Over the next few weeks we'll address who really filled their needs and who didn't. Every coach wants to keep the alumni guessing, so they brag about their class and say things like, "This may be the most athletic class we've had since I've been here." or "We went out and recruited speed." Those type of statements mean we did a little worse than we expected, but we can't tell you that.
We'll start with Alabama and Vanderbilt.
What type of kid signs with Alabama now? Please understand I am not slamming kids, but with 5 years probation, no bowl games for 2 years and the reduction of 21 scholarships over 3 seasons, the career potential is bleak. The Tide usually recruit the entire south and do well, but this season the Tide only signed 2 players from out of state. If they dominated in-state recruiting that would be ok, but most of the best players in the state either signed with Auburn or went out of state.
What did Bama need? With their top three wide receivers graduating, the Tide needs some fresh troops. They signed a few last year, but 2 to 3 more would have been a fairly logical expectation. The Tide signed 1 WR, Zach Fletcher. Fletcher has good size, but he is not expected to be a game-breaker any time soon. The Tide needs to be deep at TE if they are adamant about running the option/passing game. The Tide graduated their top TE and didn't sign anybody to replace him. Maybe Coach Fran has plans of converting someone, I am not sure. But a good blocking TE goes a long way in the running game, not to mention one that can catch 3 or 4 passes a game across the middle. Alabama lost Victor Ellis to graduation and Saleem Rasheed to the NFL, so they needed some LBs. They have some depth back from last year, but they need to keep their numbers up on DL and LB. In this area, I feel the Tide did ok from a numbers only standpoint. With 7 DL and 3 LB in this year's list of signees, I like the attempt. There may be some academic problems with some of these, but it's way too early to tell. Ahmad Childress has good size and could prove to be a drain plug against the run.
I know Brodie Croyle is the future of Alabama football, but they don't have much depth past him. Tyler Watts is the only game proven QB on campus. Most high schools put their best athlete at QB, so you see a lot of Ray Ray Bivines type players. Alabama didn't sign a QB, so I assume they think they are set. Croyle is more of a down the field type player, so this will be interesting to watch over the next two years. The Tide have not replaced their vertical passing game type players in this class, so that mind frame is obviously a thing of the past.
So what type of kid went to Alabama? Three kinds: 1) Die hard Tide fans, 2) Kids who wanted to stay close to home, 3) Kids who couldn't go anywhere else in D-1. Looking at their class I'd say there are a lot who meet category 3, but Coach Fran will never admit that. Hey, who would? I understand the circumstances the program is in and can't say that there were a lot of options for the Tide, but this is still Alabama. I have to give them a C- and that's being generous because of the probation restrictions and stigma.
What kind of kid signs with Vanderbilt to play football? One who wants football to fund his education and not the other way around. Vandy didn't lose a lot, but they lost Craig Zolman. They addressed his replacement last year, so there aren't a lot of gaping holes. But this is Vanderbilt! It's almost like a C-USA team, so take all this with a grain of salt. With Bobby Johnson coming in, the cupboard is not bare, but it's close. They need a WR or two to replace Stricker who will be a SR this season. The running game is porous and much help is needed there. Vandy always seems to turn out a great CB and LB each class, so it'll be interesting of to see if that was more Widenhofer's forte or a matter of circumstance.
The 'Dores are pretty young and have some talent, but it's not top shelf talent for the SEC. I like their class, but they lack girth. There is some height, but not much meat. Stricker's long term replacement could be Grant Brigham, but he lacks the size of Stricker. There only appears to be one or two players who may be able to play right away, but considering the fact that Vandy's two-deep chart is flooded with juniors and sophomores there isn't an immediate need. I do like the fact that the class is distributed pretty evenly. It appears as if Vandy signed their needs and not necessarily the first group that came to visit.
Look for Kwame Doster to make a charge for playing time at tailback as a true freshman. He is 5-11 and 175, so he needs some time in the weight room. The backfield is pretty empty, so Ron Bullock from New Orleans may have a shot to win the job in the fall.
There is not a high concentration of one position or another in this class, so it appears that somebody knows how to balance a class and has been able to do it for a few years. I am not saying they are good evaluators of talent, but that they are good with numbers. I'd have to give them a B+ for meeting their needs and C for overall talent, but this the SEC, so C level talent won't get you much in the way of conference supremacy.
Until next week,
Steve Robertson is a free-lance correspondent who writes The Robertson Report for the premium site portion of Gene's Page. Steve's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.