Wednesday, January 23, 2013
Signing day primer: Alabama
By Alex Scarborough
A little behind on the recruiting trail? Worry not -- TideNation has you covered. To catch you up on where the Alabama recruiting class of 2013 stands, we'll take you through the high points, including how the coaching staff has addressed certain needs and set the team up for seasons to come.
Team needs: With three of five starting offensive linemen and two of three defensive lineman starters off to the NFL draft, Alabama was forced to focus on finding help in the trenches. Nick Saban and the rest of the UA coaching staff had success filling those needs with the 2013 class, particularly along the offensive line. The Crimson Tide secured the commitments of four offensive linemen, one coming by way of a junior college in New York. Leon Brown, who was ranked in the top 20 of all junior college prospects by ESPN, could find himself competing for the starting right tackle job vacated by D.J. Fluker.
Derrick Henry is the only five-star commitment Alabama has and can fit at a variety of position.
Help is on the way: Outside of the lines, Alabama was once again in search of talented athletes to continue bringing potency to an offense that's been on a steady rise the past few years. Amari Cooper and T.J. Yeldon were difference makers in 2012 and there could be one or two who do the same this year. Derrick Henry, the No. 1 athlete in the country and Alabama's lone five-star commitment, could be the biggest wild card of the class. At 6-foot-3 and 243 pounds, he's an option at tailback, H-back and possibly linebacker. He'll begin at running back, where he set a national career rushing yards record at Yulee High in Florida.
Other key commits: Another player to watch is tight end/H-back commitment O.J. Howard. The product of Autauga Academy in Prattville, Ala., is a freakish athlete. He has the size (6-foot-6, 225 pounds) and the speed (He ran a 4.63 at the Nike SPARQ combine) to wreak havoc on opposing defenses. Like the Patriots' Aaron Hernandez or the Saints' Jimmy Graham, Howard has the potential to cause matchup nightmares at the next level. Along with quarterback Cooper Bateman, wide receiver Robert Foster and running backs Tyren Jones and Altee Tenpenny, Alabama loaded up with skill position players on offense who could pay big dividends in the years to come.
Other key targets: Though Alabama has already secured the commitments of 21 athletes -- one five-star, 15 four-stars, four three-stars and one juco product -- there are still a handful of remaining prospects on the board. Former Auburn commitment Dee Liner is strongly considering the Crimson Tide. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound native of South Alabama is a four-star prospect with the frame to play anywhere on the line at UA. Five-star defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes (Auburn, Calif.) is also being pursued by Saban and the staff. Alabama is also after help in the secondary, namely uncommitted safety Vonn Bell. The four-star product of Rossville (Ga.) Ridgeland is the second highest-ranked safety remaining in the ESPN 150.