Alabama football doesn't rebuild. It reloads via the recruiting trail.
Alabama football is once again the National Champions after dominating LSU in the BCS title game on Monday night. And as with any top team, a mass exodus of talent is coming.
The Tide lose senior starters William Vlachos, Alfred McCullogh, Brad Smelley, Darius Hanks, Marquis Maze, Josh Chapman, Nick Gentry, Jerrell Harris, Courtney Upshaw, DeQuan Menzie and Mark Barron. That's half of the starting lineup. Add to that the possible departures of juniors Chance Warmack, Trent Richardson, Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and Dre Kirkpatrick, and Bama could be losing as many as 16 of its 22 starters.
But the Tide didn't win two national titles in three years by accident. Alabama recruited better than any team in the country, sprinkled in some excellent coaching and stayed healthy.
The 2008 class brought in by Alabama featured a ridiculous amount of All-Americans. Julio Jones, Mark Ingram, Terrence Cody, Courtney Upshaw, etc. Those who stayed all four years won almost 50 games as a class, in addition to the two national titles.
And Alabama looks primed to pair its national title with one on the recruiting trail.
|Recruits By Service & Stars|
|5 stars||4 stars||3 stars|
Alabama currently has 26 verbal commitments. Across the three major services, that's an extremely high average of 3.71 stars per player (see chart) -- one of the highest in the country.
The tide currently has a commitment from one quarterback, six offensive skill position players, two offensive linemen, five defensive linemen, five linebackers, five defensive backs, and a kicker.
Alabama's class is about 95 percent finished, as Tide experts are expecting one or two more commitments. More could happen if certain early commitments no longer feel like they can compete at Alabama and go elsewhere.
The star power of this class is in the defensive backfield. With the Tide likely losing three of its starting four in the secondary, recruits believe they can come in and play immediately.
The national title game was even worse for LSU fans knowing that Alabama had stolen star safety Landon Collins out of Louisiana. The five-star prospect made his decision at the Under Armour All-America game. With the advent of spread offenses, having a versatile safety who can patrol the deep middle on one play and then drop down in the box and play the slot receiver with press technique on the next level is invaluable.
Note: Alabama also beat out LSU for linebacker Denzel Devall in early December.
Eddie Williams out of Panama City's (Fla.) Arnold High school is a great prospect worthy of his universal five-star rating. At 6'4" and 215 pounds, Williams plans to play safety for the Crimson Tide. How long he can play the position at that size remains to be seen. And really, the uncertainty as to his position at the next level is the only question about his game.
It's worth noting that at the Under Armour All-America Game, Williams said he plans to play receiver at Alabama. He's talented enough to do so, and Alabama does lose three of its top five receivers, so there may be playing time. For now, however, he's considered a defensive back by most evaluators.
JUCO cornerback Travell Dixon is also in the fold and is expected to step in and take a starting spot immediately. A 6'2", 200-pound cornerback is rare indeed. Dixon's abilities are readily apparent in the highlight film below. He can play press coverage and physically bully opposing receivers. That's standard for a corner this size, but what makes Dixon special is his ability to turn and run after the initial bullying. Dixon's instincts look good as well. He attacks the football well, can turn and run, and uses his length to his advantage. Dixon looks equally adept at playing man and zone. He could be an excellent asset in a cover-two scheme like the one LSU repeatedly failed to recognize last night.
Not only did the Tide grab the top JUCO cornerback in the country, but Alabama added a top-five high school corner as well, in Geno Smith of Atlanta.
What else is Alabama looking for in this class?
- A dominant force on the defensive interior tops the list. The man targeted to provide that is Eddie Goldman. Goldman told SB Nation that he currently has a top seven of Alabama, Florida State, Auburn, Miami, Clemson, Cal and Maryland, but plans to trim it to a top four. Insiders do not believe Cal, Clemson or Maryland are in the race for Goldman, and most believe this is a two-team race between Alabama and Florida State for the 6'4", 305-pound Washington, D.C. Star. Goldman is scheduled to announce on signing day. Look for an upcoming interview with Goldman on SBNation.com in which he discusses his potential choices.
- Jordan Jenkins, a top linebacker out of Georgia, has had the Tide near the top of his list throughout his entire recruitment. He would be a big steal for Alabama, and a blow to Will Muschamp and Mark Richt. Jenkins is set to announce January 9th. Update: Jenkins shockingly committed to Georgia.
- Jameis Winston, the top quarterback in the country from just up the road in Hueytown, Alabama. Winston is a Florida State commitment, and has been so since the summer. Alabama fans believe they can sway him. Experts are less certain. Winston's tweets this morning make it seem like he is quite firm to the 'Noles.
Note: With Jenkins' unexpected choice of Georgia, the Tide might have a spot for big tackle Daniel McCullers or another prospect.
For more on Alabama recruiting, visit Roll Bama Roll.
|Landon Collins||DB||Geismar, LA Dutchtown||6'0"||199||5 stars|
|Eddie Williams||DB||Panama City, FL Arnold||6'4"||204||5 stars|
|T.J. Yeldon||RB||Daphne, AL Daphne||6'2"||205||5 stars|
|Denzel Devall||LB||Bastrop, LA Bastrop||6'2"||236||4 stars|
|Travell Dixon||DB||Thatcher, AZ Eastern Arizona J.C.||6'2"||200||4 stars|
|Geno Smith||DB||Atlanta, GA St Pius X School||5'11"||180||4 stars|
|Cyrus Jones||DB/WR||Baltimore, MD Gilman School||5'11"||183||4 stars|
|Chris Black||WR||Jacksonville, FL First Coast||5'11"||170||4 stars|
|Kenyan Drake||DB/WR||Powder Springs, GA Hillgrove||6'1"||195||4 stars|
|Reggie Ragland||LB||Madison, AL Bob Jones||6'4"||245||4 stars|
|Dillon Lee||LB||Buford, GA Buford||6'4"||220||4 stars|
|Tyler Hayes||LB||Thomasville, AL Thomasville||6'3"||215||4 stars|
|Ryan Anderson||LB||Daphne, AL Daphne||6'3"||250||4 stars|
|Amari Cooper||WR||Miami, FL Northwestern||6'1"||175||4 stars|
|Casey Gladney||DB/WR||Columbia, SC Columbia||6'1"||177||3 stars|
|Darius Philon||DT||Prichard, AL Vigor||6'1"||282||3 stars|
|Darren Lake||DT||York, AL Sumter County||6'3"||330||3 stars|
|Brandon Greene||OL||Ellenwood, GA Cedar Grove||6'6"||280||3 stars|
|Brandon Hill||OL||Collierville, TN St. George's||6'6"||352||3 stars|
|Adam Griffith||K||Calhoun, GA Calhoun||5'11"||175||3 stars|
|Alec Morris||QB||Allen, TX Allen||6'3"||235||3 stars|
|Justin Taylor||RB||Atlanta, GA Washington||5'10"||205||3 stars|
|Dakota Ball||DT||Lindale, GA Pepperell||6'2"||292||3 stars|
|Kurt Freitag||TE||Buford, GA Buford||6'3"||245||3 stars|
|Caleb Gulledge||DE||Prattville, AL Prattville||6'4"||255||3 stars|
|Alphonse Taylor||OL/DL||Mobile, AL Davidson||6'6"||340||3 stars|