First Look: 2015 Defense

Alabama locked up the No. 1 recruiting class for 2014 on Wednesday, and things are already in motion towards a potential repeat performance with the class of 2015. The Crimson Tide currently has seven early commitments from juniors, with three on defense, so BamaMag.com examines the current targets on that side of the football.

After landing perhaps the best pass-rushing class, top cornerback tandem and versatile linebacker group in 2014, Alabama is looking to continue its recruiting domination with the class of 2015. Nick Saban already has commitments from three four-star prospects in the class in four-star safety Deionte Thompson, four-star defensive end Mekhi Brown and four-star defensive tackle Jonathan Ledbetter.

To see who the possible additions are over the next year on defense, BamaMag.com examines the defensive recruits in position-by-position fashion.

Defensive Tackle 

Commitments (1) – Ledbetter

Targets (8)

Trenton Thompson | 6-foot-3, 289 lbs | Albany (Ga.) Westover | Five-star, No. 1 DT

Skinny: Thompson is as good as it gets at the position in this cycle, with solid depth at the top, but the Peach State native isn't very high on Alabama at this time. Georgia looks to be a front-runner to keep the top defensive player in-state home for the second straight cycle (Lorenzo Carter).

Tim Settle | 6-foot-3, 310 lbs | Manassas (Va.) Stonewall Jackson | Five-star, No. 3 DT

Skinny: Settle was initially the top player in America's junior class on Scout.com, but he took a slight dip in the latest release. Still, the interior standout is one of the best in the country and has an Alabama connection. He's close friends with five-star 2014 signee Da'Shawn Hand, and the two work out together in the offseason. Settle could be considered an early Alabama lean at this point despite offers from all over America.

Daron Payne | 6-foot-3, 315 lbs | Irondale (Ala.) Shades Valley | Five-star, No. 4 DT

Skinny: Payne is the top junior in Alabama, and he's still got a lot to prove as a senior. He is known for his impressive strength and quickness, and he can shoot up the rankings with an improved senior campaign if he shows a bit more consistency. Auburn is the school he grew up rooting for but Alabama has been a favorite since he began the recruiting process. It looks to be an in-state battle for the top prospect available for the umpteenth straight cycle.

Shy Tuttle | 6-foot-2, 295 lbs | Lexington (N.C) North Davidson | Four-star, No. 5 DT

Skinny: Tuttle camped at Alabama last summer, but earned his scholarship offer at a later date. He has offers from all over and has recently been to North Carolina and Ohio State, among others. He is still planning several trips, as it seems like the Tide is on the outside looking in early on. He doesn't have a top group yet selected, however.

Albert Huggins | 6-foot-2, 280 lbs | Orangeburg (S.C.) Orangeburg-Wilkinson | Four-star, No. 7 DT

Skinny: "Big Bert" is also well traveled early on in his recruitment, again with no early favorites. He is thinking about forming a top group sometime this summer, as he wants to venture more into the South for visits, which could include Alabama.

Others to keep an eye on: Four-stars T.D. Moton (no offer) and Fletcher Adams (holds offer) as well as three-star Jared Gentry (no offer).

Defensive End 

Commitments (1) – Brown

Targets (14)

CeCe Jefferson | 6-foot-3, 245 lbs | Glen Saint Mary (Fla.) Baker County | Five-star, No. 1 DE

Skinny: Jefferson is the best in the class off the edge, and has the offer list to reflect that. He named Alabama his leader last summer, but has since not claimed any favorites although the Tide has been hot on his trail for some time, including making a stop at his school during the evaluation period of late.

Josh Sweat | 6-foot-4, 230 lbs | Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith| Five-star, No. 2 DE

Skinny: Speed, speed and more speed. He's a conventional off the edge rusher that has elite quickness off the edge and some developed pass-rushing moves. Sweat burst onto the radar over the summer on the camp circuit as a teammate of 2014 five-star Andrew Brown, but he'll make his own mark this fall. The top junior is looking to narrow his list, possibly to 10, by the summer of 2014.

Byron Cowart | 6-foot-4, 246 lbs | Seffner (Fla.) Armwood | Five-star, No. 5 DE

Skinny: Alabama may have Cowart closer to the top of its board than this list indicates. He's picked up considerable steam of late, and was another that saw Tide coaches at his school in the last month or so. He named Florida his leader in December, but wants to see several SEC schools he has heavy interest in, including Alabama.

Natrez Patrick | 6-foot-3, 228 lbs | Atlanta (Ga.) Mays | Four-star, No. 10 DE

Skinny: A teammate of Alabama OL commitment Dallas Warmack, Patrick has been a riser for some time and now sits among the top 10 at his position nationally. The Tide pledge has done his fair share of recruiting towards the versatile prospect, who will make his own decision among several SEC offers

Breiden Fehoko | 6-foot-3, 275 lbs | Honolulu (Hawaii) Farrington | Four-star, No. 13 DE


Will Patrick team with Warmack at Alabama?

Skinny: Fehoko traveled all the way from the Pacific Island to Tuscaloosa this summer for Saban's camp and he earned a scholarship offer in the process. Coming from a football family, the Pac-12 offers may be tough to beat here, but Alabama has his early attention.

Others to keep an eye on: Four-stars Hjalte Froholdt, Tyrone Wheatley, Kyle Phillips, Arden Key, Jalen Dalton, Austin Bryant, Jason Strowbridge, three-stars Darius Fullwood and Christian Bell as well as Kengera Daniel, who picked up the Tide offer last week to kick off his recruitment. Each of the aforementioned holds a current verbal offer.

Linebacker 

Commitments (0)

Targets (12)

Malik Jefferson | 6-foot-3, 220 lbs | Mesquite (Tex.) Ralph H. Poteat | Five-star, No. 1 OLB

Skinny: He took a step back when Alabama offered in October, detailing that his pile of offers creates a "hard choice," though he doesn't technically have a group of favorites. Most peg the No. 2 player in America's junior class as an in-state threat for the Lone Star State schools, but Alabama has plucked plenty there before. Jefferson says that Alabama covets his speed and raw play.

Jeffery Holland | 6-foot-2, 230 lbs | Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian | Four-star, No. 4 OLB

Skinny: One of the more versatile juniors in the country, Holland recently competed in the Under Armour All-America combine at both wide receiver and defensive end – with some success in both. He talks a big game but generally backs it up as well and he has Alabama among his group of early standouts.

Darrell Williams | 6-foot-3, 199 lbs | Hoover (Ala.) High | Four-star, No. 20 OLB

Skinny: The Alabama powerhouse program may have its best class ahead, and Williams is the headliner. He has sideline-to-sideline range and saved his best performance of 2013 for the state title game, where he was arguably the top defender on the same field as Marlon Humphrey and Rashaan Evans. Williams was offered last week, and it could go a long way.

Joshua McMillon | 6-foot-2, 230 lbs | Memphis (Tenn.) Whitehaven | Four-star, No. 22 OLB

Skinny: Alabama offered McMillon of late as well, and it has shown him as much in-person interest as any prospect in the class over the last month. Upon landing the offer, one of the Volunteer State's best said the Crimson Tide ranked "number one or number two" on his developing list.

Leo Lewis | 6-foot-2, 220 lbs | Brookhaven (Miss.) High | Four-star, No. 8 MLB

Skinny: Lewis was also offered recently, and Alabama shot up his list soon thereafter. He took in Alabama's junior day last week and left impressed after spending considerable time with Saban and Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster. He may make a decision sooner than later and the Tide is in good shape for Lewis.


Does Alabama lead for both Lewis and Anderson (pictured)?

De'Amonte Jackson | 6-foot, 235 lbs | Cira (Fla.) North Marion | Four-star, No. 9 MLB

Skinny: Jackson has Alabama in his top three schools and once planned to make a decision this month, but he'll now wait until after he visits some schools. That group will include Alabama, also potentially Auburn, Florida State and several others.

Keaton Anderson | 6-foot-1, 215 lbs | Florence (Ala.) High | Three-star, No. 19 MLB

Skinny: Anderson is a Tennessee legacy, and has several SEC offers including from the Crimson Tide, and the two schools currently piquing his interest are Duke and Alabama. He's been to Tuscaloosa of late and enjoyed his time on campus.

Others to keep an eye on: Four-stars Roquan Smith, Justin Hiliard, Jordan Colbert, Josh Smith and three-star Dominic Sheppard.

Cornerback 

Commitments (0)

Targets (8)

Kendall Sheffield | 6-foot, 180 lbs | Missouri City (Tex.) Marshall | Five-star, No. 1 CB

Skinny: Not only is the Texan the top cornerback in the class, but he's the No. 4 prospect in the country regardless of position. Alabama was among his most recent offers, and he was in Tuscaloosa late this fall for his initial visit to campus. The staff will remain on his trail all the way through.

Calvin Ridley | 6-foot-2, 170 lbs | Coconut Creek (Fla.) Monarch | Four-star, No. 7 CB

Skinny: This two-way prospect was near-ready to commit to either Alabama or regional school Miami last weekend, but he and fellow four-star Teammate Shawn Burgess-Becker decided to wait at the last minute. Each wants to play together and possibly play both sides of the football, so Alabama has as good a shot as anyone to land the pair's signatures.

Minkah Fitzpatrick | 6-foot, 180 lbs | Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter's Prep | Four-star, No. 9 CB

Skinny: Fitzpatrick was offered of late and was in town for junior day last weekend. He's mentioned making a decision sooner than later, and Alabama is high on his list. The coaching staff has made him a priority early on, so he is one to be monitored going into the spring.

Rico McGraw | 6-foot-1, 205 lbs | Nashville (Tenn.) Ensworth| Four-star, No. 10 CB

Skinny: Though the top prospect in Tennessee committed to Georgia early on, Alabama has remained hot on his trail. He showed up with close friends at the junior day event, and knows he's one the staff will have its collective eye on over the next year in competition for his signature. The Tide led at one point, so it feels like it still has a shot.

Others to keep an eye on: Four-stars Tim Irvin (offered), Maurice Smitherman, Garrett Taylor and Mark Fields.

Safety 

Commitments (1) - Thompson

Targets (7)

Tavarus McFadden | 6-foot-3, 195 lbs | Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage | Four-star, No. 2 S

Skinny: With offers from all over the country, McFadden is a rising talent that actually plays predominantly cornerback at state champion American Heritage High. He is long and lean, with solid ball skills and power upon making contact. Expect him to get to Tuscaloosa at some point this summer.

Kerryon Johnson | 6-foot, 185 lbs | Madison Academy (Ala.) High | Four-star, No. 3 RB

Skinny: As you can see, Scout lists Johnson as a running back, though he is being coveted as a safety by Alabama at this time. He starts both-ways for 3A back-to-back state champion Madison Academy, and excels at each. He wants to run the ball in college and has a top group of Alabama, Auburn and Florida State. Will UA allow him to run the ball at the next level? Either way, the elite is nowhere near a final decision.

Jamal Peters | 6-foot-3, 200 lbs | Bassfield (Miss.) High | Four-star, No. 5 S

Skinny: Peters packs a punch as a physical safety, and he learned of his scholarship offer last week while on campus. He relayed that it meant "a lot" as Alabama is one of the schools he's kept up most with over the last year or so. The trip was his first to Tuscaloosa, but won't be his last.

Shawn Burgess-Becker | 6-foot-3, 195 lbs | Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage | Four-star, No. 2 S

Skinny: As mentioned above with Ridley's breakdown, Burgess-Becker was near pulling the trigger to one of his top two -- Alabama and Miami -- last weekend. The four-star duo held off, but Alabama will continue to pursue each, who continue to express the desire to play together. The hometown Hurricanes may be tough to beat in the end, but Mario Cristobal's relationship down there gives the Tide a shot.

Others to keep an eye on: Four-stars Rashad Roundtreee, Jaquan Johnson and Jaquan Jennings, who each have verbal Alabama offers.


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