19 August 2008
| 2008 RECRUITING
If you want recruiting coming out your eyes, ears, and nose, then shell out $10 or so a month for a subscription to one of the many fine websites that specializes in Bama football recruiting (or more than $10 for more than one subscription, etc.). We’re not one of those websites, but in our quest to become a one-stop shop for those surfing the web for free Bama info, we will from time to time update you on the recruiting situation.
To which end, here is a position-by-position breakdown of where we stand on recruiting: what we need, who has committed to us, and who we are looking for. But first,
As most of you know, a college football program is allowed to grant 25 scholarships a year to incoming players. However, most years you can’t bring in 25 because the overall scholarship limit is only 85. With some guys red-shirting and hanging onto their schollies for five years, the math just doesn’t work for 25 a year.
As of right now, we have 84 or 85
guys on scholarship, and only the incredibly low number of nine guys graduating this year. The straight math says we can only sign 9 or 10, but as those of you who follow recruiting know, you typically shoot well past what looks like the mark.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that the shoot-for mark is virtually irrelevant, as it was last year. The upper-class washouts are mostly washed out. Sure there is always a medical here and a gave-up-on-football there and a didn’t-make-the-grade-out-of-high-school over yonder, but even looking at it expansively it’s hard to imagine us signing more than 20-22 this year vs. the 32 we inked last year.
We already have 13 commitments, which puts us in past-85-once-seniors-are-subtracted territory. How deep into that territory we will drive only time will tell, but one thing I can guarantee you is that we are still in the commitment-accepting business at this point in time. However, we are probably getting down to cases when it comes to accepting our marginal offers.
This is actually the first time in several years that we have started out the season with three healthy scholarshipped quarterbacks, none of whom is a true freshman. And folks, that statement shows just how hard the NCAA hammered us and how long the hammering lasted, because having three non-true-freshman scholarshipped guys ready to go should be a MINIMUM.
You still want more than three, of course. The handy-dandy rule of thumb on QB recruiting is that you take one a year. Then you hope none of them quit the team when they don’t become the starter. If all that works, out, you get adequate depth, something we have perenially lacked at this position since the halcyon days of the Watts/Zow competition.
As it turns out, we have snagged our one for this year, and that’s probably our limit. We got a good one, A.J. McCarron
of St. Paul’s in Vigor, Alabama. A.J. is no longer throwing to Mark Barron, Ivan Matchett, and Destin Hood as he was with last year’s state championship squad, but he appears to have polished his game, having recently finished tied for third in the annual “Elite 11” competition of top national high school QBs (Star Jackson was 6th last year).
A.J. is 6’4” and skinny, but he already has a fairly strong and accurate arm and a very quick release. He was one of the more polished QBs at the Elite 11 and could possibly step onto campus as a real competitor for the spot next year, especially if he gains a few pounds.
With no seniors graduating and plenty of depth already, this position is recruiting strictly on a “search for a star” basis. And on that basis, we’ve got a winner.
of Pensacola is ranked by Rivals as a 5-star, the #11 player in the nation and the #2 running back. Rivals top analyst J.C. Shurburtt has said that the only thing standing between TR and recognition as the best running back prospect in the land is one healthy season.
Richardson is 5’11”, 210 and built like a bulldozer, but make that a bulldozer with a jet engine, because the dude can flat-out get it. His thighs look more like a thoroughbred’s thighs than like a high school boy’s.
The comparisons have been to Adrian Peterson, and they don’t seem to be altogether ridiculous.
Bama has also inked 6’2” 240 Mike Marrow
of Toledo, OH, but with six non-senior scholarshipped running backs already on the roster, plus Richardson, it says here that Marrow probably winds up at tight end or linebacker.
We hate to say this, but there could be some drama left in Richardson’s recruiting year. The Florida schools really don’t want to give him up.
Even with the washouts of Destin Hood, Melvin Ray, and Devonta Bolton, there will be eight scholarshipped receivers coming back next year. Although you generally like to grab two wideouts every year, we have enough guys coming back that we could settle at one if we don’t get the quality we’re looking for.
We have no wideout commitments so far, but we are widely rumored to be leading for the services of four-star wideout Kendall Kelly
of Gadsden. Think of Kelly as Julio Jones with 3” less of vertical leap and not quite as polished. In other words, he’s big, fast and physical.
Of interest, the Tide is very much in the running for the services of Louisiana wideout Reuben Randle
, the consensus top wideout in the nation. Randle has played it very close to the vest, but he has already visited the Capstone this summer, and insiders say he is not at all an LSU lock. 25% maybe?
As an aside, if Randle DOES see the light and signs with the Tide, that would make it two years in a row that we would have nabbed the nation’s top wideout. Could there be any doubt in such a case that we would pretty much have our pick among the top quarterbacks next year?
Our fallback position is probably Kevin Norcross
, a rangy three-star speedster from the Magnolia State. Another Mississippi burner, Chad Bumphis,
is giving us a hard look. My money says we finish with Kelly and one of the three mentioned.
I’m lumping offensive linemen and defensive linemen together partially because linemen are the hardest high schoolers to predict a college future for, and partially because almost every single lineman who has committed so far – and that would be no less than eight of our thirteen total commitments – is apparently being looked at for both sides of the ball.
Who plays where is very much going to depend on who and how many we wind up signing, with some not knowing where they’ll be until they show up at camp.
Nevertheless, our DL and OL needs vary substantially. On the defensive front, the only lineman graduating is Bobby Greenwood, and he isn’t really a Sabanesque body type, anyway. Much talent will return on the DL next year.
On the OL, we’re graduating a passel of starting experience in Antoine Caldwell and Marlon Davis, and from word around T-Town, there’s about a 99% chance that Andre Smith will be leaving to test NFL waters after this season. Last year’s recruiting harvest of 5-star Tyler Love, high 4-star Barrett Jones, and 4-star John Michael Boswell are a good start on filling those holes, but OL obviously remains a need position.
To the end of filling that need, the eight husky youngsters who have given us commitments so far almost certainly do not represent the finish of this year’s meat packing business.
Easily the prize recruit among the bunch is 6’7” 325-pound D.J. Fluker,
a Rival top 50 national player as a defensive lineman, who it is rumored will likely move to the offense at Bama, as he has already done in August practice at Foley High. If the move to offense works out as well as many expect, Fluker may get a fifth star by the end of the season. He is said to be freakishly quick for his size.
Four-star defensive end William Ming
is 6’4” 265 and sports both a mean streak and a straight A report card. He is expected to easily grow into a Saban-sized defensive end.
The rest of the crew - Chance Warmack, Kellen Williams, Anthony Steen, Darius McKellar, Quinton Dial, and Anthony Orr
- are all solid 3-stars. Orr is fairly certain to wind up on defense, and the 330-pound Warmack has OL written all over him.
The rest of these guys will earn their positions in the trenches next August. You'd figure most of them wind up on the offensive side. UPDATE
: Today's move - or experiment? - of Albert McCullough to guard will impact the numbers, and who winds up where, if it holds.
Thought to be a heavy Bama lean is 313-pound 4-star Brandon Moore
of Montgomery Carver. Moore could project on either side of the line.
A guy who has mentioned Bama a few times, and continues to do so, is the nation’s top offensive tackle per Rivals, Virginia man mountain Morgan Moses
, a beast at 6’7”, 347. However, Moses never made it to Tuscaloosa during the summer, and from my perspective we needed to get him down here for one of our impressive camps to have a real shot.
Absent Moses or another hot prospect, Moore might be our last, although there are still solid prospects out there, like Oregon tackle Charlie Siddoway
, who sports offers from Notre Dame and most of the PAC-10, expressing strong interest.
There are two ways that a position becomes a need position for recruiting. One is by having a bunch of guys graduate or go pro (see "Offensive Line"). The other occurs when you're already not sure you have quality starters on the team (see "Linebackers").
And maybe Corey Reamer, Eryk Anders, and Charlie Higginbotham really HAVE made great strides since 2007. But all I know for sure is that none of them were significant parts of the fairly average defense we had last year, yet all three of them - along with at least three true freshmen - are getting a strong look at playing time in this year's camp.
That spells n-e-e-d p-o-s-i-t-i-o-n to me.
You might worry when you consider we only have one committed guy so far this year, Mike Marrow
, who is linebacker-ish, and Marrow is just as likely to wind up elsewhere as at linebacker. But folks, unless the rumors are all really wrong, there is some really good news coming down the pike.
Good news like Nico Johnson
of Andalusia and Tana Patrick
of Stevenson, the #3 and #6 rated inside linebackers in the nation according to Rivals. Both Johnson and Patrick are thought to be heavy leans to the state university.
And don't let the fact that they're both inside backers make you think we don't have the outside covered. A lot of high school inside backers wind up outside when playing for Saban, who is known to favor hefty-sized linebackers.
We're also very much in the mix for another four-star inside backer, Jerome Askew
of Virginia, and four-star outside backer Barkevious Mingo
has us on his list, although some say his interest has waned as of late.
And don't forget about 215-pound speedster athlete Ronnie Wingo, Jr.
of St. Louis, a top 100 national player whose most complimentary recruiting words have been on behalf of the Tide. Wingo projects as a safety or outside backer.
Finally, let's soften the dire outlook painted at the top of this section by noting that not a single linebacker currently on the squad is scheduled to graduate this year.
Defensive back is not quite a need position, since we've got several good players there already, with only Rashad Johnson (this year) and Justin Woodall (next year) scheduled to depart the team in the near future. But we don't have all the depth we would like.
On the other hand, we don't mind grabbing that depth by improving our starting lineup and demoting a former starter to depth. That may happen this year if the Tide inks Gadsden cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick
, as we are widely expected to do. Dre is rated the nation's top cornerback prospect by both Rivals and Scout, and it's hard to imagine him doing a lot of sitting once he reaches campus.
National #3 cornerback Brandon Smith
of Atlanta also has us on his radar, as does #14 Eric Gordon
of Nashville. Already in the fold is three-star Gerald West
of Mobile, whose offer sheet - including, among others, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, and South Carolina - belies his three-star status. West, who at 5'11" 160 pounds is the smallest DB Saban has recruited at Bama, is said to be a sticky defender.
Four-star Olive Branch, Mississippi safety prospect Rod Woodson
is not a top 100 national player YET - but that's probably only because his coach just finally assembled a tape of his junior highlights yesterday. Don't be shocked if Woodson, who recently picked up his fourth star, winds up as a five-star before the season is over.
His SPARQ rating, a combined athleticism score from the NIKE combines, is one of the highest ever measured
, including strong lifting, sprinting, and a ridiculous 44" vertical. One Rivals analyst has already said "I have a hard time believing that there is a better defensive back in the country against the run or on the blitz than Woodson."
The only question on Woodson - the only football question, that is, since he still has some work to do to qualify - is whether he is also a strong pass coverer. If not, he just might bulk up a bit more and move to linebacker, where he can continue to lay the wood.
(And by the way, in case you haven't noticed, we're impressed with Rivals and think bamaonline.com is well worth the money for recruiting junkies, and in fact you might consider at least one $10 month just to get to watch Woodson's highlight tapes. When he hits you, you fall down.)
With Saban's rep as a DB coach, it looks like we are going to be snagging the cream of the crop at this position every year. If our DB dominance doesn't start in '08, it won't be later than '09.
Don't think we're after any, unless you put Mike Marrow
in the fullback/tight end category.
We aren't going to be the #1 class again this year, not with just 20-22 signees. Not only does Rivals weight the rankings to favor teams signing large numbers of prospects, but the average caliber of our signees will probably be a hair below last year's average, at least unless long-shots like Reuben Randle and Morgan Moses pan out.
But top 10 is very likely and top 5 isn't out of the question. Not bad when you consider that we are concentrating on filling holes this year, and won't be signing a full group.
After this year, the holes will mostly be filled, and our focus will be on signing the best guys we can get at any position. That's when the ride will start to get fun.