Alabama’s recruiting class is off to a slow start, to say the least. Just about a month and two weeks out from the Early Signing Period, the Tide’s class is ranked 16th in the nation, per 247Sports, with just eight blue-chippers, all of whom are four-stars.
Some of the big-name prospects in the class currently include offensive tackle Emil Ekiyor, the nation’s No. 6 OLB Quay Walker, DE Cameron Latu, and DE Jordan Davis.
So why the slow start?
Part of the reasoning has to do with the new staff members who Nick Saban hired in 2017, including offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and co-offensive coordinator Michael Locksley. Daboll was hired from the New England Patriots when Steve Sarkisian took the Atlanta Falcons OC position, and Locksley was promoted from an offensive analyst after the 2016 season.
It is important to note that Alabama has not missed on many of its top targets and is not accepting more commitments from lesser-quality prospects than it normally does.
There’s still time to make up a lot of ground, but Bama’s no. 1 streak is in danger
For the past seven National Signing Days, the Crimson Tide has finished with the nation’s No. 1 overall recruiting class in the country. Last year’s class was especially impressive, as it was the highest-scoring recruiting class Alabama has ever had, with an overall Composite score of 323. Ohio State, which had the No. 2 class, finished with a class score of 311.
As my colleague Alex Kirshner pointed out over the summer, there’s a good chance Alabama’s No. 1 streak ends at seven years, thanks to the class size the Tide will sign this cycle:
Alabama isn’t going to sign a lot of players.
Saban’s desired number: 22.
FBS teams are limited to 85 scholarships at a time, and managing those is a years-long process. In the past few seasons, Bama’s brought on larger classes: 29, 23, 24, 24, and 26.
If you sign roughly 25-man classes every year, you’re going to bump up against the scholarship ceiling, even at a program that regularly sends players to the NFL draft with college eligibility remaining.
Recruiting rankings are about quantity as well as quality.
Bama’s quality remains high. The average Composite player rating of its current commits is 0.91, and that’s dragged down by having a rated punter. Last year’s average Alabama commit was rated a 0.94.
To finish No. 1, a team needs lots of good players. Last year, Bama finished No. 1, but No. 2 finisher Ohio State had a slightly higher average player rating. Yet the Tide finished Signing Day with 29 signees to Ohio State’s 21, so for the purpose of determining winners, Alabama got the top slot.
But there are a ton of kids left on the Alabama’s board who could greatly help the class
Four-star QB Emory Jones is verbally committed to Ohio State, but he’s been getting recruited by virtually every SEC school, Alabama included. We caught up with Jones over the summer:
Urban Meyer’s staff has spent the last year trying to make Jones’ commitment stick, and so far, it’s worked. Jones told SB Nation’s Bud Elliott in April that he was “110 percent” committed to the Buckeyes, even as he took visits to Southern powers like Alabama. The Tide, Florida, and Florida State have kept pushing for him. Pretty much every power program’s done that, with particular interest from a lot of the SEC.
“I’m 100 percent committed to Ohio State,” Jones said then. “It’d be a lot to change that but I just think for myself it’d be better for me to take some more visits to make sure I pick the right place.” He has remained one of the country’s most in-demand QBs.
Just four days ago, OSU offered 2018 QB Jarren Williams, despite still having Jones’ commitment. Is there a chance there’s trouble in paradise? We’ll have to wait and see!
If Jones doesn’t happen, four-star QB Tanner McKee out of Corona, Calif., could be another viable option.
As far as another potential flip, four-star wide receiver and Florida commit Jacob Copeland could end up at Tuscaloosa, especially with Florida going through a coaching search. Tampa-area RB Jerome Ford, who is pretty underrated in some people’s eyes, would make for a nice addition.
As would Texas WR Jaylen Waddle, four-star OT Nicholas Petit-Frere, who visited Notre Dame last month, four-star DE Eyabi Anoma, who has visited Michigan, Alabama, Pitt, and others, and three-star TE Dominick Wood-Anderson.
The defense could use a couple of other solid JUCO prospects, including former LSU corner and four-star Saivion Smith and four-star LB J.J. Peterson, who has visited Georgia, Auburn, and Alabama.