Recruiting Reset: Defense

The Crimson Tide boasts the top recruiting class of 2015 on Scout.com right now, with 17 pledges already on board, but it is far from done in the cycle. BamaMag.com examines the status of the class on defense, with an in-depth look at commitments, targets and certain scenarios inside.

The following positions discussed are based on where BamaMag.com projects the athlete, not Scout.com..

Defensive Line 

Commitments - 2

Similar in size, but different in skill-set, Jonathan Ledbetter and Anfernee Jennings anchor the current commit list up front. Ledbetter, a four-star from Tucker (Ga.), projects as an interior defensive lineman based on his strength and technique working on the inside. Should his commitment stick, it wouldn't surprise many to see him as a 3-4 defensive end, also known as a five-technique. Jennings, an in-state three-star from Dadeville, is listed as a defensive end, but has bulked up to 260 pounds this spring. Should he continue to add weight, he could be in the same position as Ledbetter, though the current plan is for him to start out as an edge rusher (JACK LB).

Targets

With the class of 2015 very top-heavy at defensive tackle, it's safe to project that Alabama will sign at least one of the elites at the position. But this list has to start with in-state five-star Daron Payne. The Irondale (Ala.) Shades Valley standout grew up an Auburn fan, but it was the Crimson Tide to offer initially and it could still hold a slight edge for his commitment. However, Payne isn't expected to make a decision any time soon. Fellow five-star defensive tackles Trenton Thompson, of Georgia, and Tim Settle, of Virginia, have UA high on their lists as well, though the Bulldogs lead for Thompson and Settle released a top group with the Tennessee Volunteers on top.

Beyond the clear top interior prospects lie some solid four-stars that UA is in on, like T.D. Moton. The former Mississippi State commitment is looking to make a decision this summer and Alabama is creating some momentum behinds the scenes for his pledge. Fellow four-star Fletcher Adams, from Mississippi, could play a variety of positions in a defense like Alabama's, and he's quick to mention the program along with the pair of in-state SEC schools high on his list.

On the edge, looking at guys that are listed as defensive ends but project as potential outside linebacker for Alabama as well, five-stars CeCe Jefferson and Byron Cowart each have commonly had Alabama near the top of their list. However, UA may trail Florida for each, though Oregon has made up big-time ground for Cowart while Florida State has done the same for Jefferson. Neither is expected to make a decision any time soon. Beyond the elite edge rushers, Alabama has made impressions on Scout 100 defensive end James Lockhart, fellow four-star Kyle Phillips and currently hold the lead for three-star Gabriel Campbell and potentially for Kengera Daniel, as well.

Scenarios to Watch


Payne may be Alabama's top target regardless of position.

With so many premium targets available, it is common for a current commitment to look to wander a bit. While both Ledbetter and Jennings have already taken multiple visits to other schools since committing to Alabama, Ledbetter is the recruit in much more flux. In-state UGA has made a big-time push on he and his family, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if he ended up inking with the home state Bulldogs in February.

Among the uncommitted prospects, keep an eye on the top tier and the bottom tier of the target list. This means guys like Jefferson and Cowart, who have often talked about being a package deal, as well as guys like Phillips and Daniel, each of which has been to Alabama multiple times this spring. At defensive tackle, it could be Payne and everyone else. It wouldn't be outlandish to say that Payne and Moton could make up the class on the interior.

Linebacker 

Commitments - 4

The deepest position on the commitment list for the second-straight year is at the second-level. It should be no surprise with Alabama's defense lining up in a 3-4 scheme as much as it does, and the group is a versatile one. The headliner is big inside linebacker and four-star Leo Lewis. The Mississippian is the No. 7 middle linebacker projection on Scout, and brings the lumber inside at 6-foot-2, 226 pounds. On the edge, four-star Peach State prospect Mekhi Brown may have the highest ceiling in the group. He's long and lean (6-6, 230), fitting the classic mold of the JACK linebacker prospect that the staff has long liked him at. Brown has been committed for almost 14 months and projects similarly to in-state three-star Christian Bell from Hoover. The two-time state champion hasn't lost a game in more than two years and has impressed in his camp efforts this spring. And on Thursday night, UA added perhaps the easiest to peg of the linebacker bunch in Keaton Anderson. The Florence (Ala.) standout, who put together nearly 200 tackles a season ago, could occupy the weakside of the linebacker group once in Tuscaloosa or even perhaps play a hybrid linebacker/defensive back role.

Targets

The opposite of the trench talent, linebacker has been more of a "fit" position in 2015. There are several prospects that fit in one scheme and not the other, and Alabama has done a good job at pegging the ones that fit in Saban's defense. Still, there are a few elites that are takes no matter the scenario, beginning with the nation's No. 2 overall prospect Malik Jefferson. The five-star Texan knows he is a priority for every school, and Alabama has kept its name in the race despite failing to get him on campus to this point. Saban recently skyped in to his high school to have a personal word with the standout and his parents. Things like that will keep the Tide in it possibly all the way through, though getting him on campus is paramount.

The others with an offer to keep an eye on have long been pegged as top targets. Four-stars Joshua McMillon and Justin Hilliard have Alabama in their top five, each having visited recently, and Adonis Thomas has the Tide perhaps in his top two behind favorite Florida. But the wildcard of the bunch may be five-star Ricky DeBerry, a versatile talent that plans to see Tuscaloosa for the first time in June.

The big question is the numbers game at linebacker with four already on board and seemingly solid. How many will UA take? BamaMag feels that at least one more inside (DeBerry, McMillan) and one more outside (Jefferson, Hilliard, Thomas) linebacker will be added to the commitment list when all is said and done.

Scenarios to Watch

Timing. Several of the aforementioned names are not close to making a commitment, though Thomas and Hilliard have not yet ruled out summer decisions. In-state three-star Richard McBryde, who grew up a Tide fan, now wants to go the distance as well, so the linebacker group may figure itself out by the time the elites want to announce their intent. Should Thomas (Florida) and Hilliard (Ohio State) end up elsewhere, then it almost makes the process of getting one or two more linebackers on board an easier one for Alabama as the class fills up.


Is Thompson Alabama's most important pledge?

Defensive Back 

Commitments - 4

Versatility defines the secondary at Alabama in every cycle, and 2015 is no different. Each of the four commitments are not only rated four-stars by Scout, but all have the ability to play safety or cornerback. Deionte Thompson, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Montrell Custis and Shawn Burgess-Becker each stand between 6-foot and 6-foot-2 with good range and one-on-one cover skills. Thompson is the highest ranked of the bunch, as Scout's No. 2 safety prospect in all the land. Only Fitzpatrick, Scout's No. 8 cornerback, is ranked as a corner within the group.

Targets

Don't be so quick rule out prospects committed to other schools, even to the same "other" school. The University of Georgia picked up a great young recruiter and heck of a lot of momentum in hiring Jeremy Pruitt away from Florida State, and snagged five-star Terry Godwin and four-star Rico McGraw in the process soon after. Godwin has visited Alabama twice since then, and plans on doing so again this coming weekend. McGraw has been in Tuscaloosa at least once since picking the Dawgs, and the Crimson Tide continues to actively pursue each one.

Within the undeclared field, Alabama has made five-star cornerback Kendell Sheffield a priority, though he has not yet been to Tuscaloosa. Four-star teammates and cornerback projections Darius Slayton and Micah Abernathy continue to mention the Tide among schools on them consistently as does Mississippi safety Jamal Peters, who has Alabama in his recently released top group.

A pair of four-stars often overlooked are Cameron Ordway and John Reid. Both out-of-state talents are in no rush to make a commitment and often keep Alabama in mind when discussing the latest. Each is long and physical, a trend with most of the cornerback projections on this list.

A safety, the list is razor thin after Peters. Thompson, Burgess-Becker and Custis all remain solid on the commitment list. UA has seemingly slipped for additional targets Rashad Roundtree and Roney Elam.

Scenarios to Watch

The flip game, both ways. After telling BamaMag that he won't take any more visits, Thompson somewhat surprised in revealing an official visit list. The group included Alabama at the top, along with LSU, Florida State, USC and Utah – all programs that have also offered the Crimson Tide's longest standing commitment. This isn't a warning to say he's on flip alert, but something to eye as his status eventually shifts to "soft verbal." BamaMag expects Thompson to be in Alabama's class as an early enrollee, nonetheless.

Other than a potential flip from the program, subscribers should eye the potential flips UA can achieve courtesy of another program, mainly Georgia at this time with Godwin and McGraw in the fold. McGraw is the more likely victory for Alabama at this time.


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