Blake Barnett was a big, big piece to the class of 2015 puzzle for Alabama no matter how one can look at it. He's a top-10 quarterback talent with presumably untapped potential that ended up being the solution to the nation-wide search for a quarterback since Ricky Town decommitted in late January. He was one of the first few to rack up an offer from the program after Town's decision, as Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin combined to peak his interest enough to end the process after a three-day stay in Tuscaloosa last week.
With the one major position of need filled and secured, the staff now turns its collective head to the remaining six spots in what is expected to be a 25-man class. UA has 19 on board with the addition of Barnett, though some movement could be anticipated with current commitments to eventually scale that number down -- more on that later.
BamaMag.com takes a look at what we have gathered as the available slots and glance at the top priorities to fill each between now and February.
This report features several hypothetical scenarios considering Alabama has just six spots left and several more top targets left on the board. This reflects how many can be added at each.
Running Back - Up to One (1) Spot Remaining
Four-star talent DeSherrius Flowers remains as solid as it gets for the Tide in terms of strong commitments, but the plan has long been to pair him with another. Auburn has taken the upper-hand with arguably the top two targets on the board, holding the verbal commitments of five-star JUCO talent Jovon Robinson as well as in-state four-star Kerryon Johnson. However, each has maintained that official visits elsewhere are very likely, which would almost guarantee Alabama at least one more formal shot to make up ground against the Tigers.
The other intriguing part of the running back puzzle remains to be the additional in-state running backs with verbal offers from ‘Bama. Three-stars Nick Gibson and Bradrick Shaw are both fairly high on the program, but how much of it is reciprocated? It's tough to tell with so few spots remaining, especially considering how close Gibson appeared to be to pledging for the Mississippi State Bulldogs last week at camp. The two and UAB commitment JaMarius Henderson, are the in-state options to keep an eye on while Scout.com's top high school back in 2015, Damien Harris, continues to mention Alabama among his favorites as well.
All things considered, could Alabama move on with Flowers alone at the running back position in the class? Of course it can, though it shouldn't slow the pursuit of the pair of Auburn pledges any time soon. Holding steady with one back in the cycle could open a slot along the offensive line or in the defensive front seven, where several priority targets remain.
Wide Receiver - Up to One (1) Spot Remaining
This slot is as intriguing as it gets in projecting this class. Alabama considers longtime pledge Daylon Charlot and A-Day game snag Calvin Ridley as its wide receiver haul, and many wouldn't be surprised if that wrapped up the position, but how easy a feat will that be? Each has admitted that local offers are at least somewhat intriguing of late.
Charlot, from Patterson, La., earned his LSU offer at camp this month, something he's admitted he'd been waiting on for three years. Shortly after, he Tweeted that he'd make a "final decision" between the Tigers and Tide at the Under Armour All-America Game. It was deleted soon after, but it's safe to say that his pledge isn't as rock solid as it once seemed.
Ridley, along with fellow South Florida teammate and Tide commitment Shawn Burgess-Becker, were down to local Miami and Alabama for some time before joining the fold at ‘Bama in April. Each has since taken several visits (each currently at Ohio State, too) and it is expected to be the case all the way through their recruitment. Always a package deal, one bolting for a different program could have a major effect on the other. Miami probably remains the top threat out there, though each of the big three in Florida and several others continue giving chase.
Should one or both receivers end up elsewhere, Alabama would have an interesting predicament on its hands, similar to the one at running back. It has offers out to well over a dozen uncommitted talents at the position, but hasn't seemingly made up too much ground on the apparent favorites for many at the top. However, summer visits from five-star George Campbell (likely July), Tyron Johnson (June) and Tavares Martin (June) could be ones to hone in on. The Tide has also kept up with explosive four-stars K.J. Hill of Arkansas and Jayson Stanley of Georgia recently, too. Even still, it would be surprising to see Alabama ink more than two wideouts in the cycle -- which combination will it be?
Tight End - Up to One (1) Spot Remaining
If the wideouts were the most intriguing; tight end may be the most simple scenario. Hale Hentges was a monster addition last month, representing the "hyrbid'' type of talent that the staff was looking for, but it has always been the plan to take a second tight end in the cycle. This one is expected to be more of a hand-in-the-ground, traditional type of tight end. Four-star Jackson Harris once seemed like he could be that guy, before selecting Georgia a few weeks ago. The next day, recently-offered in-state tight end Jalen Harris returned to Tuscaloosa for a second visit in 10 days in order to have his dad see town for the first time. After the overnight trip, he camped at Auburn and added that offer to his list, before announcing Wednesday night that his commitment will go down on Tuesday evening (June 24) at the St. James School in Montgomery. Will Alabama snag Harris and wrap-up the tight end slots for the cycle?
Harris could be UA's next commitment.
If not, a pair of four-stars again jump to the forefront of the Alabama wish-list -- Arkansas legacy Will Gragg and Miami-area standout Devonaire Clarington. Gragg is as familiar with Tuscaloosa as any out-of-state recruit in the country, while Clarington has yet to set foot on campus as far as we know. Either way, should UA miss on Harris, the others are in no rush to make a decision, with Gragg set to commit in mid-November and Clarington leaning towards potentially waiting the process all the way through. Though not the original plan, holding firm with Hentges as the only tight end in the class could be the third scenario, especially if a major target elsewhere is more available than originally considered down the road. The tight end almost mirrors the running back position in stability for the cycle.
Offensive Line - Up to Two (2) Spots Remaining
Now things are traveling towards the tricky territory. UA has a trio of four-star, interior offensive line projections in the fold in local talent Lester Cotton, ‘Bama legacy Dallas Warmack and NFL legacy Richie Petitbon. Even before getting into Warmack's ventures to other schools like Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina because of a depth chart worry, the question about the lack of offensive tackles is warranted. Well, one of the best in-state is looking to end the recruiting process soon -- Tyler Carr. The four-star is a guard on Scout, but Alabama envisions him at tackle, and he's down to (take a wild guess) Alabama and Auburn.
Carr's father attended AU and he's admitted he was once more comfortable on the Plains, but now says that Mario Cristobal's style has helped the Tide to make up that ground. He was once poised to take his time with the process, possibly to make a decision sometime in the fall after taking several official visits, but now says he'll make the call "in a few weeks." Carr's last trip was to Tuscaloosa, where he had some specific questions answered about the players and the program, itself. Was it enough?
After Carr, regardless of what his final decision may be, Alabama is positioning itself for a potentially major finish at the position. Five-star Martez Ivey, four-stars Drew Richmond and Christian Pellage as well as uber-upside and project Abdul Bello, don't plan on making a decision any time soon. Ivey could be hard to sway from the in-state Gators, but Richmond and Pellage each have visited recently and admitted that Alabama ranks "high" on their list. Richmond should have his commitment in during the month of September and Pellage is expected to take all of his visits before pulling the trigger. Cristobal has worked hard on each, with Pellage getting intimate time with his potential position coach at camp last weekend, so those two appear to be the realistic options at the tackle position. Fellow four-star Matthew Burrell has yet to visit, but that is expected to change soon. He's another high on the program. After Carr's decision comes through, however, it's as up in the air as it gets, so taking just one from this group seems like a back-burner possibility.
Defensive Tackle - Up to One (1) Spot Remaining
If Warmack is a slight worry on the offensive line, what label should be placed on four-star defensive line pledge Jonathan Ledbetter? He's indicated that his status with the Tide isn't as weak as many feel it is, but he continues to check out several other schools as well. Georgia is the consensus top threat to the Tide, but Auburn is in the mix as well. The same cannot be said for June commitment T.D. Moton, who had pegged UA atop his board for some time. Should his pledge not hold up for some reason, however, it could be similar to the cornerback situation Alabama dealt with in 2014. It lost Kalvaraz Bessent and Stephen Roberts to Auburn in a short period of time before closing with five-stars Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey. Could that be the case again in 2015? The ideal late additions this time around would of course be the state's top talent Daron Payne and Scout's top defensive tackle Trenton Thompson.
Payne remains priority No. 1 for Alabama.
Thompson has Alabama close behind Georgia on his list, and isn't expected to pick one anytime soon and Payne is another classic Alabama-Auburn tilt. He, too, is in no rush to make a commitment, and will likely take several visits out of the state for some perspective beforehand. It's been no secret that Payne is arguably the staff's top overall target, and has been for some time, again ironically similar to Humphrey a year ago.
Beyond the top two targets, five-stars Tim Settle, Kahlil McKenzie and four-star Mississippi talent Fletcher Adams remain. UA isn't considered the leader for either of the three, but has often been in the mix, though McKenzie will commit to either Tennessee or Arizona while at Nike's The Opening in early July. JUCO defensive tackle D.J. Jones holds an offer and was recently on campus and in-state three-star Jauntavius Johnson just added his ‘Bama offer while camping over the weekend. A return visit is already in the works.
Expect plenty of movement at defensive tackle in the next seven-plus months, to say the least, though some combination of two prospect in the final tally remains the expectation.
Edge Rusher - Up to One (1) Spot Remaining
Since at Alabama, guys like five-stars Byron Cowart, CeCe Jefferson and four-star commitment Mekhi Brown are all potential outside linebackers even though Scout pegs each technically as a defensive end, lets lump this into one fun category.
Alabama has Brown as well as in-state three-stars Anfernee Jennings and Christian Bell at the position, but as noted, there are several elites available in the cycle. Cowart and Jefferson each consistently mention UA among their top group of schools, though ‘Bama has never led for either. Fellow five-stars Rasheem Green, Keisean Lucier-South and Marquavius Lewis (JUCO) have each named UA in their top group as well. Factor in others with an offer getting more familiar with the program like Kyle Phillips, Kengera Daniel and Gabriel Campbell – and the edge rusher position seems like the hardest to peg of them all.
However, if all of these names boil down to one spot (the current guess) or even more down the road, then perhaps last Saturday at camp was the best indication as to where things now stand. Five-star outside linebacker Ricky DeBerry is as versatile as it gets, and it was stressed to him by the staff during his visit on that day. The same can be said for Scout 100 talent James Lockhart, who was also making his first trip to Tuscaloosa.DeBerry is close to Settle and Burrell, each hailing from Northern Virginia, each working closely with 2014 signee Da'Shawn Hand in the offseason, helping UA's case to snag at least one of the elite trio. Lockhart, on the other hand, is close to winding things down in his recruitment, perhaps the closest of any recruit not named Harris in this feature. Texas A&M is the only other school he is considering at this point, admitting each was "neck and neck" and "50 – 50" after his Tuscaloosa visit, though he also admitted that Saban's scheme was the better fit as was the coaching staff's treatment of him compared to that of the Aggies.
Wild Card - Up to One (1) Spot Remaining
As Alabama always seems to do, with Eddie Jackson near the end of the 2013 cycle and Rashaan Evans a few months ago to cap the 2014 class, there will be a recruit that UA's late charge for stuns the competition and maybe even surprises the fan base. This means that a prospect that was once seemingly all geared towards one school (Jackson to Florida State and Evans to AU), ends up Crimson.
Though early, this year's candidates, in addition to the running back targets committed to Auburn mentioned above, are Georgia commitments Terry Godwin and Rico McGraw, Florida State pledge Tyrek Cole and the nation's No. 2 overall player and Texan linebacker Malik Jefferson. Godwin and McGraw have each been on campus twice since pledging to UGA during the same week and remain a priority for the coaching staff. Cole hasn't been to Tuscaloosa yet, but he has Alabama in his top three along with the ‘Noles and hometown ‘Canes, which is a credit to Cristobal's approach with the four-star cornerback. Jefferson, the only undeclared prospect on this list, is similar to Tony Brown during 2014. Most pegged Brown to LSU most of the way, but Alabama always pursued as hard as it could, eventually landing the elite two-sport star. Jefferson has long been pegged to one of the in-state schools, mainly Texas A&M, but UA has done all it could to impress he and his parents, which included a special Skype session between Saban and the Jefferson's last month. The technology was one way Saban impressed the Brown's last year. Could a repeat be in the works?
Even though Alabama is sitting atop the Scout rankings with 19 verbal commitments as of June 19, 2014, expect some shuffle and some big names finagled their way onto it come February.
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