Friday, June 21, 2013
Camp season defines Tide's 2014 class
By Greg Ostendorf
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- After a slow start to the 2014 class, Alabama has hit its stride. Since May, the defending national champions have reeled in eight commitments, including four ranked in the new ESPN 300.
The biggest reason for that success is that it’s camp season. The staff has been able to bring in and evaluate the top targets on campus. They have also found some potential gems who have stood out against the competition. The Crimson Tide’s next camp isn’t until July, but they’re hoping to carry the momentum through the summer.
QB David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./North) ESPN 300 rank: 34 Committed: June 14
Viane Talamaivao's commitment May 30 was the spark that started Alabama's recent hot streak on the trail.
Alabama was patient, but it finally found its quarterback for 2014. Cornwell impressed the coaches during the Tide’s camp in June, which was the final hurdle before they decided to take his commitment. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound quarterback returned to Tuscaloosa last Friday, where he and Nick Saban sat down and made the news official. Cornwell has already taken an active role in building the Tide’s 2014 class.
OG Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial) ESPN 300 rank: 123 Committed: May 30
Talamaivao might have committed to Alabama before its first camp, but it created buzz around the program and started the Tide’s current roll. The California native has never stepped foot in Tuscaloosa, but that didn’t matter when he made his decision. He plans to visit this summer with two other West Coast prospects, tight end Tyler Luatua (La Mirada, Calif./La Mirada) and offensive lineman Damien Mama (Bellflower, Calif./John Bosco).
It didn’t take long for Alabama to find a target for Cornwell. Just two days after the ESPN 150 quarterback committed, the Tide reeled in a commitment from Kief, a 6-foot-5, 198-pound wide receiver. Kief chose Alabama over Kentucky and Ohio State -- two programs that are much closer to home -- after spending four days in Tuscaloosa the week before his decision.
DT Johnny Dwight (Rochelle, Ga./Wilcox County) ESPN 300 rank: N/A Committed: June 4
Alabama might not have envisioned Dwight as a part of this class initially, but when he came and dominated the Tide’s first camp in June, that all changed. He already had an offer, but the staff didn’t know how good he really was until they saw him in person. He committed to the Tide before he left town.
Similar to Dwight, Hassenauer earned his commitment at camp. He attended Alabama’s OL/DL camp last weekend and was easily one of the top offensive lineman in attendance. The little-known prospect surprised the coaches with how well he handled some of the nation’s elite defensive linemen. What he lacks in size he makes up for with his hands.
K J.K. Scott (Denver/Mullen) ESPN 300 rank: N/A Committed: June 10
Alabama needed a punter to replace Cody Mandell after the upcoming season. During its specialists camp, Scott emerged as the front-runner. He earned an offer Saturday and committed the next day.
Alabama’s class has doubled over the last month. It now has 13 commitments, and there's still seven months until signing day. Although they have already filled some key needs in the class, many of the Tide’s top targets are still on the board.
From a position standpoint, the focus will continue to be up front on the offensive and defensive lines.
The top target is five-star offensive lineman Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe), who was in town for Alabama’s first camp. The coaches have told the 6-foot-6, 325-pound prospect that he could come in and start at left tackle as a freshman if Cyrus Kouandjio leaves early for the NFL as expected.
Robinson grew up an LSU fan, but he’s taken two trips to Tuscaloosa since April and the Tide look to have a slight advantage over the Tigers.
The UA staff continues to pursue a number of other ESPN 150 offensive linemen as well, a group that includes Mama, Damian Prince (Forestville, Md./McNamara), Rod Taylor (Jackson, Miss./Calloway), and Roderick Johnson (Florissant, Mo./Hazelwood). Johnson visited Alabama on Monday.
On defense, the Tide loaded up on the line a year ago, but they’re still looking for an elite nose tackle with this class. The top two options are Matt Elam (Elizabethtown, Ky./John Hardin) and Joshua Frazier (Springdale, Ark./Har Ber). Elam dominated Alabama’s first camp, while Frazier visited during the Tide’s OL/DL camp.
Outside of adding depth up front, Alabama has made it a priority to find pass rushers in this class, and they’re also looking for help at safety.
The debate between Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) and Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) continues. Which player would be a better fit for the Tide? The coaches would love to add both potential pass rushers if possible, but they’d be more than happy to take one of the two five-stars.
At safety, ESPN 150 athlete Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera) has emerged as a likely candidate, but Alabama is also pursuing Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville) and C.J. Hampton (Meridian, Miss./Meridian), an Ole Miss commitment. The two worked out together at the Tide’s first camp.