall Sheffield, 5-star cornerback
Portfolio: Sheffield redshirted his first season in Tuscaloosa. Going forward, it’s unclear where he fits into the rotation. Marlon Humphrey and Minkah Fitzpatrick project as the top two cornerbacks, but Alabama could use some depth behind those two.
Sheffield worked with the second-team defense throughout the spring. He will have to face plenty of competition this fall if he wants to break into the rotation, as Alabama signed four defensive backs in the 2016 class.
Blake Barnett, 5-star quarterback
Portfolio: Coming out of the spring, Barnett is still very much in the mix for the starting quarterback job. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that he’s second in line behind Cooper Bateman at this point. Barnett struggled with turnovers throughout the spring, but had a strong showing during Alabama’s A-Day spring game.
It’s going to be an interesting quarterback race, as this could be the first chance Alabama has to field a multi-year starter since AJ McCarron.
Da’Ron Payne, 5-star defensive lineman
Portfolio: Despite all of the depth Alabama had up front last season, Payne managed to step in and carve out a role for himself, and even earned a start against Arkansas.
Payne is the prototypical nose tackle in a Saban 3-4 defense. He eats up blockers, and isn’t easily moved off the line. With guys like Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson and others gone, Payne should play an even bigger role on Alabama’s defense next season.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, 5-star defensive back
Portfolio: True freshman don’t often step in and play big roles in Saban’s secondary from day one, but that’s exactly what Fitzpatrick did. He locked up the nickel spot in Alabama’s defense last year, and made plenty of plays while lining up in that spot.
The rising sophomore from Old Bridge, N.J., added 45 tackles, including three tackles for loss and two sacks. The standout defender also led the team with 11 pass breakups.
Fitzpatrick was one of 14 Alabama players named to Athlon Sports’ preseason All-SEC teams.
Damien Harris, 5-star running back
Portfolio: Harris has a chance to make a big splash this season as Alabama looks to replace Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry and primary backup Kenyan Drake. Harris and Bo Scarbrough project to be the top two running backs this season, which means Harris should see plenty carries.
The Kentucky native had a strong showing during Alabama’s A-Day game, rushing for over 100 yards and earning scrimmage MVP honors. If he can consistently show the same burst and power in the real games, Harris could be in store for a big season.
Deionte Thompson, 4-star safety
Portfolio: Thompson redshirted and spent his first year in Tuscaloosa with the wide receivers despite being recruited as a safety.
But Thompson was back with the defensive backs this spring. Alabama has Eddie Jackson and Ronnie Harrison returning to the fold for this season, but Thompson could compete for that third safety spot in dime packages while also setting himself up for a starting job in 2017 once Jackson moves on to the NFL.
Lester Cotton, 4-star offensive lineman
Portfolio: During the spring, Saban flat out said that Cotton was one of the team’s best five offensive linemen. The only problem is finding a place to put him.
Cotton can play left guard, right guard and right tackle. That versatility makes him an extremely valuable player. Look for Cotton to start in 2016 barring injury.
Richie Petitbon, 4-star offensive lineman
Portfolio: Petitbon suffered a torn ACL during the spring. He’s expected to be sidelined for a while. It’s a tough break for the talented Petitbon, as Alabama has so many offensive lineman who may pass him on the depth chart because of the injury.
Daylon Charlot, 4-star wide receiver
Portfolio: Charlot, like most of Alabama’s receivers, is at least behind the top three guys — Ridley, ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster. But Alabama has shown that its offense will rotate receivers if the depth is there. It’s still unclear where Charlot fits in because he’ll also be competing with guys like Cam Sims, grad transfer Gehrig Dieter and others for a spot in the mix.
Mekhi Brown, 4-star outside linebacker
Portfolio: Brown’s problem, like a few others on this list, is that he’s at a position with a lot of depth in front of him. Alabama returns Tim Williams, Ryan Anderson, Christian Miller and others at outside linebacker, all of whom are more experienced players. At best, Brown could play a situational role or special teams, which isn’t bad at all.
Hale Hentges, 4-star tight end
Portfolio: Hentges played a lot last season as a true freshman and gained a lot of valuable experience. He’ll basically be the second tight end (alongside O.J. Howard) this year when Alabama brings in two guys. Hentges has the opportunity to learn from Howard before he takes over as the main guy next year.
Anfernee Jennings, 4-star outside linebacker
Portfolio: Jennings dealt with a back injury (suffered in high school) which slowed his development during his first season. But Jennings played well throughout the spring, and during Alabama’s A-Day game. He earned high praise from Saban and his teammates. Jennings, along with Christian Miller, could be two guys who step in as situational pass rushers this fall.
Ronnie Harrison, 4-star safety
Portfolio: Harrison was basically an extra starter at safety last year, and with Geno Matias-Smith gone, he’s the easy choice to start opposite Eddie Jackson this season.
Harrison played in all 15 games and made one start (vs. Texas A&M) while intercepting two passes last season.
The Tallahassee, Fla., native recorded 17 tackles, including one sack. He also forced a fumble and had six pass breakups. Harrison maintained a steady presence on special teams, as well, totaling three tackles on kickoff coverage.
Dallas Warmack, 4-star offensive lineman
Portfolio: Warmack is one of Alabama’s young guards pushing for a starting spot along the offensive line. Even if he doesn’t earn one, he’s a good player to have for depth purposes.
Joshua McMillon, 4-star linebacker
Portfolio: McMillon made the switch from outside to inside linebacker this spring, so it’s tough to judge his value as he learns a new position.
Brandon Kennedy, 4-star offensive lineman
Portfolio: Kennedy worked at right guard with the first-team offensive line during the spring, and during Alabama’s A-Day game. He’ll compete with veteran Alphonse Taylor for the starting job during fall camp.
Christian Bell, 3-star outside linebacker
Portfolio: Bell is another player who is buried on the depth chart.
Keaton Anderson, 3-star linebacker
Portfolio: Anderson has four of five older, more experienced players ahead of him at his position.
Matt Womack, 3-star offensive tackle
Portfolio: Womack won’t start this season, but should be around to provide depth this year and in the future.