Recruiting Ripple: Hootie Jones

Alabama landed one of its top targets on Monday morning with the commitment of four-star defensive back Laurence "Hootie" Jones, in what could be the beginning of a major push for defensive backs down the stretch. Find out what it does to Alabama's board and more inside.

Alabama landed a big fish on the recruiting trail Monday morning, as Laurence Jones became the latest to spurn in-state LSU for the Crimson Tide.

An early enrollee and four-star talent, "Hootie" is the third safety prospect committed to Nick Saban and company in the class of 2014, joining fellow four-stars Ronnie  Clark and Chris Williams. Clark is more of an in-the-box type and Williams is a classic center field prospect, so Jones' versatility as a little bit of both bolsters the strength of the position for the class of 2014.

But it's not over with at the position just yet.

Alabama has positioned itself high on the list with some of the best safeties in the country down the stretch, and the commitment of Jones actually impacts the pursuit of at least one of the top targets positively.

C.J. Hampton, long committed to Ole Miss, has been looking at several programs this fall, and he's been to Tuscaloosa on a handful of occasions. He took his official visit to Alabama in late November, and Saban's pitch to him was that the four-star was "his guy." Many of the players echoed the coach's sentiments, even comparing him to current Alabama junior and likely early NFL Draft pick HaHa Clinton-Dix, a junior expected to leave for the NFL after this season.

Will it be Hootie and Hampton (pictured) at Alabama?

But what Saban and company have pitched to Hampton all along is the ability to play with Jones, the newest commitment. With him now in the fold, that pitch is ever-so-closer to becoming a reality, as the two have expressed a desire to play together at the next level. Does Alabama now become a clear front-runner for Hampton with Jones in the fold? A final decision in his recruitment could come at the U.S. Army All-American game in January considering Hampton is an early enrollee.

Alabama is also in the mix for another free safety type in Juju Smith, the top safety in the country and five-star. He officially visited for the LSU game and came away very impressed, but can the staff pull him from his home state of California with USC surging on and of the field and other top schools still in the mix? It's possible, as Alabama has an in with Smith that every other school does not in Ricky Town. The junior five-star Alabama quarterback commitment has become more close to Smith and isn't shy about actively recruiting him. The X-factor is that Smith can be an elite wide receiver as well, and Town's pitch may be more geared in that direction. Smith is certainly the wildcard in the class, at any position, down the stretch.

Erick Smith made his official visit to Tuscaloosa the same weekend Hampton did, with a pair of his Cleveland (Ohio) Glenville teammates in Marshon Lattimore and Marcelys Jones. Many close to the trio, all set to play in the Army Bowl, say all three are looking to go to the same school. Ohio State has Jones on its commitment list already and he's an early enrollee, so barring a surprise it's unlikely that the trio will soon call Tuscaloosa home.

If Smith was the wildcard in the safety group, Davion Hall is the sleeper. Not a sleeper in the sense that he is under the radar, being a five-star and all, but a sleeper in the sense that he hasn't been in the news with Alabama recruiting as much as others have. The Baylor commitment is like Smith in that he can be a five-star as a safety or wide receiver, and he has said that he prefers to play offense at the next level. Will Baylor's big run be enough to hold onto Hall or will 'Bama convince him to play D?

Academic Factors: What can throw this safety group for even more of a loop is academics. Both Chris Williams and Davion Hall have been linked to hurdles off the field, and that can impact all sides of the equation for Alabama or any other school. Stay tuned.

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