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Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Top Alabama sleepers

By Alex Scarborough

Recruiting is an imperfect science. Sometimes scouts can see a player's potential right away. With others it takes some seasoning. Alabama coach Nick Saban has hauled in more than his fair share of blue chip prospects, but he has also made hay with some lesser known quantities. With signing day only days away, we'll take a look back at some of the undervalued prospects that performed beyond their recruiting rankings at Alabama since 2006.

1. Josh Chapman: The 6-foot-1, 280-pound defensive lineman was part of coach Nick Saban's first class at Alabama. Saban had only a few weeks to sign Chapman, but it wasn't as if many head coaches were clamoring for the 74th-ranked defensive tackle in the 2008 class. But what Chapman lacked in sheer talent, he made up for in will, playing the brutal part of nose guard well in Alabama's 2009 and 2011 championship seasons. He, like so many on this list, would go from a nobody to an NFL draft pick.

Chance Warmack wasn't a blue-chip prospect coming out of high school, but he finished his college career are a supreme talent.
2. Marcel Dareus: It's hard to imagine why so many scouts and college coaches missed out on Dareus. The 6-foot-4, 275-pound youngster from Birmingham, Ala., had the right frame for a defensive tackle, and athleticism to spare. Nonetheless, he flew under the radar, coming in as the No. 39 defensive tackle in the class of 2008. A few short years later he would develop into a wrecking ball, almost single-handedly demolishing the Texas offense in the 2009 championship before becoming a first-round pick in the NFL draft.

3. Robert Lester: Lester was supposed to be the throw-in to nab Julio Jones out of Foley High in South Alabama. Jones was Mr. Everything: a once-in-a- generation receiver. And while scouts were so focused on Jones' leaping and catching ability, they somehow missed the guy covering him. Lester, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound safety, was a bit of a project, but once Saban and the coaching staff were through with him, he turned into one of the best defensive backs in the SEC. Lester would finish out his career with three championship rings and a good shot at a future competing on the next level.

4. Barrett Jones: If only scouts took the mental makeup of a prospect more into affect. If that were the case, there's no way Jones would have been considered the 28th-best offensive tackle in the 2008 class. It wasn't like the 6-foot-5, 271-pound Tennessee native wasn't athletic enough. He'd prove to be so over a five-year career at Alabama. But what set him apart was his intelligence and football I.Q. Jones will go down in Alabama history as one of the school's most accomplished athletes: a three-time champion at three different positions, a 4.0 student and a humanitarian beyond words.

5. Chance Warmack: To be fair, what set Warmack apart wasn't his height or weight. It wasn't his bench press or any other feat of strength. The 6-foot-3, 329-pound Georgia native isn't a first-round prospect off the hoof. But when he rolls up his jersey, sticks his belly out and stares in on blocking defensive linemen, the light comes on. Warmack developed into the best lineman in college football this season, a study in technique and ability. All that from a guy who was rated the No. 16 offensive guard in the country in 2009.