13 January 2011
With the spring semester beginning at the University of Alabama, the Tide football team welcomes eight early enrollees. Two of these guys were actually a part of last year's class and chose to defer enrollment until this semester, while the other six are members of the 2011 signing class. Each of these eight players will be able to participate in spring practice and all summer activities.
First, the two members of the 2010 class who deferred enrollment. These guys will be true freshmen in the fall, and will have five years to play four.
Ronald Carswell - 6-0 - 180 lbs - Wide Receiver - Macon, GA - West Side
Carswell was graded as a 3-star prospect by Rivals and ESPN, and a 4-star prospect by Scout. The folks at Scout had him as the #38 overall receiver in the country, while ESPN and Rivals had him at 65th and 71st, respectively.
The word on him out of high school was that he was a solid technique guy. In other words, he doesn't have world-class speed or a size, but he runs solid routes, and catches the balls that are thrown his way.
With Julio Jones departing for the NFL and Earl Alexander finishing his eligibility, the Tide is looking for receivers to step up, and Carswell's presence in spring practice should give him a huge advantage over any receivers that come in during the summer.
Wilson Love - 6-4 - 285 lbs. - Defensive End - Mountain Brook, AL - Mountain Brook
Love was graded as a 3-star prospect by all three major services, and ranked as high as the 34th best strongside defensive end in the country (by ESPN).
A broken fibula in Mountain Brook's final game of his senior year kept him from being in the condition he wanted to be in last summer, so he agreed to defer his enrollment to allow for a complete recovery.
He is the younger brother of backup offensive lineman Tyler Love, and some folks think Wilson could wind up on at offensive guard. He has been described as having a mean streak on the field, which is a help on either side of the ball.
There was some talk that he might wind up at tight end, but that was back when we weighed closer to 250. The fact that he is enrolling at 285 indicates that the staff wants him as a lineman. I think he ends up on the defensive side of the ball.
Three junior college players are headed to Tuscaloosa, including one who signed with the Tide out of high school.
Quinton Dial - 6-6 - 315 lbs. - Defensive End - Pinson, AL - East Mississippi C.C.
Dial is a graded as a 4-star prospect by Rivals and Scout (ESPN does not grade junior college players). Rivals ranks him as the #15 overall junior college prospect.
With his size, he could play as either a nose guard or a defensive end in Bama's scheme. He is similar in size and athleticism to Kerry Murphy, who played a lot at both positions in 2010.
Coach Saban does not sign junior college guys unless he thinks that they are possible of contributing immediately. We saw that happen with Terrence Cody, James Carpenter, and DeQuan Mezie, though Brandon Lewis only played sparingly in 2010.
Dial is much less of a project than Lewis, and appears as though he can push for time at the weak side end spot, which at times acts like a defensive tackle.
Aaron Douglass - 6-6 - 280 lbs. - Offensive Tackle - Maryville, TN - Arizona Western C.C.
Douglass is graded as a 4-star by Rivals and a 3-star by Scout. Rivals has him as the #10 overall junior college player in the country.
He started at right tackle for Tennessee as a true freshman and earned Freshman All-American honors before leaving Knoxville for personal reasons and enrolling at Arizona Western Community College. Two days after signing with Alabama, Douglass was arrested for DUI in Maryville. Coach Saban indicated that he would face some internal punishment when he arrived in Tuscaloosa, but did not elaborate.
Douglass spent last year at Arizona Western at left tackle, and that seems to be his likely destination in Tuscaloosa. With former junior college standout James Carpenter headed to the NFL, Bama is looking for held at that position. With the way that Alabama pounced on Douglass late in the recruiting season, you have to figure that he stands a strong chance at earning the start at left tackle.
That's the one spot on the offensive line that does not have a starter returning, but with the Tide breaking in a new offensive line coach (indications are strong that it will be Jeff Stoutland), all of the line positions are likely considered to be wide open.
Jesse Williams - 6-4 - 330 lbs. - Nose Guard - Brisbane, Australia - Arizona Western C.C.
Williams grades out as a 4-star on both Rivals and Scout, and ranks #2 among all junior college players with Rivals.
Josh Chapman and Kerry Murphy started games at nose guard for the Tide in 2010, and both guys return. The fact that a lot of people think Williams will be the starter at nose guard any way should tell you what type of talent this guy is. He only played in seven games this past season due to a leg injury that appears to be healed.
The fact that he is a mammoth human being and is coming from a junior college means he will immediately be compared to two-time all-american Terrence Cody. Those comparisons will likely stop as soon as folks get a chance to see Williams. Williams looks more similar in physique to Trent Richardson than he does Cody. In other words, expect him to immediately compete for the title of the strongest guy on the team.
He'll be easy to spot on campus, and not just because of his size. He wears his hair in a mohawk, and is covered neck-to-wrists in tattoos. I had a chance to meet him when he was here for his official visit, and I can tell you that he is an intimidating presence.
The remaining three early enrollees are straight out of high school. They graduated early and headed to Tuscaloosa in the hopes of following the example set by DeMarcus Milliner in 2010, who used a great spring practice to propel him into a starting position.
Trey DePriest - 6-2 - 231 lbs. - Linebacker - Springfield, OH - Springfield
DePriest grades as a 5-star prospect on Scout, and a 4-star with Rivals and ESPN. The folks at Scout have him as the #3 middle linebacker in the country, while ESPN and Rivals grade him as an outside linebacker - #2 and #6, respectively.
This was a major "get" by the Tide coaching staff, snagging one of the top players from the state of Ohio. The fact that the recruiting services can't seem to agree on what position he'll play should be an indication of his versatility.
The best news for both the Tide and DePriest is that linebacker is not a position where Bama needs immediate help. In fact, the only linebacker who played meaningful minutes that will not be back in 2011 is Chavis Williams. Everyone else is set to return. That means that DePriest won't be expected to play from day one.
As we've seen with linebackers like Dont'a Hightower, Nico Johnson, and C.J. Mosley, if he is ready to go as a true freshman, he will play as a true freshman. The Tide staff loves to stack its special teams with linebackers, as well. So don't expect a redshirt.
Phillip Ely - 6-1 - 186 lbs. - Quarterback - Tampa, FL - Plant
Ely is graded as a 4-star by Rivals, and a 3-star by Scout and ESPN. Rivals has him as the #6 pro-style quarterback in the nation, while ESPN has him at #15, and Scout at #40.
That's a pretty big separation in what the services think about him, and you'll get something similar if you talk to folks who watched him play. The bottom line is that he was invited to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, and he won two state titles as a starting quarterback.
With Greg McElroy leaving Tuscaloosa, getting Ely enrolled for the spring was a need for the Tide staff. While Ely won't compete for the starting job, the Tide has just two other scholarship quarterbacks (A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims).
Expect Ely to redshirt, which means barring an injury to a quarterback in 2011, he will get two spring practices, plus a full season, under his belt before he will be in the competition for playing time. Bama went through the 2010 season in a similar quarterback situation, with McElroy and McCarron playing, while Sims redshirted.
He isn't considered to be on the same level out of high school as either McCarron or Sims, but is a guy with very solid technique who has led one of the nation's premiere high school football programs for the last three seasons.
Vinnie Sunseri - 5-11 - 193 - Linebacker - Northport, AL - Northridge
Sunseri is graded as a 3-star prospect by all three major services. He is graded as a linebacker, though a lot of folks expect him to end up at safety for the Tide, possibly in the star position.
His father is Sal Sunseri, the outside linebackers coach for the Tide. But don't think that this is the case of Nick Saban signing his buddy's son as a favor. The Tide's numbers situation is far too tight for that.
While he lacks the size and measurables to light up the eyes of the scouts at combines, he was the 6A Defensive Player of the Year in the state of Alabama in 2010, after being the North Carolina Defensive Player of the Year as a junior in 2009. He also received an invitation to the Under Armour All-American game, and was praised repeatedly by his coaches there.
Simply put, this kid makes plays. Don't be surprised to hear praise for him during spring practice. Also don't be surprised to come away from A-Day listing him as a someone who caught your eye. There are guys who simply have a knack for being around the football and laying the lumber, and Vinnie is one of those guys.
I think the staff would ultimately like to redshirt him, and Mark Barron's return to Tuscaloosa for 2011 makes that a very strong possibility. Barron will miss spring practice, though, and that will give Vinnie a chance to work his way into the rotation. I would not be surprised to see him on the Tide's kick coverage units in 2011.
National Signing Day is still nearly three weeks away (February 2), and Bama will doubtell bring in another highly rated class. Only six of these guys will count towards that class (Love and Carswell counted towards last year), but Bama is in strong competition for the #1 overall class in the nation again.
This is a huge recruiting weekend for the Tide, with a number of uncommitted prospects headed to Tuscaloosa. Among those is the consensus #1 player in America Jadeveon Clowney.
We plan on having a Signing Day chat for the third consecutive year, and will have some more information on that and what to expect from Bama on National Signing Day in the weeks to come.
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