Chad Simmons

BamaMag looks at the current Alabama commitments likely to take official visits elsewhere

Alabama currently holds the top spot in the class of 2017 team recruiting rankings on, but many of its verbal pledges are looking at taking trips elsewhere this fall. BamaMag examines each name to know as the 2016 season draws near.

The Alabama Crimson Tide has hit the gas on the recruiting front in targeting class of 2017 prospects. Nick Saban and company already have 21 commitments in the group and it is expected to expand further in the next week or so.

But will each of the current pledges stick with the national champs? BamaMag looks at double-digit senior commits who may take official visits elsewhere, with the programs to keep and eye on and more.


UA Commitments Likely to Take Officials Elsewhere

Prospect: 5-star offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood

Likely official visits: Florida, USC, Michigan, Miami, Alabama

Programs to watch: Florida, USC, Michigan

Notes: Leatherwood, who cemented his five-star status at The Opening Finals a month ago, has become the top blindside protector target for many programs from coast to coast. His unanimous elevated status has head coaches everywhere prioritizing him and it will result in the trips despite maintaining his solidity to the Crimson Tide, recruiting many to the program and referring to Tuscaloosa as "home." USC hosted him for its Rising Stars camp this summer and he seemed impressed enough to take another trip while Michigan has long used considerable resources to get Leatherwood to do the same. Florida, however, remains the top threat to UA. It's somewhat close to home, affords instant playing time and is still in the conference he wants to play in -- the SEC. 

Prospect: 5-star linebacker VanDarius Cowan

Likely official visits: LSU, USC, Georgia, Ohio State, Alabama

Program to watch: Ohio State

Notes: Cowan is among the most vocal and rah-rah UA pledges of them all, publicly recruiting others on a near daily basis and earlier this week he basically let Tide fans know there wasn't much to worry about in him taking these trips. The belief is that Cowan will stay true to his word and play his college ball in Tuscaloosa no matter where he trips. Perhaps the best news in the list of visits, which he named this week, is that FSU isn't among them. The five-star is a two-time Seminole commitment. Ohio State features fellow five-star Chase Young on the commitment list, a talent Cowan spent considerable time with in July both at The Opening Finals and in Tuscaloosa.

Prospect: 4-star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa

Likely official visits: USC, Oregon, Alabama

Program to watch: USC

Notes: The Elite 11 MVP and a Crimson Tide pledge for more than three months, Tagovailoa seems more solid to the program every time he reflects on the decision. Of late, he has cited Saban personally and reflected on giving the coach his word during the commitment in the first place, easing some of the UA worry. However, Tagovailoa still hasn't ruled out the decision to take the trip to Los Angeles, home of his longtime dream school. Oregon, per Scout sources, was too late with their offer. It's shaping up to be a battle of the teams kicking off the season September 3 in Dallas but the Hawaiian departing the class would be considered a big surprise at this point. 

Prospect: 4-star linebacker Gary Johnson

Likely official visits: Ohio State, LSU, Alabama

Programs to watch: LSU, Ohio State

Notes: Johnson opened up on the matter in late July and he made it clear LSU was the program Alabama fans would need to keep the closest eye on, even labeling Les Miles' program as his 'dream school' not named Alabama. Johnson wants to take all five trips, so others are likely to be set, though he is choosing from a host of schools for the final two trips. Other than LSU, the Douglas, Ala. native could be impacted by Ohio State, who he says plays in a conference more likely to get him prepared for the NFL's pass-first nature.

Prospect: 4-star defensive lineman Akial Byers

Likely official visits: Arkansas, Alabama

Programs to watch: Arkansas

Notes: Byers hasn't said much since committing to Alabama other than his desire to indeed take all five official visits. Arkansas, not far from his high school, seemingly hasn't prioritized him despite his proximity to campus, but with him willing to take all these trips the Razorbacks would have to reconsider, right? Either way, with UA long prioritizing him and the D-line spots this cycle, it's not likely he bolts the class. Other offers on Byers' list include FSU, Ohio State, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Oklahoma and others. 

Prospect: 3-star cornerback Jhavonte Dean

Likely official visits: Florida, Miami, TCU, Alabama

Programs to watch: Florida, Miami

Notes: Dean picked UA on July 23, while on campus for the second time in a short span, but soon after told BamaMag he was still very open to taking trips. During the time he added the Crimson Tide offer in the first place, Florida, Miami and TCU, among others, did the same. Few of those programs got visits at that time, so it's likely Dean cycles back and follows up with those staffs ahead of a trip. The Miami native told BamaMag the hometown offer weighed heavily with him and he grew up somewhat of a Florida Gator fan, so Jim McElwain and company remain a threat to some degree.

Prospect: 4-star athlete Chadarius Townsend

Likely official visits: Florida, Alabama

Program to watch: Florida

Notes: While in-state commitments are less likely to depart Alabama's class should Saban covet his services, Florida hosted him in July and he enjoyed his first trip to Gainesville to the point he didn't rule out the return for an official visit. What's truly interesting with the two-way star is that both UA and UF currently covet him as a cornerback prospect though either program hasn't ruled out a future on offense and/or special teams. Townsend is a lifelong Tide fan who has been committed well over a year, but his recruitment isn't yet finalized.

Prospect: 3-star cornerback Kyriq McDonald

Likely official visits: Florida State, Louisville, Alabama

Programs to watch: Florida State

Notes: McDonald has long known Alabama was the school for him but he's always wanted to take official visits. Other programs could still offer him and alter this blurb, but Florida State seems like the only true threat here. The Seminoles offered and believed in McDonald, something he values, well before Alabama pulled the trigger and it covets his James Clemens High School teammates LaBryan Ray and Monty Rice as much or maybe even more than UA currently may. 

Prospect: 3-star defensive lineman Aaron Sterling

Likely official visits: Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama

Programs to watch: Georgia, South Carolina

Notes: Few, including us at BamaMag, have doubted that Sterling is the current UA verbal most likely to depart the class among current commitments. Sterling hasn't frequented Tuscaloosa much of late, though he has been to both Athens and Columbia multiple times and will of course return this fall. The latest trend could sway Will Muschamp's way though multiple twists and turns, depending on the visits he takes, could still be in store with Sterling's recruitment.

UA Commitments who Could Take Officials Elsewhwere

Prospect: 5-star running back Najee Harris

Likely official visits: Alabama

Programs to watch: Ohio State, Michigan, USC, UCLA

Notes: The top player in the land has been committed to Alabama for more than a year, but he's continued to take visits elsewhere in the process. While the most recent was to Michigan, with his mother on hand for their initial Ann Arbor experience, Ohio State could be just as big or an even bigger threat to UA. Over the larger course of his recruitment both USC and UCLA have been in the mix for his services, as he's visited each campus multiple times since making the call to Nick Saban two Aprils back. Still, when it comes to official visits, Harris hasn't committed to taking any and one notion is that with so many unofficial visits under his belt, he may not come close to taking all five trips. Either way, at least one more Tuscaloosa visit seems like a guarantee. The field in the mix for his final decision, expected in December since he's looking to begin his college career in January, has shrunk and the news couldn't be better for the team that currently holds his commitment.

Prospect: 4-star wide receiver Jerry Jeudy

Likely official visits: Alabama

Programs to watch: Florida, Miami

Notes: Jeudy has yet to publicly comment on taking official visits elsewhere just yet but many close to him expect him to eventually take some. Should he, the in-state Gators and Hurricanes, who have each jockeyed for positioning behind Alabama for the better part of the last year or so, would be the safest bet in addition to another trip to UA. Either way, a late flip from arguably Alabama's top overall wide receiver target from even the early editions of the 2017 recruiting board seems unlikely.

Prospect: 4-star running back Brian Robinson

Likely official visits: Alabama

Programs to watch: Georgia

Notes: Robinson, the local pledge from Hillcrest High School, took an early summer trip to Athens and liked what he saw. However, Kirby Smart and company have multiple running backs currently committed and remain in the mix for multiple backs, so the amount of time and resources spent on Robinson is somewhat unknown. Either way, the bigger barrier between Alabama landing the big back remains academics more than any other college program in America.


Additional Alabama commitments Mac Jones, Tyrell Shavers, Kedrick James, Hunter Brannon, Brandon Ruiz and Thomas Fletcher are not expected to take any additional visits.

Four-star offensive line pledges Kendall Randolph and Elliot Baker as well as four-star linebacker Markail Benton have unknown official visit plans as of Thursday morning.


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