There is a new, serious contender for Penei Sewell.
The four-star offensive tackle from St. George (Utah) Desert Hills unofficially visited Alabama earlier this week and his father, Gabriel, told Scout.com the Crimson Tide did everything to enter the recruiting picture, so much so that their stay was nearly extended.
"We almost missed our flight back home because he decided to hang out a little longer than I gave him time to," Gabriel Sewell said with a laugh. "Our names were being called while going through security at the airport. We walked through the gate and the door closed behind us.
"Alabama is a different beast and it was a great visit. It was something entirely different than what we've experience here in the West, especially the weather. It was humid. We walked out of the airport and it was like, 'whoa.' It reminded me of the islands and you forget what that feels like. I thought the trip was great and I felt that (Penei) really enjoyed himself. We gave them an honest look."
The 6-foot-5, 330-pound Sewell, rated No. 1 among offensive linemen in the region for the 2018 class, could make one more trip before he sits down to cut his long list of suitors. His father said Sewell intends to enroll early, so the process has accelerated a bit in recent months.
"We want to get to Oregon; that may be the last unofficial visit that we take before we think things through," Gabriel said. "We've seen enough now from all sides for him to narrow it down. We're not going to rush him and we'll give him the time he needs, but we want to put this to bed so he can focus on his senior season and academics. He's looking to finish strong so he can move on in January, hopefully."
Sewell has been to Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, UCLA and USC in the last few months. Gabriel said the Alabama coaching staff made his son feel as wanted as he has been at other schools.
"They mentioned he is a top priority for them at offensive line," Gabriel said. "That's from the offensive line coach, the offensive coordinator and from coach (Nick) Saban, We've heard that from everybody and wherever we've been. They told us they hope to bring him in at tackle. The O-line coach said he is one of the few big lineman that can play anywhere.
"Alabama is a very realistic place just like the other schools he's been considering prior to the Nike camp in Oakland. It's probably the same group that he continues to like, now adding Alabama to that list because we went out there and saw it."
"There is a certain level of comfort when you're in a different place and you can have that home feeling," Gabriel said. "It's like, 'OK, this guy can see what I'm feeling without having to communicate anything just because we're from the same background.' I know they had a good time, got to know each other and hit it off a little bit. I guess from that perspective, it was important on Alabama's part that they made that connection."
Sewell, the No. 87 overall prospect in the Scout 300, is set to compete at The Opening early next month and has committed to participate in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and the 2018 Polynesian Bowl.