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Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Alabama staff turns focus to recruiting

By Alex Scarborough

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Gas up the car, fuel up the jet and be sure to load up on plenty of snacks. A-Day is officially in the rearview mirror. It's time to take the show on the road.

Alabama coaches will hit the recruiting trail hard over the coming weeks as the focus shifts from spring practice to the spring evaluation period. After months of laying the groundwork, it's time for the staff to make hay with some of the country's top prospects.

Not too long ago, TideNation looked at the incredible roster of visitors that have come by UA's campus this spring from the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. The top recruit in the ESPN 150, running back Leonard Fournette, toured the football facilities and spent time with the coaching staff, and several of the nation's top defensive prospects made their way through town as well. David Cornwell, the highest rated passer in the class, joined that list when he visited Tuscaloosa a few days ago, snapping a picture of himself in Alabama's new $9-million weight room.

Call that the meet-and-greet stage of the recruiting routine, a chance to break the ice and shake hands. The late spring and early summer months are when recruiting hits another gear.

Alabama has been selective in the commitment process thus far. Saban and Co. haven't jumped the gun in filling up the class. While some schools already have as many as a dozen commitments in this year's class, Alabama has received just four: athlete Bo Scarbrough, cornerback Kalvaraz Bessent, linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton and safety Chris Williams.

Before you reach for the panic button, remember the value of quality over quantity. Three of UA's four commitments are ranked in the ESPN 150. That's more than four teams currently ahead of Alabama in ESPN's class rankings, including No. 1 Texas.

Expect Alabama to close the gap in a hurry. The No. 12 class ranking is a starting point for a staff that's won the recruiting crown two years in a row and hasn't finished outside the top three since 2008. Alabama had only five commitments prior to A-Day last year. It added eight more in May, June and July, including blue-chip quarterback Cooper Bateman and four-star cornerback Maurice Smith. The No. 1 athlete in the country would commit a few months later when Derrick Henry said he'd roll with the Tide on Sept. 28.

We've already heard from recruits about how much they've enjoyed getting acquainted with new Alabama assistant coaches Billy Napier, Mario Cristobal and Greg Brown. We've been told by Saban what a benefit new director of player personnel Kevin Steele has been in overseeing the recruiting operation. Now we get to see it in action as the staff goes out to visit schools and hosts its annual summer camps in June and July.

Alabama has its targets in mind and its positions of need. Now that spring football is over, it's time to go out and close the deal.