Garcia’s Glance: Alabama’s Haul

Alabama finished with the No. 2 class in America on Scout for the 2015 cycle, which included the most five-star prospects signed as well as the highest rating per signee in the country. Analyst John Garcia Jr. details his thoughts on all 23 additions.

The following signees are listed by ranking.

The top prospect in UA’s class, Sheffield is as gifted a corner as there has been over the last few cycles, with world-class track speed combined with the size and physicality to compete against SEC wide receivers. There may not be a smoother prospect in the country, and it may translate to early playing time.

Alabama’s top in-state prospect picked UA just over a month ago and virtually shut things down. He hoped to do the same against the interior of SEC offensive lines, with his elite strength and quickness. Despite out-weighing every other prospect in Alabama’s 2015 haul, Payne would edge out a handful of prospects in the 40-yard dash. He’s that type of talent and arguably Nick Saban’s biggest get in 2015.

Amari Cooper 2.0? That’s the word from Tuscaloosa when talking about the south Floridian, actually ranked higher than UA’s record-setting wideout. Ridley is a little smaller and perhaps not as fast, but he has the same big-play ability on the outside. He can catch short passes and take it the distance in addition to blowing the top off a defense. Ridley is also known for highlight-reel catches, like the one The Opening, when he stole the show at the event’s first day of competition (video below).

The on-paper headliner, Barnett was the turning point for the 2015 haul. His summer commitment seemed to re-ignite the buzz around Alabama’s class, and he helped solidify it as arguably the best in America. On the field, he lit-up every competition he participated in over the summer, en route to the Elite 11 MVP Award and the Nike 7-On championship at The Opening, before a big-time senior season. The California kid is a true dual-threat, and he’s already immersed himself into Lane Kiffin’s system while getting a head start in Tuscaloosa after enrolling early.

Long, athletic, versatile, with good ball skills. Sound familiar? Sure, it’s a staple for most defensive backs Alabama signs, and Fitzpatrick could end up being the best of the 2015 bunch. He could play boundary cornerback or safety at the next level with his savvy in the open field, but probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves for being one of the more physical prospects at his position.

Could this be the next great Alabama running back? Harris has the size and big-play potential to do just that, along with speed in the open field that often isn’t associated with a 210-pound talent. Sure, the competition he faced in high school wasn’t great, but he erased much of the final doubt surrounding that notion with a banner performance at the Under Armour All-America Game to cap his prep career.

The top prospect least talked about in Alabama’s class could be the one with the biggest impact this fall. Another early enrollee already working out with the team, Thompson has the size and smarts to excel as a free safety. But it’s his versatility that makes him elite, as the Texan has shined at many camps as a pure cover cornerback. Should he add some weight and strength over the next six months or so, watch out.

The local standout may be the most physically impressive prospect Alabama signed. Not only does he have the size, but his weight is distributed well, and it shows with his strength and consistency in the trenches. Cotton is projected to play guard, where he could be in the NFL one day, but don’t rule out the career left tackle getting a shot to do the same in college.

Sure, he has NFL bloodlines, but Petitbon is also one of the hardest-working and strongest lineman in America. His base is as good as it gets at the high school level, and it will only improve in Tuscaloosa. There aren’t many others willing to compete and fight as much as the D.C. native will on every rep. He’ll need to transition to guard as soon as possible, but he could end up as a multi-year starter soon after.

One of the biggest risers in the Scout rankings, Hentges has the ability to play both in-line tight end as well split out on the edges, with great ball skill and big-play ability. Also a standout defensive end in high school, he’s gritty, though tightening up his blocking technique will be a priority once he’s on campus. Could this be the compliment to O.J. Howard in the seams for the foreseeable future?

There isn’t an Alabama signee that improved more from his junior season to his senior campaign than Jennings, who became the state of Alabama’s top edge force in the last year. He can do it with power, speed and quickness and he’s beginning to develop counter moves in the process. Against the run, he is stout and violent at the point of attack. The most interesting thing in tracking Jennings at the next level will be his position. Will he maintain his frame and play JACK linebacker and/or 5-technique or will he add weight and play on the defensive interior?

Long, lean and explosive off the edge, Brown was a high-profile prospect at a young age and has developed his game over the last six months. He has become more cerebral as a pass-rusher, using angles and counter-moves instead of relying on his speed and quickness. With some added mass and improvement against the run at the point of attack, Brown could end up having a similar career to fellow Carver High standout Adrian Hubbard.

Often taking the back-seat to his close friend and high school teammate Ridley, it was Burgess-Becker who emerged as a top prospect before his counterpart. Also a two-way star, the four-star blossomed into a physical safety prospect later in his career, where he’s expected to play in Tuscaloosa. He has very good ball skills and better cover skills than given credit for, but it’s the mental aspect of playing in the middle of the back end that will be SBB’s biggest hurdle at the next level.

Primarily known as a possession wide receiver that can play physical football on the outside, Charlot expanded perception at the Under Armour event with his big-play ability as a return-man. He took one punt to the house and nearly repeated the feat in the game, though his outlook at the next level will be as a guy who can make plays in traffic. Could he end up as the slot receiver option Kiffin has been looking for?

Often not talked about after committing to Alabama nearly two years ago, Flowers also underwhelmed late in his high school career. However, he flashed enough at his size to remain in the Scout300 and got to Tuscaloosa in January to begin his transition. If he can stay healthy, which was an issue over the last 24 months, he has the chance to salvage the perception around him in a hurry with his physical style and underrated ability out of the backfield.

If versatility is your thing, Harrison is your guy in Alabama’s class. Similar to Ronnie  Clark a season before, he was a standout quarterback and part-time safety in high school, exploding over the final summer of the process at camps while working out as a defender. He’s big, physical and has top-notch ball skills at the back end. Already on campus, he could challenge for early playing time at a position of need as a freshman should his complete focus at safety improve his “feel” for playing at the back end.

Most player have to transition to a new position in college, but Thomas did it as a senior, making the switch from outside to the middle of coach Todd Wofford’s defense. Not only did he invest in the move, but he thrived within it and became a more-coveted talent at the second-level. Also a gifted pass-rusher and solid in space, there aren’t many linebacker duties Thomas cannot fulfill. With a need at the position, he’s as vital a land for the Crimson Tide as any other signee.

Despite coming off of an ACL injury, McMillon was hotly contested by other programs down the stretch. But it was Alabama’s trust in him as the future signal-caller of the defense helped UA hold off many others late. McMillon was primarily a defensive end during his prep career, but he’ll help out Alabama’s middle linebacker corps once he’s back at 100 percent. Smart, physical and better in space than credited, the four-star is Alabama’s highest-ranked talent outside of the Scout300.

We all know the last name, but can he compare to big brother? It shouldn’t matter, as Dallas Warmack figures to be a mobile center at the next level. It may take a bit longer for him to get on the field in Tuscaloosa, but he has a great base and one of the best punches in the 2015 class. Warmack enrolled at Alabama last month.

Big, strong and now with an added chip on his shoulder after some transitions in between colleges, Taylor is expected to make an immediate impact at Alabama. He only has two seasons to play two in Tuscaloosa, so the noseguard talent has his work cut out for him on campus. He’s already there looking to prove a point as a guy worth another chance on the field.

A sideline-to-sideline linebacker at the prep level, Anderson is as good as it gets in the open field. So much so that he played safety in a pinch late last season, as the Florence Falcons went on a deep playoff run. The success he had in the process has begged the question; can he do it at the next level? Enter the Vinnie Sunseri comparisons and expectation. Anderson is willing to make the move, though the plan is for him to remain at the second level for now. He’s added weight since wrapping up his prep career, too.

A late emerger with one of the best frames in the country, Womack is a road grater with a mean streak in the trenches. He needs to refine his pass protection, like most prospects have to before thriving at the next level, but he as all the tools to get it done. Alabama envisions him as a true right tackle prospect, so once he elevates his retreat game, sky may be the limit.

There’s not an offensive lineman in the class that thrived in more spots at the prep level than Kennedy. Another early enroll signee, he played tackle, guard and center in high school -- and performed well at each. In college, his length and lower-body power will help him play on the interior of the offensive line, and he’s as smart as it gets in the trenches, too.

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