- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
Alabama’s 2014 class is beginning to take shape. After a busy June, the class has moved up to No. 2 nationally in the latest class rankings. But the defending champs are not just bringing in talent; they’re also filling needs.
In the last month, they have added depth up front on both the offensive line and defensive line. They also found their quarterback in this class and a punter who will likely take over right away. Still, with more than 10 spots left in the class, there are needs to be addressed.
In this week’s top 10 list, we look at the top five positions of need for the Crimson Tide between now and signing day.
Alabama landed a potential instant impact player last week when junior college offensive lineman Dominick Jackson (San Mateo, Calif./College of San Mateo) committed to the Tide. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound prospect has the ability to play either tackle or guard when he gets to Tuscaloosa. However, the staff is still looking for that prototypical left tackle to replace current starter Cyrus Kouandjio if he decides to go to the NFL early. The top option is five-star Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe), who has already narrowed his list to Alabama and LSU. If Robinson stays in state, the Tide could also look at ESPN 300 offensive tackles Damian Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara) or Roderick Johnson (Florissant, Mo./Hazelwood).
It’s no secret that Alabama wants at least one impact pass rusher in this class. The Tide struggled to get to the quarteback at times last year, and they want to continue to address that need. Five-star defensive ends Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) and Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) currently top the list. Carter would play outside linebacker for Alabama; Hand could either play on the line or at the Jack linebacker position. The staff is also high on former Florida commitment Christian Miller (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley) and ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell). The latter recently visited Tuscaloosa and put the Tide in his top eight.
Although it’s a strong possibility that one of the four potential cornerbacks that Alabama signed in February will move to safety, the Tide didn’t sign a single true safety in last year’s class. Obviously Landon Collins, the nation’s No. 1 safety in 2012, is still waiting his turn, but there’s a clear need at the position and maybe even an opportunity to come in and play early if Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix decides to leave early. The staff worked out in-state athlete Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera) at safety during June’s camp and liked what they saw. They have also targeted ESPN 300 safeties Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville) and C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian) as a possible tandem. Baylor commitment Davion Hall (Texarkana, Ark./Liberty-Eylau) is another option even though most teams are recruiting him as a wide receiver.
The Tide already have two defensive tackles in this class, Johnny Dwight (Rochelle, Ga./Wilcox County) and O.J. Smith (Bossier City, La./Airline), but there’s a still a need for a nose tackle, that player to come in and clog up the middle. Alabama has had a good string of players at the position with Terrence Cody, Josh Chapman, Jessie Williams and now Brandon Ivory and Darren Lake, but who’s next in line? The top choice looks to be Matt Elam (Elizabethtown, Ky./John Hardin) after he dominated the Tide’s first camp this summer, but ESPN 300 defensive tackle Joshua Frazier (Springdale, Ark./Har Ber) is also an option. He visited last month as well, right before Alabama’s OL/DL camp.
Much to AJ McCarron’s liking, Alabama already has plenty of good, young playmakers on campus. Also, the staff picked up a commitment from ESPN 300 wide receiver Derek Kief (Cincinnati/LaSalle) last month. However, even though it might not be a need, it’s hard to pass up on more playmakers -- especially if that player is Ermon Lane (Homestead, Fla./Homestead), the nation’s No. 1 wide receiver. The Tide are looking to pull Lane out of Florida in hopes that he can duplicate the success of another former South Florida star, Amari Cooper. The need for another wide receiver in this class could increase if top signee Robert Foster fails to qualify. He’s still waiting to hear from the NCAA Clearinghouse.
3dJeremy Crabtree and Brandon Chatmon