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Wednesday, February 13, 2013
The O-zone: Grading the 2013 class

By Greg Ostendorf

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Last week, the University of Alabama inked the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class for the second year in a row. The class was made up of prospects from 13 different states and featured a combination of skill players and interior linemen.

This week’s O-zone takes a closer look at the class, breaking down its strengths and weaknesses, and singling out a few players who could stand out when they get on campus.

Robert Foster
Freshman WR Robert Foster might have an immediate impact at Alabama.
Most talented: WR Robert Foster

As a freshman, Amari Cooper finished with 1,000 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns. In the BCS title game alone, he had over 100 yards and two scores. Foster is hoping to make a similar impact his first year on campus. It won’t be easy, especially since he won’t enroll until the summer, but the ESPN 150 wide receiver has the skills to do it. The best way to describe Foster’s game is smooth. He runs good routes. He catches the ball well, and he’s a home run threat on every play. Sound familiar? And just like Cooper, Foster emerged as one of the top playmakers at the Under Armour All-America Game in January. There are plenty of talented players in this class, but Foster could be on another level.

Most important: DT Dee Liner

If there’s one thing Alabama struggled with during this past season, it was generating a pass rush. The defensive line was solid all year against the run, but they didn’t get to the quarterback very often. Liner can change that. He’s big enough to play up front, but he’s quick enough and athletic enough to be disruptive in the backfield. Fellow UA signee Grant Hill said Liner has the quickest first move of any defensive lineman he has ever faced. With D.J. Pettway’s future with the program in doubt, Liner becomes that much more vital to next year’s team. He could step in and make an impact from day one. The coaching staff reached out to him on Tuesday, telling him to come in with his head on straight and to be ready.

Best athlete: ATH Derrick Henry

The biggest question in this class -- where will Henry line up for Alabama? He obviously had some success at running back in high school. All he did was rush for over 11,000 yards and break the national career rushing record at that level. Still, at  6-foot-3, 240 pounds, he has the look of a linebacker at the next level. Jalston Fowler is still coming back off injury, so Henry will likely see some time at H-back as a freshman, but from there, it’s anybody’s guess. The ESPN 150 star is such a phenomenal athlete, it really doesn’t matter where he plays. He already looks like a college junior, and he hasn’t even gotten into the Tide’s weight program yet. He has the potential to be the next Trent Richardson or the next Dont’a Hightower. Only time will tell.

Biggest flip: LB Reuben Foster

Of the 25 players who signed with Alabama last Wednesday, six were committed to other schools at one point or another during the recruiting process. Both Liner and A’Shawn Robinson were committed elsewhere but chose the Tide on signing day. However, the biggest steal for Alabama was Foster. Everybody knows the timeline by now. He first committed to Alabama the summer before his junior year, but a year later, he flipped to Auburn after he and his family moved there in the spring. In the end, two days before signing day, he re-committed to the Tide. Not only is Alabama getting an extremely talented linebacker, but it gives them supremacy over their in-state rival. They took a top recruit out of the Tigers’ backyard.

Class sleeper: QB Luke Del Rio and ATH Jai Miller

The popular sleeper among the players who signed is Eddie Jackson, a four-star athlete who has a chance to play early in the secondary. However, don’t forget about the two walk-ons, Del Rio and Miller. They’re not your average walk-ons. Del Rio had a scholarship offer from Oregon State but chose to walk on at Alabama despite two quarterbacks already in the class. Cooper Bateman might be the highest rated, but Del Rio is a competitor who will battle for a scholarship and for the chance to play. As for Miller, there might be no bigger mystery in this class. He’s shown his talents and athleticism on the baseball field, but how will it translate to football? There’ no indication when or if he’ll play, but the staff is high on his potential.

Top position group: Running backs

The wide receivers and tight ends, the defensive line and the defensive backs could all be options here, but how do you not go with the running backs? If you include Henry, Alabama signed four backs ranked in the ESPN 150. They kept Tyren Jones and Altee Tenpenny in the class despite heavy interest from the in-state schools, and they added Alvin Kamara on signing day to top it all off. The task now is to find ways to get touches for each of them. Jones and Tenpenny are your more traditional running backs whereas Henry could play some at H-back, and Kamara has the versatility to line up in the slot if needed. It’s safe to say there won’t be a shortage of running backs at Alabama anytime soon.