Seemingly as a matter of when, and not if, Rico McGraw made his commitment to Alabama public on Thursday. Making the switch from Georgia the night before, the four-star cornerback projection is now one of six class of 2015 prospects in the secondary committed to Nick Saban’s program.
With spots at a premium and more than 20 commitments on board for Alabama, the senior class is trimmed down with only priorities remaining going forward.
BamaMag.com examines where the Crimson Tide goes from here, after McGraw’s decision.
Regional ImpactHailing from Volunteer State powerhouse Nashville (Tenn.) Ensworth, McGraw is a big get for Alabama in purely his skill-set, but also in his homestate. Alabama’s border to the north features several class of 2015 targets and beyond, including a pair of four-stars quite familiar with the highly-touted defensive back.
Alabama has long been on the trail for an offensive tackle, and Memphis (Tenn.) University School senior Drew Richmond may be atop the list. Planning to visit Alabama on Saturday in one of his final summer trips, the 6-foot-5 prospect knows he’s a priority for Saban and company. He’s recently gone on record about his potential role as a right tackle in Lane Kiffin’s offense, and how playing time would be more attainable than most think at a program like Alabama’s. Tennessee, Ohio State and Ole Miss are the primary competition for Richmond, who is somewhat close to McGraw, and he’ll make his commitment on September 9.
Another four-star priority in the state is from the Music City, as McGraw is, in Kyle Phillips. The defensive end is also very familiar with Tuscaloosa and the program itself, even traveling with McGraw at least once in the last calendar year for an unofficial visit. There is still a need for Alabama on the edge, and Phillips can possibly play a down 5-technique as well, so expect the most recent commitment to aid in that effort as well.
Positional ImpactAs mentioned, a half-dozen defensive backs now patrol the virtual backfield on Alabama’s 2015 commitment list. McGraw is one of only two, along with Minkah Fitzpatrick, projected to play cornerback at the next level within the group. However, Deionte Thompson, Montrell Custis and second most recent pledge Ronnie Harrison all have cornerback experience. Shawn Burgess-Becker, the sixth DB on the list, has wide receiver experience as well. Size, as each is around 6-foot tall or above, and versatility is a key for the positon group, a staple of a Saban recruiting class.
McGraw can fit in at several places as well. Sources tell BamaMag that cornerback will be the Tennessean’s first opportunity within the secondary, though safety is a position he’s very familiar with. He’s played it on the 7-on-7 circuit as well as at Ensworth, helping the team to three straight state championship crowns in the process.
Going forward, Alabama is likely done in the secondary, at least numbers-wise. Several committed prospects have taken or will take visits elsewhere, and the staff is plenty aware. On the flip-side, elite targets, like five-star cornerback Kendell Sheffield, remain. The Texan, close to fellow two-sport star and ‘Bama frosh Tony Brown, will take an official visit to Tuscaloosa in the fall and have the Crimson Tide in the mix most of the way through the evaluation process. A decision, however, isn’t expected any time soon.
What’s Next?As mentioned above, offensive tackle is a priority for Alabama going forward. Tight end is as well, as well as defensive tackle and linebacker. Richmond and Scout 100 prospect Isaiah Prince, who just visited Tuscaloosa for the first time and now plans to take a close look during an official visit, are the primary offensive line targets still on the board for ‘Bama. Adonis Thomas, who makes his commitment on Friday, as well as late August decider Joshua McMillon remain atop the linebacker board. At tight end, Arkansas four-star Will Gragg and Texan DeAndre McNeal remain undeclared and squarely in the sights of assistant Billy Napier down the stretch. Wide receiver could be a position of emphasis as well, with K.J Hill, George Campbell and others in the mix. Daron Payne, the top prospect in the state of Alabama, remains well ahead of the pack on the defensive tackle board. Fellow five-star defensive tackle Trenton Thompson will likely visit Tuscaloosa next week, but Georgia has a considerable lead in the race for his services.
Either way, Alabama looks poised to again reign as the Scout.com team recruiting ranking national champions with a strong close to the class.
Final ThoughtsMcGraw solidifies the versatile criteria that Alabama has established in its defensive backs over the last decade or so, and he represents another long-term target that Saban has snagged despite a verbal pledge given to another SEC program. It also gets Alabama back into Tennessee, and somewhat early with big targets yet to make public decisions, so there’s quite possibly a bigger benefit than the on-field gain of landing another four-star defensive back.
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