04 August 2008
I guess “The Newcomers” is a good title for this post, not only because it is about that brand spanking new #1 recruiting class that just set foot on Bryant-Denny field this weekend, but also because it is my very first post here at Bama Sports Report. As a debut, I’m going to run with something that I already posted on the message board at Bamaonline before I got the invite to join the BSR family.
This piece was so ridiculously long that most of the comments at BOL were along the lines of “gee—that’s long” or “gee—that’s really long.” I’m going to chop it up into a more manageable three sections for BSR—but each section is still going to be fairly long.
Anyway, I’ll still be posting on the Round Table, but Bama Sports Reports will get all the nuclear word explosions like this one from here on out.
So, hello to all, welcome to the hottest new information outlet in Bama sports, and without further ado, let’s turn to the subject at hand: the new guys.
Partially because so many incoming freshmen have a shot at playing time, partially because so many of the incoming freshmen who do have a shot at playing time potentially factor into multiple positions, and partially because we had the #1 recruiting class in the nation while the actual team went 7-6, Tide fan interest along about now is probably split about 51-49 between the freshmen and the rest of the team, and that goes for me as well. So here’s a brief rundown on who is coming in, and what we can expect, with a hat tip to Rivals
, the nation’s premier recruiting information service, and from whom the numerical ratings I use below derive.
RR 6.1 = 5-star
RR 6.0, 5.9, and 5.8 are the three levels of 4-stars, with 6.0 being the best
RR 5.7, 5.6 and 5.5 are the three levels of 3-stars
2008 was the 5th year for Rivals to use the RR (Rivals Rating) system. During the previous 4 years (2004-2007), Alabama signed a total of 1 6.1 players; 6 players rated 6.0 or higher; and 11 players rated 5.9 or higher. During 2008 alone, Alabama signed 3 6.1 players; 8 6.0 or higher players; and 12 5.9 or higher players. In other words, in each of the three highest-quality categories, we signed more guys in 2008 than in the previous four years combined. Or to put it another way, recruiting was put-putting along in 2nd gear under Fran and Price, Shula put it into 3rd gear, and Saban power-shifted straight into overdrive without stopping at 4th.
Last year we signed 17 guys Auburn was recruiting—and Auburn signed zero guys we were recruiting.
Enough numbers. On to the individuals:
– 6.1 – polished, super-athletic wideout. I have seen no indications whatsoever that the hype was false. I expect him to start from the first day of training camp. Will never be a Randy Moss, but he might be a Keyshaun Johnson.
– 6.1 – Big OT with lots of upside. However, most OLs redshirt. Even though we potentially have an opening at RT, Love has experienced some sort of injury, apparently a broken foot, that has limited his chance to get into varsity shape, and will likely RS.
– 6.1 – “Athlete” with burner speed and lifter power. Rumors say he reported to campus in great shape and bulked up a few pounds. I’m calling to see him at least get a shot at RB with his power, speed, and moves, but really, who knows. The expectation, based on quotes from Scott and Saban, is he will start out at WR. He is also said to be a shutdown corner, although I personally can’t see putting a super-stud like Scott somewhere where the other team can just throw away from him. We need playmakers, and I really like this guy with the ball in his hands. But that’s just me, and who the heck am I?
– 6.0 – Maybe the best high-school player in the state last year. May not quite have the college potential of Jones or Scott, but he looks to have quite a bit. Barron led his team to the 5A state championship as a star on both sides of the ball. Another “athlete” who might get a look at RB, WR, S, or even LB. The smart money says safety. If so, he has a decent chance of starting and a very good chance of being the first safety off the bench and possibly getting into the nickel rotation.
– 6.0 – I was concerned last year by the low strength numbers he put up at the combine—7 reps of 185—but that was nearly a year ago, and I recently read that he has been working for some time, and in a dedicated fashion, with a strength coach. What we do know is that he had a great senior season, climbed steadily up the rankings, has great speed for a backer, and is known as a head-hunter. We also know that the one position where he appears to fit into Saban’s scheme, strong-side backer or “Sam,” is wide open for somebody to step in.
– 6.0 – A 271-pound OL with a 4.3 GPA. Son of a Bama basketball player. Again, most OLs redshirt, and 271 is well below college OL weight. Probably a RS, but that’s OK because we have a veteran OL this year and will have some real needs next year. Bulk up, Barrett.
– 6.0 – Started the season pretty much off the recruiting radar, finished as approximately the #40 player in the nation and the #3 CB. The reason: he got eligible. Everybody knew he was talented all along, they just thought he would be exhibiting his talent on a junior college campus. Bama has a huge hole at one corner with the medical departure of Lionel Mitchell, who was the best of a fairly undistinguished bunch competing for the spot across from the steady Kareem Jackson last year. I’ve heard rumors that doesn’t really look quite ready to make the big leap to college ball in time to snag that spot, at least pre-season, but they are just rumors, and not even from a source that I can call credible. So we’ll see. There is a spot.
– 5.9 – Jackson has terrific upside, but he doesn’t have a tremendous amount of quarterbacking experience, and listed at 6’3” 182 he is on the skinny side for college ball. Nevertheless, one of BOL’s most trusted insiders has said that the plan is for Star to come in and, if he performs well in August, start the season as second-string and get some regular playing time. From my perspective, that would set up the possibility of Jackson taking over the top spot later in the season if Wilson has not cured the big-moment/big-screwup tendency from last fall. I’ve heard he will be listed at 195 on the new roster, so that’s a good start if true.
– 5.9 – Was a DE in high school, looking to be a backer in college. Everybody says he will be a “jack” linebacker, which in Saban’s scheme is an outsized outside linebacker who plays in a 3-point stance on almost every play and usually rushes the QB. The good side is Upshaw is said to have a relentless pass-rushing motor. The bad side is that he is undersized at 220 for a jack. Nevertheless, we appear to have a hole at the position. Upshaw is also rumored to be more than 220 now.
– 5.9 – He was primarily a DE in high school, but word is he will start out at TE. He has a year to learn the job, and since we’ve got two senior TEs sharing time, hopefully he will be ready in ’09. Also don’t rule out DE. At 6’6” 240 he has the frame to become the big DE Saban likes, or even a jack.
John Michael Boswell
– 5.8 – Reportedly in good shape and ready. At 6’6” 290 he might be the best bet of the incoming OLs to NOT take a redshirt this year, especially with Love’s injury. But like the other two incoming OLs, the main goal is to get him ready for ’09 when several spots figure to be open.
– 5.8 – Looks like he needs to bulk up a bit, but if he has put on even 5-6 pounds of muscle during the off-season he could get a shot at PT at CB. We definitely have a need for depth, or even a starter. The flip side is that we look to be having a good year at recruiting CBs for the ’09 class, and with young blood like Kareem Jackson, Alonzo Lawrence, and likely incoming 5-star Dre Kirkpatrick, even a 4-star like Green might wind up as a career backup.
– 5.8 – We signed him late. The general impression is that he was raring to sign with Bama throughout the fall and we didn’t take him because we were looking at a couple of higher-ranked guys who fell through. Nevertheless, Harbin has lots of upside. Another guy with the frame to become a big, mobile DE.
– 5.8 – As a 248-pound linebacker, I would figure Hightower as a natural for the jack position. Word is, though, that he is slated to start out inside. Prince Hall’s return to the team could affect Hightower’s prospects for playing time.
– 5.8 – Another RB/WR/CB/S-type athlete, although some say he is more of a pure RB than the others. He is the son of former NFL (and Giants) star WR Mark Ingram.
– 5.8 – Another RB/WR/S/LB-type. Reported to have been working at linebacker in 7-on-7s. At app. 205, a bit light in the saddle for a Saban LB, but we have big holes back there, so who knows. I wasn’t personally particularly impressed with his RB tapes, so I’d like to see him land somewhere on D.
– 5.8 – Came out of nowhere his senior year to become a 4-star safety. Originally drew attention because schools wanted to suck up to him to get at his HS teammate Julio Jones, but wound up as a solid recruit in his own right. He will be one of several guys competing for the other safety slot across from Rashad Johnson.
– 5.7 – I don’t know much about this guy, but he is our biggest DE signee at 260. We’re not exactly set at DE, so it’s possible he gets into the two-deep. Otherwise, a probable RS.
– 5.7 – Like Alonzo Lawrence, he started his senior year not on recruiting radars at all, but came on like gang-busters when it became apparent he actually might become eligible. Well, guess what, he is, and from all I hear, 5.7 is underrated. It says right here that he is the most likely of all the true freshmen linemen on either side of the ball to actually see playing time. We’ve got a lot of young talent on the DL, but I’m predicting Dareus makes the two-deep, probably at DE but maybe at DT. Don’t be surprised if he is starting by mid-season.
– 5.7 – Played for a top team. Power runner. I don’t have much of a hit on this guy, or his chances to make an impact among our large group of RBs. Might wind up going to D or bulking up to play FB.
– 5.7 – Ranked higher by the Scouts service, which isn’t as good as Rivals but is not meaningless either. Probably the 2nd-best bet after Dareus to see time as a TF. Like Dareus, it could be DT, it could be DE.
– 5.7 – Our only JC signee, so he is expected to compete immediately, at least in short-yardage situations. I’ve heard really good things about this guy on campus, for example that he has lost weight--down to 370--and is hanging with the other guys endurance-wise in long workouts. Could be a monster against the run.
– 5.6 – Reported early and participated in spring drills as a wideout. He made a good impression but did not get up near the top of the depth chart. Considering the talent coming in this fall, he is a likely redshirt and some are calling for him to move to the corner, where he was pretty good as a high-schooler.
– 5.5 – Anybody’s guess as to how this guy will do. Was a big star as a QB in high school in small-time competition. Reportedly working out at TE this summer, and has obviously bulked up since his senior season. Said to have a good work ethic. Likely redshirt and 5-year man who might blossom later in his Bama career.
– 2-star – Bama royalty, as son of a Bama player and grandson (I think) of Bear’s 1st Bama All-American, Billy Neighbors. If nothing else, a good political pick for Saban, an outsider, to get in with the Bama Boyz. Some say watch out, Neighbors will make a good safety, but this is a who knows situation.
– 2-star – Punter/place-kicker. We could use a punter. HS ratings for kickers are a real crap shoot, so this will be an opportunity to see what our special teams scouting is like.