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Friday, May 24, 2013
Ranking UA's recruiting needs in 2014

By Alex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf

TideNation's Rankings Week concludes with a list of the Tide’s top needs in recruiting for the class of 2014, as well as a list of the top players the staff is pursuing at those positions. 

Ranking Alabama's needs for 2014 

1. Cornerback
Alabama would like to sign three or four cornerbacks to provide depth and make up for the impending loss of starter Deion Belue and top reserve John Fulton on an already thin unit. Even after signing four-star corner Maurice Smith and a few other potential defensive backs in Eddie Jackson, Anthony Averett and Jonathan Cook in the 2013 class, Alabama still needs help at the position, as neither Bradley Sylve nor Jabriel Washington has developed into a significant contributor as an underclassman.

Commitments: Kalvaraz Bessent (Kingsland, Ga./Camden County), Stephen Roberts (Opelika, Ala./Opelika)

Top targets: The staff has already landed two commitments, but five-star cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover) is a priority for this class. He’s the top player in the state of Alabama, and his father played for the Tide back in his day. Bama is only expected to take three cornerbacks in 2014 unless it can add another top prospect like ESPN 150 star Jalen Tabor (D.C./Friendship). -- Greg Ostendorf

2. Edge rushers
UA coach Nick Saban said at February's signing-day news conference that the staff has begun to actively seek out more athletic, quick-twitch edge rushers to combat the rise of mobile quarterbacks and uptempo offenses in the SEC. Signing Tim Williams, Jonathan Allen and Dee Liner helped, but it was just a start. For Alabama to stifle fleet-footed quarterbacks in the mold of Johnny Manziel, the staff must continue to seek out the kind of fast linemen and linebackers who are capable of corralling them.

Commitments: None

Top targets: Getting to the quarterback was an issue last year, and though Alabama addressed it with the 2013 class, you can never have enough pass rushers. In 2014, the Tide’s top two targets are Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) and Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross). Hand could either play on the line or at the Jack linebacker spot while Carter is a true outside linebacker. -- Greg Ostendorf

3. Offensive line
You can never have too many offensive linemen in the SEC, especially when you're tasked with replacing an entire line over two seasons. Right tackle D.J. Fluker, center Barrett Jones and left guard Chance Warmack left after last season, and starting right guard Anthony Steen and left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio are safe bets to be drafted in 2014. While Alabama did sign three offensive linemen in its 2013 class, that number is deceiving: Leon Brown has just two years of eligibility and Brandon Hill is a significant question mark given his weight concerns.

Commitments: None

Top targets: A true left tackle was a need for Alabama last year, and the Tide struck out on Laremy Tunsil. This year, the staff feels like five-star Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe) can be that prototypical left tackle of the future, and has made him a priority. The Tide also have a couple of top targets from the junior college ranks. -- Greg Ostendorf

4. Inside linebacker
The NFL draft will likely take another unforgiving bite out of Alabama's defense following the 2013 season, especially in the middle as both starting linebackers could turn pro. C.J. Mosley is an obvious draft pick as a senior, and underclassmen Trey DePriest could follow suit with a strong showing. Youngsters Reggie Ragland and Ryan Anderson are future stars, but Alabama will need a few more signees to get the scholarship numbers right before the inevitable pull of the draft strikes again.

Commitments: Shaun Dion Hamilton (Montgomery, Ala./Carver), Zach Whitley Jr. (Houston/North Shore)

Top targets: Alabama signed just two inside linebackers in last year’s class -- Reuben Foster and Walker Jones -- and the latter could end up at H-back. With two early commitments, it’s clear the Tide wanted to address the position in 2014. The top target still on the board is ESPN 150 linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County), but they will have to fend off Ohio State for his signature. -- Greg Ostendorf

5. Quarterback
There are plenty of suitors to replace starting quarterback AJ McCarron after this season, but you can never have too much competition at the position. Not when a good passer is the difference between championships and .500 seasons. Redshirt freshman Alec Morris has the look of a starter and true freshmen Cooper Bateman and Parker McLeod have the arms to make all the throws. But the staff will likely take the "better safe than sorry" approach and get at least one more strong arm in camp to push the competition forward.

Commitments: None

Top targets: The quarterback race is about to heat up, as Alabama’s top 2014 targets are set to invade Tuscaloosa in less than two weeks for the Tide’s camp. The early frontrunner looks to be ESPN 150 signal-caller David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North), but keep an eye on dual-threat quarterback Brandon Harris (Bossier City, La./Parkway). -- Greg Ostendorf