- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
There’s no doubt Robert Nkemdiche was the top target left on Alabama’s board. After all, he’s the top prospect in the country, and many considered him as a Crimson Tide lean before he committed to Clemson on Thursday.
It’s still a long way until national signing day, and the UA coaching staff won’t give up on the five-star defensive end, but it might be time to start looking at other options.
Alabama already has a commitment from ESPN 150 defensive end Jonathan Allen. However, the 6-foot-3, 225-pound star is projected as more of a jack linebacker when he gets to Tuscaloosa as opposed to a defensive end.
That leaves an obvious need in this class for a defensive end that fits the Tide’s 3-4 defense.
The most logical choice is four-star Demarcus Walker from Jacksonville, Fla. He’s 6-foot-4, 276 pounds, ranked No. 24 nationally, and is on campus this weekend, visiting UA. Sources say he’s down to Alabama and Florida with a decision coming this summer.
Another option is Hope Mills, N.C., defensive lineman Greg Gilmore, another ESPN 150 player who is expected to visit on Saturday and plans to compete in the Tide’s OL/DL camp.
Gilmore recently named a top five of Alabama, Clemson, Florida, LSU and USC, and Nkemdiche’s decision could have a major effect on where he decides to go. Alabama might come after him harder now with its top player at the position off the board.
The Tide also offered Lawrenceville, Ga., defensive end Antonio Riles last week after Riles shined at Alabama’s first prospect camp. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound end said the Alabama offer changes things and that he was highly considering them.
Anything can happen between now and signing day, and don’t think Nick Saban and the UA coaching staff have stopped recruiting in-state defensive end Dee Liner either.
Liner, the No. 8 player in the country, is committed to Auburn, but Alabama has made it a priority to continue to pursue the Muscle Shoals, Ala., native in hopes that he flips to the Tide. Liner visited Tuscaloosa in the spring.
Also, keep an eye on this weekend’s OL/DL camp as a diamond-in-the-rough prospect could emerge and jump on Alabama’s radar.
Losing Nkemdiche to Clemson is a huge blow for Alabama, but the Tide are still coming off a national championship, and there’s no shortage of top prospects who still want to come.
Remember, UA narrowly missed out on top prospect Jadeveon Clowney two years ago, and they haven’t missed a beat.
19hGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough
7dSam Khan Jr.