Coming off of both a national title on the field and in recruiting for the 2016 cycle, there has been a portion of curious Alabama Crimson Tide fans early in the 2017 recruiting cycle as Nick Saban and company sit with just eight verbal commitments to this point.
Though the group is star-studded, including the No. 1 overall prospect in the country in Najee Harris, there is additional concern surrounding UA holding onto the pledges as seven of the eight have already taken documented unofficial visits to other schools since selecting the reigning champions.
Most of the concern in either arena could theoretically be quelled Monday evening, in what could be the beginning of a big month of May for Alabama. At approximately 11:15 p.m. CST, 9:15 Pacific, Scout100 quarterback Tua Tagovailoa is expected to make his verbal commitment. Coming off of a pair of Tuscaloosa trips amid an SEC swing that included Mississippi and Auburn stops, the SEC trio is battling Pac-12 program USC, fellow SEC finalist Texas A&M and the homestate school for the Honolulu (Hawaii) St. Louis School star.
But since the visit swing in April, the Crimson Tide has made perhaps the biggest impression. Scout.com's Greg Biggins, a National Recruiting Analyst, says his gut points to Alabama for the impending decision. BamaMag sources suggest the feeling is "very good" from the Crimson Tide perspective and additional Scout sources say the school in primary competition with the Tide, longtime public favorite USC, has already begun hitting the quarterback recruiting trail harder since the Tide's grasp of momentum.
In addition to Tagovailoa being the would-be second-highest rated quarterback snag of the Saban era (Blake Barnett), the mere position he plays will have more of an impact on the 2017 haul overall. In the last two cycles, Jalen Hurts and Barnett spear-headed top classes with verbal pledges around this time of year. Barnett's case may be most similar not only in lofty ranking to the lefty coming from Marcus Mariota's high school but also in situation. In the 2015 cycle UA lost a pledge from QB Ricky Town, who would end up signing with USC, before landing Barnett. In 2017, UA lost the leader who had promised to steer the latest recruiting haul in Jake Fromm, who flipped his pledge to the in-state Georgia Bulldogs. The Hawaiian pledge would theoretically help with the Crimson Tide's west coast initiative, including holding onto Harris, and would fill the defacto biggest need in any class positionally.
There's little doubt the commitment of Tagovailoa would quell perception of a slow start, though the program is already in the top 10 of the Scout Team Recruiting Rankings with the second-highest average star rating per commitment nationally (4.13). With the QB on board, it could actually be the onset of momentum on the trail.
Later this week, which he again confirmed to Scout over the weekend, 2016 junior college standout Josiah Coatney is expected to make a decision between SEC programs Alabama, Ole Miss, Florida and TAMU. Taking official visits to each in the last month or so, he admitted the Tide and Rebels were closer to the top of his list just two weeks ago, but each program has suffered a setback since. Hugh Freeze's group has come under increased scrutiny since the Laremy Tunsil Draft Night shocker and Saban is replacing defensive line coach Bo Davis after alleged recruiting violations.
Coatney, however, is set for a verbal commitment on May 5. Could this benefit the Gators and/or Aggies or is it still a Tide-Rebel battle? Coatney has gone mum since the big stories transpired over the weekend, but BamaMag sources indicate the national champions remain in confident position. The defensive line haul in February, though it included five-star Kendell Jones and in-state riser Quinnen Williams, was admittedly shallow according to Saban. Coatney would be its final piece.
Sometime after the top available 2016 prospect comes off the board, focus will shift back to 2017 and the next top Alabama target to pop could be one in Bama's backyard. Birmingham (Ala.) Jackson-Olin star linebacker Tadarian Moultry told Scout he would like to commit this month in a battle likely between Iron Bowl rivals Alabama and Auburn.
Moultry exploded onto the recruiting scene last summer and after an expected position switch to linebacker, the now four-star will be the first big Yellowhammer State decision to go down since the 2016 cycle concluded. Auburn offered first and has been steady in recruiting him despite some staff turnover while Alabama has fluctuated on his list before surging of late, capped by an A-Day visit where he was able to sit down with defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and catch up with close friend and a player he looks up to in Reuben Foster.