Alabama added to its 2017 class two weeks ago with the commitment of versatile defensive back Xavier McKinney out of Roswell (Ga.) High School, which remains undefeated halfway through the 2015 season.
Picking UA over offers from Clemson, South Carolina, Tennessee and others, the 6-foot-1, 185-pounder initially earned his Crimson Tide scholarship offer at camp this summer. He has since returned to campus twice and plans to be back in Tuscaloosa soon.
"I knew it was the school for me, I had been up there three times and my third time was for the Ole Miss game last week," McKinney said. "It was a great atmosphere and I feel like it could be a place I could be for the next four years. The coaching staff is great and I have a great relationship with coach (Kirby) Smart. I feel like they're the team that will get me to the next level as a player and as a student also."
Smart, the lead recruiter for McKinney and Nick Saban's ace in the Peach State, had a particularly big impact on landing yet another from across state lines. McKinney laughed when discussing him, especially when asked about the energy he brings to the football field and recruiting trail.
"He's always like that, that's one of the coolest coaches I've met." he said. "He's really cool to be around, he's crazy at times, but I like him. He cracks jokes whole bunch, but when he's out on that field he's real serious, I can tell. He's a real cool guy."
Adding that the early verbal pledge gives him time to focus on school and his high school teammates, McKinney has also focused on growing as a leader from the safety position. However, he has the capability to play elsewhere int he secondary at the next level.
"The plan is to play safety but I can play both if they need me to," he said. "I'm willing to do whatever and I can play both. He (Smart) feels I can produce big minutes my first year, maybe even start because the because the gusy that are there will be graduating."
Among the current safeties that may be gone upon his arrival is Eddie Jackson, who returned an interception for a score Saturday at Samford Stadium. It was part of what the junior standout says helped reverse perception after the Ole Miss upset.
"The game against Ole Miss, I think they played a good game, it was tough all the way through," MckInney said. "They could have made some tackles, they missed some key ones, but overall they played good. And then this week it was a good bounce-back against Georgia.
"I felt like they got after it and they were trying to prove something to everybody that they weren't one and they're still Alabama."