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Monday, July 15, 2013
Question of the week: Tide's top recruit?

By Greg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough

Editor's note: Each week the TideNation staff will address an issue surrounding the Alabama football program. It's LSU rivalry week on the website, so we themed today's question along those lines:

Is Cameron Robinson the most important player left in the 2014 class?

Greg Ostendorf's take

With his performance at The Opening earlier this month, Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe) made a case to be the No. 1 player in the country, challenging fellow Louisiana native Leonard Fournette (New Orleans, St. Augustine). He already is the top-ranked offensive tackle and currently ranked No. 7 overall in the ESPN 300.

But that’s not what makes him so vital to Alabama’s 2013 class. It’s the position he plays.

The Tide are likely to lose All-SEC left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio early to the NFL draft, leaving a void at one of the most critical positions on the football field. Sure there are other options already on campus, but Robinson is at another level.

He’s 6-foot-5, 330 pounds, so size won’t be an issue. He plans to graduate early and enroll in January, which will give him an extra semester to practice with the team, learn the playbook and hit the weight room. It’s rare for a true freshman to start, especially on the offensive line, but even Nick Saban told Robinson that he has a good chance to start if he chooses the Tide.

Regardless of where he ends up, Robinson knows he still has to work.

“Nothing is going to come easy, so I have to be prepared to go down there and work extremely hard, take everything serious, everything I do -- the weight room, the playbook, studying film, everything,” he said.

The biggest challenge now for Alabama will be to pull him out of Louisiana and away from its SEC West rival. Robinson will be in Baton Rouge this week for LSU’s camp. He spent a week in Tuscaloosa last month for the Tide’s camp. He’s already planning to return in November when his two finalists meet in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

As big as it was for the Alabama to steal five-star Landon Collins away from LSU two years ago, it would be even bigger to land Robinson.

Alex Scarborough's take

Landing Cameron Robinson would be huge, but it wouldn't be the end all be all for the Crimson Tide's future. While it's true that Cyrus Kouandjio's impending move to the next level creates a hole at left tackle, that doesn't mean Robinson is the only person capable of filling that vacancy.

Redshirt freshman Brandon Greene likely will back up Kouandjio this season and could enter next season as the frontrunner to replace him if Kouandjio leaves, and both 2013 signees Brandon Hill and Leon Brown would have a say in the competition, as well. That trio of prospective starters would be enough even if it weren't for the recent commitment of junior college offensive tackle Dominick Jackson, who at 6-foot-6 and 310 pounds has the look of an early impact player.

No, rather than point to Robinson as the most important unsigned recruit on Alabama's radar, I'd say that title belongs to Marlon Humphrey. The five-star cornerback from just up the road in Hoover, Ala., is a budding star in his own right, but he also would fill a vital need for the Tide on defense in what is a thin secondary.

While the 2013 class added depth to the unit as a whole, with athletes like Maurice Smith and Eddie Jackson, it lacked the star power of a Humphrey, who as the second-highest rated corner in the country has the skill to step in and contribute right away. At 6-foot and 179 pounds, Humphrey has the prototypical size coach Nick Saban looks for at corner in that he is big enough to help in run support while also being athletic enough to cover speedy receivers down the field. In fact, just this past week Humphrey finished second in his age group in the 110 meter hurdles at the IAAF World Youth Championships in the Ukraine. That's fast even without shoulder pads.

Outside of Humphrey, I could point to a number of other prospects as being key to Alabama's success moving forward. Da'Shawn Hand or Lorenzo Carter could help what's been an up-and-down pass rush and Tyler Luatua would be a lethal weapon to put alongside O.J. Howard over the next three seasons.

And what about locking up the current commitments? Would there be a bigger blow to the class than if David Cornwell were to flip to another school and Alabama was left without a single quarterback in the class?

While it's true that Robinson represents a big target for the Alabama staff, he's not the lynchpin to the class as a whole. No one player is -- not Humphrey, Carter or Luatua. There are some 10 spots left to fill between now and signing day. Having quality prospects at each and every position is the most important thing.