Recruiting Ripple: Ronnie Harrison

Alabama landed one of its biggest commitments in 2015 to date on Tuesday, flipping four-star defensive back projection Ronnie Harrison from North Carolina. UA is now at 20 commitments, and it extended its lead in the Scout recruiting rankings. But what does it mean for the class going forward?

Arguably the hottest prospect in the South over the spring and summer was Ronnie Harrison. He impressed every chance he got, adding offers and improving his ranking each time out. Alabama was one of the programs to go all-in on the four-star during that time, and it paid off when Harrison announced his commitment to the Crimson Tide on Tuesday.

Even though the Scout 300 prospect plays both ways at Tallahassee (Fla.) FSU School, he is being coveted by Nick Saban’s staff to play in the secondary. Alabama now has five defensive backs in the cycle, with Harrison joining four-stars Deionte Thompson, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Shawn Burgess-Becker and Montrell Custis on the commitment list.

But Harrison’s commitment is deeper than that.

Regional Impact 

Alabama has done well in the Sunshine State, signing multiple Floridians in each cycle since 2011. The 2015 class now has a trio of prospects from Florida on the commitment list, with Burgess-Becker and five-star wide receiver Calvin Ridley hailing from the fertile grounds. But perhaps more interesting is that Harrison is from Tallahassee, home of the defending national champion Florida State Seminoles. While Jimbo Fisher’s staff wasn’t going all in for Harrison like most, the group still gave the emerger his due and hosted him for camp earlier this month.

Going forward, Alabama will continue to attack the Sunshine State as it always does. Lance Thompson was Harrison’s lead recruiter, but Mario Cristobal spearheads the Tide effort in the state more times than not. He and the staff are still squarely in the mix for other targets within the borders. Among the names to know include four-star running back Jaques Patrick, who has UA in his top two along with FSU, and Jovon Durante, a four-star West Virginia commitment who recently told BamaMag that he’ll commit to the Tide if things don’t work out with the Mountaineers (academics pending). Tampa-area standout and Scout 100 talent George Campbell released a top 10 on Monday with Alabama in it, though he hasn’t visited Tuscaloosa in some time. In the same area, Scout’s No. 1 offensive tackle, Martez Ivey, remains fairly high on the program though it clearly trails Florida and Auburn in the current pecking order. Similar can be said for five-star defensive ends Byron Cowart and CeCe Jefferson.

If Alabama is going to use Harrison as a springboard to close well in Florida, as it often does, it could lead to its biggest haul in the state during the Saban era. If it adds yet another defensive back from the state to the fold, it could be Tarvares McFadden, a four-star and the No. 30 overall player on Scout. He has yet to take in Tuscaloosa, so the only shot the staff may have could be by using an official visit to get him on campus this fall.

Positional Impact 

Harrison is defensive back No. 5 on the commitment list, and there’s a theme with each of them: versatility. Each is at least 6-feet tall and plays multiple positions in high school. Some, like Burgess-Becker and Thompson, play wide receiver while Custis and Fitzpatrick play cornerback and safety. It’s not a coincidence, as Saban often has a “mold” for his secondary targets, and Harrison fits both camps, playing quarterback, corner and safety for FSU School. While only Fitzpatrick, among the five, is projected to play cornerback by Scout -- all but Burgess-Becker have shown the ability to play cornerback this summer in front of Scout at various camps.

With that Saban “mold” clearly defined (around 6-foot and versatile), remaining targets are clear in the secondary. Five-star Texan Kendall Sheffield visited Tuscaloosa earlier in July and furthered his relationship with friend and fellow track/cornerback star Tony Brown while on campus. It will likely be enough to get him back on campus for an official visit in the fall. The numbers game may dictate that just one, maybe two spots, remain in the secondary for 2015.

With limited numbers, the Georgia commitment list is again one to eye for Alabama. Five-star and two-way threat Terry Godwin is a corner candidate for UA, though his sister’s recent commitment to UGA may be a setback for Saban’s staff. Rico Mcgraw, another corner/safety type fitting the “mold,” and also on Mark Richt’s commitment list, has been to Tuscaloosa several times since pledging red and black. He recently told Scout that he’ll continue to make visits to others programs, including to Alabama.

The only other name to keep a close eye on in addition to the aforementioned is that of McFadden, who has kept things close to the vest all the way through his recruitment. He’s similar to Harrison in that his stock is as high as it’s ever been at this time, and Alabama likes what it sees.

What’s Next? 

Alabama landing Harrison is big in many ways. It solidifies another cornerback or free safety option in the class and gets the Crimson Tide on people’s minds in Florida, where several other targets remain. In closing out the class, Alabama will next take a look at remaining positions of need like offensive tackle, with top targets Drew Richmond and Isaiah Prince undeclared (along with Ivey), tight end, with Will Gragg and DeAndre McNeal available and arguably the top overall target and top player in-state, five-star defensive tackle Daron Payne.

Richmond will visit on Saturday; in what will be the last batch of summer trips for most recruits, as football season begins. That makes the official visit window, as it often is, a major recruiting tool in closing out the 2015 class.

Final Thoughts 

Harrison is a valuable pickup for Alabama in what he brings on the field, with versatility and a high ceiling, but he may be just as big a pickup off of it. Harrison is very active on social media and while on recruiting visits, and despite his pledge to Alabama, it would be a surprise if he didn’t take in more college campuses going forward. If UA can hold his commitment, it could be a major asset in closing in on another Scout.com recruiting national title for Saban.


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