Recruiting Ripple: Harris tabs Tide

Alabama reeled in one of its top remaining targets on Friday with the announcement of running back Damien Harris. The Scout100 talent is big for ‘Bama on many levels, and we break down why -- as well as what’s next -- inside.

In what was another great close by Nick Saban and company, Alabama overcame in-state pressure from Kentucky among other programs for the commitment of Scout100 running back Damien Harris on Friday.

Pairing Harris with fellow four-star DeSherrius Flowers, who is already enrolled, gives Alabama the two backs its long coveted to round out the class of 2015. But the ripple of the commitment extends far beyond the position as the Crimson Tide looks to closeout another top recruiting class with signing day right around the corner.

Regional Impact 

While Kentucky isn’t an often-recruited state by Saban’s staff, it proves a point Alabama could not in the 2014 cycle. It can go into another SEC territory and out-duel Mark Stoops for the top player in Kentucky. Matt Elam was the state’s best in 2014, but he elected to sign with the Wildcats despite the Crimson Tide’s late charge.

Many expected Kentucky to win out for the top 2015 in-state prospect in Harris, especially after he decommitted from Michigan prior to his senior season, but Alabama got him on campus twice in November, including for an official visit, and it ultimately helped the perennial power close the gap. It took the lead soon after, and didn’t look back during the Under Armour All-America week, as Harris was surrounded by double-digit Alabama commitments during the practice week.

It bodes well for Alabama in the class of 2016 and beyond, should another key Bluegrass State prospect emerge.

Positional Impact 

With Flowers and now Harris in the fold, Alabama looks to be finished with its running back haul for the cycle. 2014 five-star signee Bo Scarbrough also began classes at the school on Wednesday, providing more insurance at the position going forward.

However, Alabama is scheduled to host another four-star running back for an official next weekend in Johnny Frasier. The Florida State commitment admits he’s not likely to end up in Tallahassee, while fellow ACC programs North Carolina State and Duke are in line for official visits leading up to national signing day.

It wouldn’t surprise many if Frasier didn’t take the planned trip to Tuscaloosa, which happened once in the fall. However, Alabama could decide to attempt to take a closer look at the North Carolinian late in the game much like it did in the class of 2013, when Derrick Henry and Alvin Kamara joined what was thought to be a stacked and near full running back haul of Altee Tenpenny and Tyren Jones. Time will tell.

Harris at the 2015 Under Armour All-America Game

What’s Next? 

With Harris in the fold, Alabama can turn to its two other positions of need down the stretch of the 2015 cycle -- offensive tackle and wide receiver.

Among the names in contention to protect the blind side at Alabama, four-stars Isiah Prince and Chidi Valentine-Okeke remain uncommitted. Prince is slated to visit Alabama officially next weekend, working with a final three of the Crimson Tide, local program Maryland and Ohio State. Valentine-Okeke, who reclassified from the class of 2016, is looking at an Iron Bowl decision though LSU is in line for a January official visit as well. Then there’s Drew Richmond, the four-star committed the Ole Miss. He took an unofficial visit to Alabama for the 2014 Iron Bowl, and will be another four-star expected in Tuscaloosa for an official visit the weekend of January 16.

Wide receiver is the other position of need for Alabama, and the names also flood the visit list next weekend. It includes former Alabama commitment Daylon Charlot as well as fellow four-star and current Arkansas commitment K.J. Hill. Recent Miami commitment Lawrence Cager is also slated to be on campus. Five-star Georgia commitment Terry Godwin is also expected to make an official visit late in the game before signing a letter of intent.

If Alabama lands one offensive tackle and one wide receiver, there could be one slot remaining in the class of 2015. A second running back, like Frasier, could be the direction Alabama elects to go with or even a second wide receiver from the group of visitors listed. Other names to keep an eye on for the theoretical spot include five-star defensive end CeCe Jefferson and four-star tight end/defensive end prospect Tyrone Wheatley Jr., among others.

Will Richmond stick with his Ole Miss commitment?

Final Thoughts 

Alabama proved a point. It went into Kentucky and snagged an elite prospect ranked above the rest within the borders for the first time in Saban’s tenure.

Harris is also fitting a need here. For the first time in at least two cycles, Alabama needed a high school running back late in the game, and it’s fitting on Friday as well, as underclassman running back T.J. Yeldon elected to forgo his senior season in Tuscaloosa for the NFL Draft.

Harris proved at the Under Armour game last weekend that he’s ready to play with the best in the country, and like the last two Alabama-bound running backs to seize control nationally in high school’s top events (Yeldon in 2012, Henry in 2013), it may prove as a stepping stone to early playing time in Tuscaloosa.

Senior Highlights: Damien Harris

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