Recruiting Ripple: Ronnie Clark

Alabama secured the commitment of coveted in-state four-star Ronnie Clark on Friday, to make him pledge No. 21 for the class of 2014. With only a handful of spots left, it may lead to dominoes at multiple positions for Alabama with four months left until pen meets paper on national signing day 2014.

Down to Alabama and Auburn throughout most of the process, Ronnie  Clark decided to end things on Friday with a pledge to Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide.

The four-star prospect on Scout.com, ranked as the No. 7 outside linebacker prospect in the country right behind fellow Tide commitment Christian Miller, will likely get his shot to play safety early in his career at Alabama. That position has been a focus for the coaching staff during the 2014 cycle with a trio of candidates high on Alabama's board heading into Clark's decision.

With him now on board, the spotlight shifts to two different safeties in four-stars Laurence Jones and C.J. Hampton, a duo the coaching staff has pitched as a dynamic pair that can share a defensive backfield in the SEC. The class may very well have all three players inking with Alabama in February, with the possibility that Clark moves to linebacker once enrolled in Tuscaloosa.

In any event, each brings different things to the table. Jones, a.k.a. "Hootie," has played both cornerback and safety at the high school level. In fact, he reportedly shut-down four-star Alabama wide receiver commitment Cameron Sims in September when the two matched up one-on-one. Jones has long been considering in-state program LSU in addition to Alabama, two schools that have long recruited the versatile 6-foot-1, 210-pounder and No. 5 safety prospect in Scout.com's class of 2014 rankings. The Monroe (La.) Nelville product has no timetable for a decision, though he told Scout this week that a commitment could happen at any time.


How close is Hootie to a decision?

Rumor Mill: Word is that LSU may not be courting Jones as hard as Alabama has been, which could play into his decision-making process stretching longer than originally thought.

Hampton, an Ole Miss commitment from Meridian (Miss.) High, has been flirting with the Crimson Tide for some time. Though he was the first pledge in Ole Miss' class of 2014, he has visited nearby Tuscaloosa multiple times over the summer and did so in back-to-back Saturdays already this fall including for the game in which Alabama shutout Ole Miss 25-0 last weekend. He's often said that he's a solid commitment to the Rebels, but has also said that Alabama and Auburn will receive interest and visits from him throughout the process. Hampton is a classic free safety with excellent range, good ball skills and is more physical than given credit for at 6-foot-1, 190 pounds.

Rumor Mill: Prior to Clark's commitment to Alabama, the feeling with Hampton was close to a matter of when he would flip to Alabama and not if. Will the numbers game be too much to deal with for Hampton or will he still spurn the in-state school for ‘Bama?

The two four-stars aren't the only safety prospects Alabama is considering in closing out the class of 2014. In fact, the top safety on the board is still very much a possibility for the Tide. Juju Smith, who also excels as a wide receiver for Long Beach (Calif.) Poly, is high on the program. The interest is reciprocated although he has the potential to be brought in as the school's third wide receiver in the class at 6-foot-2, 185 pounds. While he prefers offense at this time, will the Tide sell him on a prominent role on D or roll with his outlook on his skill-set?

Rumor Mill: Smith is close to Alabama commitment Viane Talamaivao and the two will visit for the LSU game in November. Word is that Alabama is on Smith's very short list, possibly as short as just two, so that visit is likely to make or break UA's chances.

Other names to watch

* Five-star Texarkana (Tex.) Liberty-Eylau prospect Davion Hall, a Baylor commitment who also doubles as an elite wide receiver talent at 6-foot-3, 193 pounds.

* Four-star Friendship Collegiate (Washington, D.C.) defensive back Jalen Tabor, who is high on Alabama. Ranked as a top-five cornerback prospect, does the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder project better as a safety?

* Four-star Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville safety Erick Smith, who will also visit officially for the LSU game with teammates Marshon Lattimore and Marcelys Jones, also prospects with considerable interest from Alabama.


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