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Tuesday, November 5, 2013
Tide, Tigers well-stocked for future at QB

By Gerry Hamilton

There is not a single position more important in any sport than quarterback. With LSU and Alabama set for their annual showdown on Saturday, and both starting signal callers being seniors, it's time to take a look ahead at what the position holds following the graduation of Zach Mettenberger and AJ McCarron.

When looking at the future of quarterback recruiting for both SEC powers, one has to start with a look back at the 2013 signing class, as signal callers from that class likely will figure prominently in the future race for both teams.

The Tigers signed two quarterbacks in 2013, in former ESPN 300 No. 217 Hayden Rettig (Los Angeles, Calif./Cathedral) and No. 221 Anthony Jennings (Marietta, Ga./Marrieta). While Rettig is redshirting this fall, it would appear the 6-foot-2, 211-pound Jennings will open next spring with the inside track on the starting job. The former Atlanta-area standout has appeared in six games as the clear No. 2, having passed redshirt sophomore Stephen Rivers on the depth chart.

Both Jennings and Rettig will face future competition from ESPN 300 No. 58 and Under Armour All-America Brandon Harris (Bossier City, La./Parkway). The 6-foot-2, 186-pound Harris popped onto the radar after the 2012 season and was one of three signal callers the Tigers took a long look at in the class. While Harris eventually picked LSU, Notre Dame commit DeShone Kizer (Toledo, Ohio/Central Catholic) was at the top of the list for the Tigers before committing to the Fighting Irish a month before Harris made his decision. Oklahoma State commit and ESPN 300 No. 167 Mason Rudolph (Rock Hill, S.C./Northwestern) is another who had offensive coordinator Cam Cameron's eye.

In Harris, LSU is getting the No. 3-ranked dual-threat prospect in the 2014 class, but Harris is a thrower first and runner only when forced to tuck the ball. He committed to LSU over Arkansas, Auburn, Baylor and a number of others.

The picture isn't nearly as clear when looking at the 2015 class for LSU. The Tigers have offered ESPN Junior 300 No. 25 Torrance Gibson (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage), but the 6-foot-4, 195-pound Gibson is not a lock to play quarterback at the next level, as he has the ability to be a potentially special wide receiver. LSU also has extended a verbal offer to ESPN Junior 300 No. 149 J.W. Ketchum (Missouri City, Texas/Thurgood Marshall), who also falls into the athlete category.

When shifting focus to Alabama, the recruiting picture is clearer.

The Crimson Tide signed two at the position in 2013 -- Under Armour All-America Cooper Bateman (Salt Lake City/Cottonwood) and Parker McLeod (Marietta, Ga./Walton), as well as a walk-on with scholarship offers in Luke Del Rio (Highlands Ranch, Co./Valor Christian).

With all three redshirting, and with backup Blake Sims continuing to hold off redshirt freshman Alec Morris, the competition following McCarron's departure is still open, with Sims holding the edge for now.

That means 2014 commit and ESPN 300 No. 43 David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North) will have ample opportunity to come in and compete immediately. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Cornwell did suffer a setback in early October, injuring his right knee that required surgery and cut his senior campaign short. Cornwell, who will graduate high school in December, still plans to enroll at Alabama in January and could be ready to go for spring practice.

Alabama closely looked at a number of signal callers in the 2014 class, but the offer decision came down to Cornwell and ESPN 300 No. 94 Jacob Park (Goose Creek, S.C./Stratford High). Cornwell and Park committed on the same day, June 14, with Park selecting Georgia.

Not only are the Crimson Tide set in 2014, but also 2015. Nick Saban and staff had many of the top 2015 quarterback prospects in camp in June and July, and in August struck gold securing a commitment from top choice and ESPN Junior 300 No. 42 Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./Saint Bonaventure). The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Town impressed at various summer camps with his ability to pick up scheme and system, both aurally and visually when spending time one-on-one with coaching staffs. He selected Alabama over Texas, Georgia, UCLA, Miami (Fla.) and a number of others.