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Friday, May 3, 2013
Bama targets defense early in 2014 class

By Greg Ostendorf

Last year, the University of Alabama’s No. 1 recruiting class was highlighted by playmakers on offense. The Crimson Tide signed four ESPN 150 running backs, the nation’s No. 2 wide receiver and a player many believed was the most dynamic tight end in the class.

However, Nick Saban is still a defensive-minded coach, and it’s clear the priority so far for 2014 has been on that side of the ball.

Zach Whitley
After the commitment of linebacker Zach Whitley Jr. on Friday, Alabama has six commits for 2014, five of them on the defensive side.
With Friday’s addition of linebacker Zach Whitley Jr. (Houston/North Shore), Alabama now has commitments from two linebackers, two cornerbacks, a safety and an athlete who could wind up playing linebacker for the Tide.

Both linebacker commitments -- Whitley and ESPN 150 star Shaun Dion Hamilton (Montgomery, Ala./Carver) -- project better inside, a spot that Alabama needed to address after signing just two inside linebackers a year ago.

At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Whitley is taller but also a little leaner than Hamilton. But, similar to Hamilton, the best word to describe the latest Tide commitment is physical.

From ESPN’s scouting report, “Whitley is a tough and physical linebacker prospect who plays fast but disciplined between the tackles. He is a heavy hitter and collision tackler who packs a punch and typically knocks ball carriers backwards.”

Based on that, it’s safe to say that both Whitley and Hamilton are a perfect for Alabama’s nasty, in-your-face defense, and the Tide might not be quite done at the position.

The UA coaches are still targeting several inside linebackers, including Clifton Garrett, Raekwon McMillan, Nyles Morgan and Tre Williams. The quartet of ESPN 150 stars all have an offer from the Tide.

Alabama will still address needs on offense, in particular the offensive line, but if the early commitments are any indication, the 2014 class is all about defense.