MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Day 3 is in the books.
Alabama recruiting reporter Chris Kirschner and I made our way from Birmingham down to Montgomery to speak with a handful of the area’s top prospects on our way down to Mobile, which is where we’ll be Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
The Montgomery pit stop took us to three schools — Park Crossing, Lee and Lanier — to see five prospects. These visits were as Alabama and Auburn-centric as the previous two days of posts, but they still had plenty of useful notes for both of the in-state programs, as well as other schools around the SEC.
Check out the quick-hitters from these interviews below, and make sure to check back throughout the week for more detailed commentary from each of these visits.
Programming note: Thursday will be used to see Mobile-area prospects and Pensacola wide receiver Jacob Copeland before making one more stop in Birmingham before finishing up the trip.
4-star OL Tank Jenkins, Park Crossing
Wolk: Auburn already has two guards on board in Kameron Stutts and Jalil Irvin, but that hasn’t scared of Jenkins. He looks forward to competing with other guards at whatever school he chooses.
Now 6-foot-3, 330 pounds, Jenkins has long been believed to be an Auburn lean, but he assured Wednesday that no decisions have been made. He referred to the decision as “the toughest decision he’s ever made” and said, if he had to commit tomorrow, he has no idea who he’d choose.
Auburn will be in that mix, as will Oklahoma, Missouri, Miami (Fla.), Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Louisville and a few others, but there are no favorites. A top-10 list should be coming soon. Jenkins expects to announce his final choice by late May or early June and will enroll early.
One interesting note: Jenkins is a second cousin of new Missouri quarterback James Foster (mentioned below). They are very close.
3-star ATH Cam Taylor, Park Crossing
Wolk: Taylor will be an interesting prospect to track this spring and fall. He’ll play quarterback at Park Crossing for his senior year, but most colleges see him as a slot receiver or safety. Auburn fits into the latter.
There are smaller schools — Troy, Appalachian State and Georgia Southern among them — that want Taylor to come play quarterback. But Taylor said he prefers to play at a Power 5 school, especially SEC program, as a receiver or safety rather than playing quarterback at a small school.
The question is: What schools will he be able to choose from? Right now, his only Power 5 offers are from Michigan and Iowa State. But Taylor spent his junior year with a torn right ACL, and coaches haven’t been able to properly evaluate his skill set.
Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and defensive backs coach Greg Brown talk to Taylor on a fairly regular basis and have said they’ll evaluate Taylor this spring. If an Auburn offer comes, it would difficult for any other program to land him.
Taylor has a close friendship with Auburn standout Kamryn Pettway. The two have known each other since Taylor was a 7-year-old in city league football, and he’s able to lean on Pettway throughout the recruiting process whether it’s Auburn or otherwise.
Unranked OLB Kevontae’ Ruggs, Robert E. Lee
Kirschner: Ruggs is the younger brother of Alabama wide receiver signee Henry Ruggs III. Kevontae’ is 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, but still needs to fill out his frame. Alabama is the clear favorite to land Ruggs when he makes his decision, which doesn’t know when it will happen just yet. Like his older brother, Kevontae’ grew up a Crimson Tide fan. Also in comparison to Henry, Kevontae’ would like to weigh out all of his future options. He mentioned just how much stress Henry was under leading up to National Signing Day. On the Tuesday before Signing Day, Henry stayed in a hotel room with several family members as he weighed out his options between Alabama and Florida State. Seeing that, Kevontae’ does not want to rush into any decision because he understands the magnitude of making a college choice.
3-star CB JaKorey Hawkins, Robert E. Lee
Wolk: Here’s another prospect who I’d keep an eye on this fall. Both of the Park Crossing prospects raved about Hawkins when asked about top players in the Montgomery area. He’s a recruit who will likely pick up major offers throughout the spring. Just Wednesday, West Virginia cornerbacks coach Doug Belk — a defensive grad assistant at Alabama the last three seasons — stopped by Lee to talk with the 6-foot corner. West Virginia is his lone Power 5 offer so far. There will plenty more of that throughout the spring. Hawkins has communicated with Alabama defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley a good bit, which helps explain why Belk is so high on Hawkins already. His 247 page lists Auburn as his favorite, but Hawkins said that’s a mistake. He’s only visited Auburn once, as a sophomore, and his communication with the Tigers’ staff is virtually non-existent. Again, don’t be surprised to see a lot of that change in the coming weeks and months. I’ve talked with several people who think Hawkins is a prospect who has the most to gain as a 2018 prospect. If Auburn has any edge for Hawkins, it’s his closer relationship with former Lee teammate Daniel Thomas. He mentioned how excited he was getting to see Thomas make plays in last year’s Iron Bowl, and early playing time is something very important to Hawkins.
3-star QB James Foster, Lanier
Kirschner: Missouri was the favorite for quite some time for Foster, but Wednesday’s commitment to the Tigers came as a surprise. Foster told SEC Country in March that he was going to make a late summer decision, but on Tuesday night he decided the timing was right before going public on Wednesday. Missouri considered Foster its top quarterback prospect in the Class of 2018 and one of its most important recruits in the entire class. Foster’s recruitment, he says, is over. He will not taking anymore visits, and he has told coaches at other schools that already. Georgia finished No. 2 for Foster, and he says Missouri beat out the Bulldogs because of his relationship with Tigers’ staff. I believe that if Alabama had offered Foster a committable spot in its class that he would’ve likely taken up the Crimson Tide on their offer. He grew up a big Alabama fan and dreamed about playing for the Tide, but it’s clear that Missouri is his new dream school.
Wolk: Just before we made it over to Lanier to talk with Foster — an Alabama target — the dual-threat quarterback made a big announcement. He committed to Missouri, which is something he’s been hinting at for a while. Foster originally planned to go to Georgia for the G-Day spring game this weekend, but that won’t happen any more. He said he has completely shut off his recruitment. It’s all Mizzou. That won’t stop other coaching staffs from trying. Since his offer, Alabama secondary coach Derrick Ansley and Georgia linebackers coach Glenn Schumann already texted him to congratulate him on his decision, but in Schumann’s case, he made a tongue-in-cheek comment about thinking Foster would be at G-Day this upcoming weekend. Missouri made Foster its top recruiting priority in the entire class, and it paid off.