KILLEEN, Texas -- The Alabama Crimson Tide have a Lone Star State replacement for star defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson -- with an added size bonus -- as 6'5, 346-pound Killeen Shoemaker defensive tackle Kendell Jones pledged to the Tide on Friday evening following his school's spring game.
The consensus four-star prospect chose Alabama over four finalists -- Baylor, LSU, Texas and Texas A&M.
Rumors circulated late last week that Jones had already committed to head coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide, but he denied those claims before releasing his top five and setting his announcement date. As a result of those rumors, his 247Sports Crystal Ball surged in favor of Alabama over the last week, with 21 predictions coming in for the Crimson Tide in recent days.
So how did a recruit going to high school in Central Texas end up committing to Alabama despite visiting Texas more than 10 times? Jones wasn't born in the state -- he and his family were displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2015. And Alabama defensive line coach Bo Davis has known the family for several years after recruiting Jones while working at Texas prior to Mack Brown's resignation.
"They treat me like my family would," Jones said. "I see my dad in Bo Davis -- keeping me on track, keeping me on my grades, keeping me on the field, and helping me work on my craft every day."
Visiting Tuscaloosa back in April allowed Jones to see the environment surrounding the program and it made a huge difference -- before that point, he seemed like a virtual lock to the Longhorns. Jones said that he sat down with his family after the trip and decided that Alabama was the right fit for him.
A visit from Davis helped seal the deal.
"I knew when Bo Davis drove down here," he said. "He sat down with Coach Hall, my dad, and me and he talked to us about what we needed to do. He gave it straight up to me, he didn't sugarcoat anything to me. He told me what's up and I made my decision."
Jones said it was a weight off his shoulders to gives his commitment and wanted it out of the way so that he can focus on football during his senior season. However, Jones he does plan on taking his official visits during the fall, so his recruitment isn't completely over just yet. Arkansas, LSU, and Texas are in line to receive those visits.
"It's a weight off my shoulders," he said. "I can go into next season focusing on my grades and I'll take it from there."
Jones is the No. 66 recruit, the No. 11 defensive tackle and the No. 9 player in Texas, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. Other schools to offer include Arkansas, Miami, Michigan and Oklahoma.
Despite the fact that the big defensive tackle weighs in a 346 pounds currently, he carries little body fat. And despite his obvious bulk, he hasn't been lifting weights as long as many other prospects his age, so he will continue to add a great deal of functional strength once he gets into a collegiate strength and conditioning program. Combine those elements with his gentle nature and it becomes clear that Jones has unlimited upside -- as long as he can learn to play with a mean streak.
Because of his mass, Jones was extremely difficult to stop at the Nike Opening Regional Dallas back in March. Once he gets his shoulder past an offensive linemen, he becomes an irresistible force.
When Jones learns how to use his hands effectively, he will become extremely difficult to block, even when going against the double teams that he faces constantly in high school.
Jones is now the ninth pledge in the 2016 Alabama recruiting class, which ranks No. 10 nationally and No. 5 in the SEC, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings.