John Garcia, Jr. answers BamaMag member questions in this weekly recruiting feature

Alabama is fresh off of an SEC title win and it hit the recruiting trail hard this week searching for the rest of the spots available in the class of 2016. Premium BamaMag users get all the latest on those prospects and more in this week's BamaMag Recruiting Q&A.

Above video: Scout Spotlight of 5-star Mecole Hardman Jr, who could take a late visit to Alabama.

Jump to the premium forum or scroll below for nearly 4,500 words of customized information on Alabama's 2016 recruiting class and beyond, complete with prospect analysis, nuggets, commitment predictions and so much more with many elites getting closer and closer to making a college decision. A trio of five-stars could come off the board in the next week.

*All BamaMag user questions are indicated in bold, our answers immediately follow.*

How do you think this class closes?

Bama will be in poition to make a furious finish this cycle, much like we’ve come to expect over the years. Heck, in their own state two elites are going to stretch out the process close to or on signing day in Ben Davis and Mack Wilson. They’re not alone and UA is in on many looking to do the same. Bama needs to add a RB (or 2, more on that later), 2 WRs, an OT, a DT, a DE, a JACK, 2 LBs, 1 S and a CB. Even if it doesn’t fill one of these needs, you’re talking about adding probably 10 guys who aren’t currently on the commitment list. Most will be blue chips and some five-stars will be among them. It’s gonna be another wild one, in a good way, for Alabama.

 

Which coaches stay?

My has this question been one with different answers any time. A month or two ago I would have said no chance Lane Kiffin returns in 2016, but now that’s looking like the case. Mario Cristobal’s name was in it at Miami and Rutgers, but each has hired their new coaches and he’s still on the recruiting trail heavy for UA. If you consider Scott Cochran a coach, it’s seeming more and more like he’s going to stay in Tuscaloosa despite his buddy Kirby at UGA. Not completely over yet, but Bama just loss its assistant strength coach to USCe, so I can’t imagine it “letting” Scott walk. Bama has been pushing to keep most of these guys and that will seemingly win out. It’s huge news for offensive continuity and recruiting. Kiffin has upped Bama’s efforts with QBs and was a major reason Blake Barnett is on track to be the front-runner to start next year. Having him on campus again won’t hurt the Cali kid.

 

I am getting nervous about our D-line haul because 2 years ago we were supposed to be locked in on offensive tackle and we struck out so that’s the reason for me apprehension. Have been seeing that D Lawrence may be Clemson bound, Rashad going to LSU, Brown and Carter to UGA, R Davis not eligible, Simmons to Ole Miss, and Rashan Gary to Michigan or heaven forbid...da barn (why anyone would go to barney is beyond me e$pecially with Muschamp gone.) I beleive in addition to Hulk and QW we need two more wide bodies and 1 DE/Pass rush type to fill in for who we lose to graduation and early departure. Any chance you can set me D-line obsessive mind at ease?

That was last year when Bama struck out on an offensive tackle, two years ago it landed some kid named Cam Robinson. But yea, there’s certainly some uncertainty with the DL group and specifically with some fo the guys you mentioned. But MANY of those names you rattled off are so far from making a decision. Particularly Jeff Simmons, R. Lawrence and Rashan Gary. Bama is still very much in play for each and will host both Simmons and Lawrence for official visits. Gary still hasn’t ironed out which final trip he’ll take as of Scout speaking with his mother last night. Dexter Lawrence is somewhat of an unknown. The easy thinking is he stays close to home and goes to NC State, but when the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in America are out of state and you’re familiar with them like he is with Clemson and Bama, it’s gonna be hard to say no. However, we have always heard he’s more of a “home body” type, so that doesnlt hurt the ACC schools in the race for his services. Most think it was a foregone conclusion months ago. I don’t. He doesn’t strike me as the type of kid to take a trip for the sake of taking it. Not one bit. That last Bama visit, which his family was able to go on, had a purpose. We’ll know Monday. And let’s not forget about Marlon Davidson, Kobe Jones, Boss Tagaloa, Jonathan Kongbo and other DLs that have either set or have mentioned visiting Bama again before all is said and done. This is a DEEP year on the DL and Bama will make out well. Snag one of the guys you’re worried about and add another from the list I just threw out and all of a sudden you have a pair of five-stars and two solid four stars in the class. Not awful.

 

Of the recruits you expect us to sign...who do you think will make the biggest impact next year?

Great question and not an easy one to answer. Of the CURRENT commitments, assuming they all get to Alabama, I still think BJ Emmons could have the biggest impact. I think he’d have a legit shot to get to No. 2 on the RB depth chart with his talent and size. It’s a surprisingly weak position on the roster as far as proven commodities go and he fits right in. Alabama hasn’t shied away from freshman tailbacks and this class will have to have one or two who can be in the mix. Let’s see if he makes it in. Of the potential lands late in the cycle, how can we ignore Ben Davis right? The kid is 6-4, 235 lbs, runs well, can be physical and play probably any of Bama’s 4 LB spots. If UA lands him, expect him to make a lot of noise in 2016. He’s a driven kid and that’s his goal no matter where he ends up and I’d be somewhat surprised if it didn’t happen. My next thought on instant impact guys is at wide receiver. Mullaney is gone, Black is transferring and Ridley will have all eyes on him as the clear No. 1 next year. UA will sign several WRs and the best one could contend for immediate PT behind Ridley and Stewart. Robert Foster’s return will be massive here as well. Interior DLs could crack early playing with with Robinson, Reed, Pettway and others departing, but don’t forget about Payne, Josh Frazier, OJ Smith and others. Bama is deep up front, but the best interior guy they sign will get a crack at seeing the field against USC.

 

As for next year’s recruiting class...how solid is Najee Harris? And just how good is he?

He’s more solid than outsiders give off. He’s spoken to few in the media, but Scout has been in with him well more than any other company. Najee loves Alabama, he flies out more than any far away underclassmen I’ve seen and he wants to make plays in Tuscaloosa (probably more now knowing the position doesn’t have that “guy” coming back in 2016. Imagine if there’s no clear cut guy a year from now and UA is a RB by committee next year? He’d be that much more eager to end up in Tuscaloosa. However, the race for his signature isn’t quite over. Stanford and USC are right there if he wants to stay in-state, which is something his mother has suggested a time or two. Not saying she’s not on board with Alabama, but location is location right? Najee wants to be in Bamas class right now, though. On the field, he’s electric. Some think he’s a Marshawn Lynch type but I gravitate towards more of a Todd Gurley type with his size and speed. He’s probably a step or two slower than TG, but runs with that same smooth nature and plenty of power.

 

A quick off topic question if I may. Who do you think Alabama’s best D-linman is?

I think Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson are in the running here. Reed can do it all, rush the passer, fill a gap, occupy a lineman and finish with power. Robinson is gonna be the higher-drafted prospect because of his bigger frame and ridiculous athleticism. Either has been flat-out dominant at times and in similar ways. I was shocked to see Reed left off of the All-SEC teams. That was a joke.

 

Have you heard any word on the academic progress of BJ Emmons? With the departure of Henry and Drake, it’s imperative that we get 2 backs on campus for the 2016 class. Is there a back-up plan?

Yea we’ve been checking in as much as we can and the trend probably isn’t great for Alabama at this time. BJ says he’s going to take the test again and see how it plays out but it could be the reason Bama has upped its interest in RBs like Robert Washington and FSU commitment Amir Rasul, who was visited by Cristobal this week. Others like Devin White, who was seen by Burns and Napier during the Awards show (while Henry was winning everything), and of course Kareem Walker are on the board as well. The one to watch closest, though, is Lamical Perine. The Florida Gator commitment from Mobile has become a late priority for Alabama and it will likely get him on campus for a January official visit. Those down there think a flip is very possible though he’s saying all the right things. Bama will look to ink 2 of these 6 and I think it will. All but Rasul either have already or will take an official to Tuscaloosa before NSD. D’Vaughn Pennamon is an Ole Miss commit who UA likes some, too.

Are the current recruiting rankings the final rankings for the 2016 class? If so, why did Quinnen Williams not make an expected jump? If not, who are the Tide commits expected to rise the most?

NOOOOOOO. We always wait until the end of the All-Star circuit to finish up the class. QW had a very nice senior season and great All-Star week in Mississippi, and will be a four-star barring a late surprise when the final batch comes out. He’s now a top 10 player in the state for me, without question. As of this writing, my final state rankings will probably be Davis, Davidson, Wilson, Brown, Williams. All five could end up at Alabama as well, though Davidson is the likeliest to not end up in Tuscaloosa. We’ll see if he squeezes in a late visit. Other UA pledges who should at least rise in rankings (positionally) should include Christian Bell (currently starless), TJ Simmons, Jonah Williams and Eddy Pineiro.

With the mystery visitor in town last Saturday, was he and Dexter Lawrence the only two prospects in Tuscaloosa? Is the mystery visitor a complete surprise player or someone who has been linked to the Tide, but wants to stay under the radar until he makes a decision?

As far as I know, it was just them two in town. They watched the game together Saturday and Visitor X left a short while after it was over. Dexter stayed and hung out with coaches and players once they got back from Atlanta (gonna guess and say that wasn’t boring). The visitor has been a top target for some time but he didn’t want the news out there so we’ll leave it at that. He’s an uncommitted prospect.

 

Why have we not seen Alabama dip into the JUCO ranks for DL other than Jonathan Kongbo? With heavy losses along he line, it seems we’d be looking for a couple of JUCO DL to lessen the impact. Are the junior college ranks at DL thin this year?

As mentioned above to the DL question, there’s still a good amount of linemen on the board in the high school ranks. Kongbo has also committed to taking an official visit next month and UA is always confident once that happens. Remember, he’s from Canada and recently committed to Tennessee so this is an unusual case in terms of background and loyalties, etc. The JUCO DL group is solid, not elite, but that’s not the reason Bama hasn’t dipped into it more.


Any word on Christian Bell and him being a member of the 2016 class? With DeSherrius Flowers’ test scores not being accepted and him being forced to leave combined with Jonathan Taylor being kicked off the team, how did we not get Bell in last year’s class? Also, does the departure of those two players give us 2 back-counters for this year’s class?

We spoke with Bell a few weeks back and he is still slated to move in next month. He’s now up to 235 lbs and has been focusing on his immediate impact along with the chip on his shoulder. He’s been chomping at the bit to see the field again.  As for the departed guys, rememver both of them were on campus in January and already practicing and all, so my understanding is that those numbers get sort of locked in at that point and they already had the plan with Bell in place anyway. For 2016, I am fairly sure the extras are available so signing more than 25 once again is on the table.

Do you expect any surprises (negative or positive) in this recruiting class?

Of course. You have to with the amount of decommitmens that go down every cycle. On the positive front, I expect Alabama to make a splash for a kid few give it a chance to land. Perhaps one of the Californians expected to take a late visit like WR Tyler Vaughns, LB Mique Juarez, TE Devin Asiasi or someone like that. Especially with Tosh Lupoi staying and Lane Kiffin likely to do the same. California is for sure on the table for Alabama with those two in town and Saban at the helm to the point that we should expect to see Alabama snag at least one Californian in every class with the amount of talent over there. On the negative front, there’s gonna be a big fish Alabama probably misses on that will surprise us. Could be Mack Wilson or a commitment failing to make the cut like BJ Emmons, which I think would be a massive loss considering I think he’s the best back in the class.

 

Any players you feel we might lose to Kirby Smart at UGA?

Lose from the current commitment list? Absoultely not. Lose from the state of Georgia? Absolutely. Targets like Warrior, Robertson, Carter, Brown, Nauta and others in the Peach State are buzzing about Kirby (though some have buzzed about Pruitt back at Bama reports as well) so we shall see. Ben Davis, who currently has UGA No. 1,  is pumped about Pruitt by the way with his ties and familiarity with UA. He has a good relationship with him.

 

Any players who you know of that may be seriously entertaining switching to the Tide?

Bama is ALWAYS willing to play the flip game so this year won’t be different. It is in on UF RB commitment Lamical Perine, AU DE commitment Marlon Davidson, LSU CB commitment Saivion Smith is taking an official this weekend, it saw Ole Miss QB commitment Shea Patterson, WR DK Metcalf  and RB D’Vaughn Pennamon this week, too. I expect UA to get in on others later in the process as well, particularly after the mid-year guys enroll at their schools. That always affects the board a good bit.

 

Are you still holding to your prediction that Alabama will get a top player out of the state of Mississippi this year? Jeffery Simmons is specifically one that I’d like to see wearing Crimson, but A.J. Brown wouldn’t hurt my feelings either.

YES. This is the streak ender. With Knott, Simmons, Brown, Davis (if he qualifies), Metcalf, Scottt Lashley (could take late official) and Kobe Jones it seems like the odss would be in Bama’s favor to at least get one of ‘em. Right?!?!?! Knott, Simmons and Brown are the three most likely at this point. One source told me Brown would be an Alabama commitment right now if he wasn’t living in Starkville. Take that FWIW because he does live in Starkville.

 

Have any commitment dates been set that are of note to Alabama and the 2016 class? Normally this time of year we basically see a hold pattern until a week or two into the next year.

Yea, Dexter Lawrence commits Monday, December 14. Thursday, the 17th, is looking like the day for Kareem Walker. Greg Little wants to commit after his Sr. season is over, so that could be this weekend or next weekend, technically. Davis and Mack Wilson are thinking NSD as are Knott, Simmons, Brown and others. Cavin Ridley could pop next week, from what we hear. So it won’t be a dull dip into the dead period this year.

 

Anyone not named Cavin Ridley to possibly pledge to the Tide in the next few weeks?

Well we just mentioned who has an upcoming date set. I think Lawrence and Walker are both somewhat likely, but others are perceived favorites for each. Little is a wildcard of course, still bak and forth between UA and Ole Miss. Those three five-stars are all committing very soon, at least they have plans to.

 

Over the summer, Jalen Hurts participated in the Elite 11 competition, but did not place among the top 11 QBs. In what areas has he shown marked improvement over the 2015 season and do you beleived he’s progressed enough where he would now claim one of those spots if the Elite 11 were held again?

Scout currently ranks Hurts as the No. 9 QB. I know at the Elite 11 event Scout said he performed well enough to make it, but did not end up in the cut. He may have had some down-the-field issues at that event. In 2015, he attcked defenses down the field consistently and commanded the pace of his offense better while becoming a much more vocal leader (his words) in the process. So Hurts has come a long way but it ready to take the next step at this point. Who knows if they ran the competition again if he’d be in. A lot of those events are what they are, a very small sample, without pads and lineman, of drills and outside the box techniques. Most are great and probably help in the end, but those rankings don’t determine the best QBs in America.

 

Of the 19 players committed to the Tide, at least 4 are real possibilities to flip, leaving s with a flurry of activity the last 2 months before signing day. Are we still expected to sign around 27 players?

Bama can sign more than 25 if it pleases and I still do expect it to go down that way. The wide receiver position is a massive one and we could see 4 guys there alone. Defensive back is one where it cuold take more prospects than we thought as well. Even without Josh Perry, now S. Smith, Shy Carter, Nigel Knott, Brandon Jones, Trayvon Mullen are real possibilities to go with commitment Shawn Jennings. We thought 2 or 3 would be the entire haul here so that position could up the overall number as much as any.

With the success of our defense this year, I know a couple of players are contemplating an early exit, players that are the first of the season weren’t thought of as someone who wouldn’t be back. Has that changed our recruiting board as the season has progressed?

The board always changes in between now and the end of the season as guys’ stock rises and falls. Reuben Foster comes to mind here when thinking of guys who were not expected to leave preseason. RF may not, but he has turned enough heads to be drafted in the top half next April. Will that be enough? Not sure, but UA has increased its push for inside LBs, with Davis and Wilson on the board and a late push for Dontavius Jackson of Texas. He’s making a late January official like the other two. That all seems to correlate with one another.

Any big news from the Alabama/Miss. All-Star week?

Sure, but it wasn’t surprising news. We knew a lot of elites would want to take Bama officials but we confirmed that Knott, Simmons, Brown, Perine would or should before all is said and done. We also learned Marlon Davidson could make a last minute visit, which would be big (Hattiesburg is only about 2 ½ hours from Tuscaloosa). It could go down after the game and through this weekend before the dead period kicks in Monday. We shall see. It’s also worth mentioning that MD could technically sign financial aid agreements with the schools involved, which would make him free to visit and contact whenever he wants leading up to that January enrollment. As far as recruiting, Bama commitments didn’t do a ton of it, but they mentioned some here and there for guys like Davidson and Perine. Davis and Wilson are self-explanatory. Not sure on the Mississippi side of the coin, where I know Ole Miss recruits were campaigning pretty hard on Day 1.

 

QB from Louisiana, moves to FL, commits to Miss. Is Bama through at QB with Jalen Hurts?

You’re reffering to Shea Patterson, the top QB on Scout. He’s an early enrollee and he’s solid with Ole Miss despite Bama stopping by his school to say hello. Bama loves Jalen Hurts and is pumped for him being the guy in 2016. As I reported the day he committed, UA was looking for one QB and he was it.

The CB that’s committed to LSU that’s visiting this weekend, any interest on his part? Or just taking his visits?

Tough, he doesn’t say a whole lot. Corey Bender from Scout video interviewed him and he still didn’t say a ton. Smith is checking all his boxes because he’s a January enrollee as well. This seems like a trip to “make sure LSU is right for me” over taking a visit for the sake of. Again, there’s a late added push for DBs by Alabama and he seems to be apart of its efforts.

3 things this year that have surprised you the most in recruiting?

This year? Wow. Well I’ll start with Alabama’s efforts in Georgia. There’s still time to go, but who would have thought Bama would have just one Peach State commitment on board at this point? On the flip side, Texas has become SO GOOD to Alabama and UA could get to 4 or 5 from the state in a single cycle, which would be a record (Jones, Owens, Hurts committed and Little, Jackson, Jones still targets). The biggest surprise would be Eddy Pineiro bolting the commitment list with Mario Cristobal still on staff at UA. A few weeks back I would have said there’s no doubt EP would be on campus next month if Mario stayed. Now I’m not so sure, though he is headed in for an official this weekend.

 

I wanted to ask you this for a while now. Just how awesome is it to regularly cover, follow and talk to the nation’s elite talent each year? Quite a step up from covering Syracuse (isn’t that who you originally covered?), wouldn’t you say? To be able to cover Alabama during a time when their recruiting is the best in the nation under CNS has to be a real enjoyment. I know we’ve enjoyed having you along for the ride!

It’s great, the talent is great and the kids are (usually) great. Syracuse, believe it or not, had me dealing with the same type of kids because they’d be a kid’s first offer (Alvin Kamara, Deshone Kizer, Curtis Samuel, etc.), but I didn’t need to talk to those kids later in the process haha. I love my job and really love this time of year when we get to see elites practicing with elites, then jump on the phones and see where they’ll take late visits, classes coming together, travel and all that stuff. And I appreciate the kind words! I look forward to getting better for yall each year to come.

A recruit that will surprise us all and pick Alabama?

Let’s roll out a wildcard like Mecole Hardman. The 5-star ATH is a big Pruitt fan and has been warming up to Alabama for some time. Couple that with Kiffin staying, RIdley’s emergence as a frosh and a potential national title and it could add up for a late snag in a neighboring state. Dexter Lawrence is my 1A here, by the way. Bama felt like it made up good ground last weekend during his official visit. He has one to NC State this weekend, so let’s see how it goes just days before  a decision.

Do we finish with the #1 class in the country?

Before Les Miles was retained at LSU I would have said yes without hesitation. Now I’m not so sure. Bama is still in good position, No. 3, with 5-stars left and right still on the board. It can have a truly great close but may need to catch a few breaks along the way. Top 5 without a doubt, No. 1 will be a coin flip with LSU because they can finish with five-stars as well and currently are the favorite for probably 5-star R. Lawrence and B. Jones while being in it for Walker, Gary, Little and others much like UA is.

Reports are out there saying Pruitt is to be the new coordinator at Bama. I know Chad Simmons basically said we were out for all of the key GA recruits on your CABC podcast the other day. Does this help us with Derrick Browm? And Nauta? And others in GA?

First, Chad said Bama would be out for some of the prospects in GA, not all. But he did specifically mention Nauta and Brown. Nauta is a long shot at this point, but Brown is more open to Bama and is coming in today for an official visit. UA may be trailing right now, but Bo Davis is still on staff and can court him and maybe Pruitt even slides in on campus today since an announcement could be coming in soon as him on staff. This helps UA with Brown obviously, as well as familiarity with Warrior, Robertson and Mecole Hardman maybe the most. Hardman had Tweeted something along the lines of, “UGA better not fire Pruitt” when the Richt news initially came down.


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