Alabama Crimson Tide: Cameron Sims

Tide players to watch: Chris Black

March, 5, 2014
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- With the start of spring practice only a few weeks away, we’re spending this week discussing five players to keep an eye on when Alabama opens camp on March 15.

Because they’re unpredictable, we’ll avoid first-year players like Cam Robinson. If you want an idea of who could make an instant impact in 2014, we wrote about that shortly after signing day.

On Monday, we wrote about running back Derrick Henry jumping onto the national stage in the Sugar Bowl. On Tuesday, we covered Jonathan Allen's room for growth at defensive end. And today we're looking at a player with a few years in the program and plenty of untapped potential.

[+] EnlargeChris Black
AP Photo/Dave MartinChris Black finds plenty of competition for playing time.
WR Chris Black
Redshirt sophomore
5-foot-11, 182 pounds

Credentials: The 2012 season was over for him before it ever began. Alabama fans will remember that it was Black -- not Amari Cooper -- who entered fall camp with all the buzz. He was ranked higher by ESPN and other recruiting services out of high school, and the way he looked in practice at Alabama did nothing to quell the excitement over his potential early impact at receiver. But a shoulder injury he sustained in mid-August robbed the speedy Florida native of his first year on campus, forcing him to take a redshirt. And when he came back in 2013, Cooper was coming off a freshman All-American season and the rest of the receiving corps was stuffed with veterans like Kevin Norwood, Kenny Bell and DeAndrew White. Black appeared in eight games and caught eight passes for 79 yards and two touchdowns -- all from backup quarterback Blake Sims in what amounted to garbage time.

How he fits: He may not have a stunning résumé, but to see Black run routes in practice makes you forget all that. The shifty receiver is silky smooth and hits a high gear with seemingly little effort. Now that Norwood and Bell are gone and the depth chart has loosened some, it's Black's time to show whether he'll sink or swim at Alabama. He clearly has the tools, but he'll have to beat out plenty of other talented pass-catchers before he can see the field. Cooper won't be moved, White has a bevy of experience and junior Christion Jones has been a fixture as slot receiver the past two seasons. It's realistic that Black could become the fourth receiver and catch 30 or so balls, but he'll have to fend off a slew of other youngsters: the physically imposing Raheem Falkins, the No. 2-ranked receiver prospect in 2013 Robert Foster and the No. 8-ranked receiver prospect in 2014 Cameron Sims.

Best case/worst case: A repeat of 2013 would be a major setback for Black, especially considering all the youth suddenly behind him at receiver. If he has another year of single-digit receptions, there's a chance he could be passed by. But the good news for Black is that he has what amounts to the freshest of starts college football can offer. He'll not only have a new quarterback throwing him the football (AJ McCarron seemed to prefer veterans he knew better), but he'll also have the benefit of a brand new offensive coordinator who comes to Tuscaloosa with an eye on adding more explosive elements to the offense. Lane Kiffin's arrival could mean a shuffling of personnel at every position, and the receiver corps is especially ripe for an overhaul. If Black can use the spring to establish a rapport with the new quarterbacks and provide Kiffin a good first impression, he could ready himself to compete for a starting job come fall.

Room to improve: WR

February, 18, 2014
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Editor’s note: This is Part II in a weeklong series looking at Alabama’s top five position groups with room to improve.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- They never caught much flack, which is understandable. Considering the numbers AJ McCarron put up at quarterback this past season (3,063 yards, 28 touchdowns passing), why pick on Alabama’s wide receivers? Their overall production wasn’t bad at all.

But considering all the talent Alabama has amassed at the position, shouldn’t they have been better? Shouldn't they have been more explosive? Alabama had 45 passing plays that went for 20 yards or more, which was squarely in the middle of the pack of the SEC, trailing the likes of Ole Miss, South Carolina, Missouri, LSU, Georgia and Texas A&M.

Granted, it’s hard to supplant entrenched veterans like DeAndrew White, Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell, but the way Nick Saban and his coaching staff have recruited the top talent at receiver in recent years, you’d think someone would have emerged who could stretch the field more vertically. In fact, not a single freshman -- redshirt or otherwise -- made a significant impact at the position in 2013.

Now we all know how talented and how explosive Amari Cooper has been in his first two seasons on campus. He’s been nothing if not an immediate success. But he can’t be the only youngster to stand out at the position. Not in 2014 when a new quarterback is under center and Norwood and Bell are off to professional careers. More will have to come from those further down the depth chart.

[+] EnlargeAmari Cooper is one of the best wideouts in the country and anchors the wide receiving corps.
Mark Zerof/USA TODAY SportsAmari Cooper is one of the best wideouts in the country and anchors the Bama wide receiving corps.
Battling for No. 1: No one is supplanting Cooper in the starting lineup. A healthy Cooper is among the best wideouts in the country. We saw as much late in the season when he began to look like himself against Auburn and Oklahoma. And chances are that White and Christion Jones, both seniors, will start alongside him once again. But with new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin at the helm and some of the logjam at receiver erased with Norwood and Bell gone, there’s a chance we see some competition for the top few reserves off the bench.

Strength in numbers: Chris Black is no longer a young pup. Fans will remember that he was actually ranked higher than Cooper by most recruiting services coming out of high school. He was injured and redshirted his first year on campus, and last season he caught just eight passes. A speedy target with good hands, he’ll be among the leading contenders off the bench. He’ll be joined by a few others, though, as Robert Foster, the former No. 2-ranked receiver in his class, and Raheem Falkins, an impressive target at 6-foot-4, enter their second year in the program.

New on the scene: Cameron Sims will only add to the deep supply of young talent at receiver when he arrives on campus. The four-star athlete and No. 8-ranked wideout in the ESPN 300 has the height (6-4) and speed (roughly a 4.52 second 40-yard dash) to make an immediate impact. He’ll have to add some weight to his 190-pound frame, but strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran is well versed in tackling that challenge. Joining Sims in the 2014 signing class is Ohio native Derek Kief. The No. 26-ranked receiver is another big target at 6-5 and 198 pounds.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The paperwork is on all of Alabama’s 2014 recruiting class. And now that it’s official, it’s time to start the process of analyzing who each prospect reminds us of.

Potential is a dangerous thing, so keep in mind that these comparisons are looking at the best case scenario for each player. As always, everything depends on what happens when they get to campus and how they develop when they get there.

Yesterday we looked at the defensive players. Today it's on to the offensive signees.

OL Josh Casher
Projects as: With J.C. Hassenauer also vying for time at center, look for Casher to get a look at guard where he could remind many of former Alabama three-year starter Anthony Steen. Both lacked ideal height (well under 6-foot-5) but have great strength and above-average drive.

[+] EnlargeBen Roethlisberger
Matt Sullivan/Getty ImagesA big QB who's tough to bring down? Sounds like Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger and David Cornwell have some things in common.
QB David Cornwell
Projects as: A strong-armed passer who isn’t easy to bring down, Cornwell is eerily reminiscent of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. That said, the one hold up on Cornwell is his lack of experience having missed a lot of playing time in high school.

QB Jacob Coker
Projects as: He’s more Jameis Winston than AJ McCarron. Make no mistake, Coker is an athlete who can evade pressure and pick up yards with his feet. Throw in a strong arm and you’re looking at something similar to former Auburn signal-caller Cam Newton.

TE Ty Flournoy-Smith
Projects as: Not just because he originally signed with and played for Georgia, but Flournoy-Smith is similar to former Bulldog Orson Charles. In fact, they’re almost exactly the same size at 6-3 and 245 pounds, and both are primarily threats in the passing game.

OL J.C. Hassenauer
Projects as: If you’re drawing up a blueprint for a college center, you’re going to land on someone similar to Hassenauer, who has good quickness, good strength and the build (6-3, 292 pounds) to work in close quarters. Though he’s an inch taller and a few pounds lighter, he compares favorably to former USC center Ryan Kalil.

OL Dominick Jackson
Projects as: Get ready for another D.J. Fluker at offensive tackle, albeit a little lighter. Jackson, the No. 1 junior college tackle in the country, is enormous at 6-6 and 310 pounds. And like Fluker, Jackson is somewhat questionable in space and even played guard in junior college.

OL Montel McBride
Projects as: Alabama fans will remember that Chance Warmack wasn’t the most highly regarded prospect coming out of high school. Like McBride, he wasn’t a top-15 player at his position nationally. McBride has a similar thick build at 6-4 and 349 pounds.

OL Cameron Robinson
Projects as: He’s Cyrus Kouandjio 2.0. Both were No. 1 at their position, in the top 10 overall and had expectations to compete from Day 1. Really, both had the look of All-SEC linemen the minute they stepped on campus. Robinson fits the bill as a rock-solid 6-5 and 330 pounds.

[+] EnlargeSteven Jackson
Chris Trotman/Getty ImagesBo Scarbrough will be a RB first at Alabama and has the look of a big back like Steven Jackson back when he was with the Rams.
ATH Bo Scarbrough
Projects as: Alabama coach Nick Saban insisted that Scarbrough is a “running back first” despite his ability at receiver. His 6-foot-2 frame will catch some off guard as being too tall, but so is Falcons’ running back Steven Jackson, who was a similar one-cut explosive back early in his career.

WR Derek Kief
Projects as: With his size (6-5, 198 pounds), Kief has the chance to be a real threat inside the red zone. The top-20 receiver doesn’t have the out-of-this-world Larry Fitzgerald athleticism, so look at him as a potential Mohamed Massaquoi from Georgia, who gradually developed into an NFL prospect in Athens.

WR Cameron Sims
Projects as: The comparison to Alshon Jeffery is fitting. But since it’s been thrown around plenty, let’s go another direction and throw another former SEC receiver out there, this time Brandon LaFell. Both were tall, rangy athletes with good feet and good burst.

SEC's lunch links

February, 10, 2014
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What a historic moment from former Missouri defensive end Michael Sam. Hats off to one of the SEC's best players in 2013.

Army Bowl combine notebook 

January, 3, 2014
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SAN ANTONIO -- The day before the U.S. Army All-American Bowl featured several athletes who could be playing in the 2015 rendition of the game. The U.S. Army National Combine took place Friday, and several ESPN Junior 300 athletes, as well as rising 2015 and 2016 standouts, gave the Alamodome crowd a small taste of what to expect throughout the spring circuit of various camps and combines.


As expected, Day 2 at the Under Armour All-America practices were smoother, more concise and much more productive. The players are now starting to think less and play more. Natural ability is starting to come to the forefront, which allows for them to be more productive. There have been fewer dropped passes, fewer misses by the QBs and the offensive lines are starting to jell quicker than expected. Perhaps the most impressive thing about this group is there have not been any true letdowns. They have stepped up and been as advertised almost top to bottom for both squads. Let’s hit the highlights of the day:

Top performers

WR Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish): Sims might not wow anyone with his 40-yard dash time, but it may not matter. Sims is so similar to Mike Evans at Texas A&M. He just makes plays. He has extremely long arms and is outstanding when in contested matchups. The ball will look like it is uncatchable and then next thing you know he jumps out of nowhere, extends and makes a play and the defender is left scratching his head. When it comes down to it, the QBs for Team Highlight can trust that if they need to throw it up, Sims will make a play. The most basic thing about the position is catching the football and Sims has no problem doing that.


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Under Armour Early Offer 

December, 30, 2013
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily morning dose of recruiting.

Today’s Early Offering is coming to you from the Under Armour All-America Game. Here’s a sample of some of the top news from the event, including a look at who stood out on the first day of practices and a quarterback who hopes to make a big impression.

No. 1 preps for announcement
Seven of the nation’s top prospects will commit live during the Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 2 (ESPN, at 4 p.m. ET), including the No. 1 player in the country, running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine). Fournette has stuck with his top two of Alabama and LSU and said both school’s hats will be in front of him when he announces. A Texas hat will be there too, but it’s down to the Tigers and Tide. Fournette said he’s tired of getting asked where he’s going to end up, but that thankfully will end in a few days. “It is just something I want to get off my shoulders,” he said. “Everybody has been nagging me about a thousand times. At the end of the day, it’s where I’m going to be most successful and most comfortable at.”


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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- One thing is for sure for all the 2014 Under Armour All-Americans: This isn’t high school anymore. Day 1 is about gauging the competition. Some guys dive right in and some test the waters with their big toe, but by the end of the first day of practice, all those in attendance have a pretty good idea of where they stand and what they need to do to compete and get better.

Given that it is Day 1, the playbook is introduced (Team Nitro is going no huddle with wrist bands and limited plays), and there can be sloppy moments of indecision and uncertainty. With each rep, most, if not all, prospects began to get a better feel for what is expected. Most importantly, the center-quarterback exchanges were very good for the most part, which is generally the biggest worry. Upon completion of the first practice, here are some observations and things to look for over the week:

Top Performers


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SEC recruiting storylines: Dec. 12 

December, 12, 2013
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Another wild week of recruiting in the SEC is in the rearview mirror. Today, the Florida Gators take center stage with all eyes on Alabama heading into the weekend of official visits before the dead period begins Dec. 16.

Gators nab one of the nation's best

No. 18 David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School) seemed to be a Florida lean for more than a year. After trips to Georgia twice during the season and official visits to Tennessee and Florida in November, the 6-foot-6, 288-pound four-star offensive tackle made it official Thursday, committing to the Gators.

Sharpe becomes the 17th commitment for head coach Will Muschamp and his staff, including the 10th ESPN 300 prospect to select the Gators.

Speaking of Florida, the final decision of No. 20-ranked Dalvin Cook (Miami/Central) likely will come following the Rockets' state title game this weekend. Florida is fighting Florida State and Miami to keep the explosive playmaker.

Make it two for Thursday


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Best SEC recruiters 

October, 15, 2013
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Editor's note: For a look at the national recruiter power rankings based only on Class of 2014 success, click here.

It's no secret that Southeastern Conference has been the top conference in the country as far as recruiting over the last several years. The league currently has six teams ranked in the top 11 of the team recruiting rankings. Here's a look at the top 10 recruiters around the ultra-competitive conference.

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UA Game jersey tour: Cameron Sims

October, 10, 2013
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Senior wide receiver Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish) was presented his honorary game jersey during the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2014 Under Armour All-America High School Football Game at his high school on Wednesday.

Sims, an Alabama commitment, is one of 90 players selected to compete in the seventh annual UA Game spotlighting the country’s top high school seniors. The 2014 game is set for 4 p.m. ET on Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will be televised on ESPN.

"First of all, I just want to thank God letting me have the ability to be in this game," Sims said. "And I want to thank my parents for helping me keep a level head. I want to thank all of my coaches for getting me to this point, and I just want to thank all of y'all."

Ouachita Parish coach Jeff Fitzgerald is proud of his star player.

"He's a man of high character, so it gives you joy as a coach to see a young man with his ability and his character go out and represent your school. So we are really excited as the Ouachita family to watch Cam go out and dominate in the Under Armour Game."

Sims chose the UA Game for a number of reasons, including location.

"I chose the Under Armour Game because of the gear and because it's in Florida … and just to play against some of the top DBs and players in the nation," he said. "To represent the state of Louisiana and to be able to play in the Under Armour All-America Game means a lot. I have the chance to represent my city and hometown Ouachita, and I'm just going to put on a show."

The 6-foot-4, 190-pound Sims is the No. 63 prospect overall and the No. 6 wide receiver in the class. Sims committed to Alabama over offers from Ole Miss, Georgia, Auburn and others.
The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's latest feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Billy Napier has a great reputation as a recruiter and is proving it this season for the Crimson Tide; despite a season-ending injury, running back Shai McKenzie received good news from schools recruiting him; Auburn could be the team to watch in the SEC if the Tigers continue to win ball games.


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SEC recruiting mailbag

September, 6, 2013
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It’s time to dip into the SEC recruiting mailbag and answer your questions. Because of the amount of questions we’ve received, we won’t be able to get to all of them today -- but we encourage you to ask again next week by tweeting your questions to @DerekTysonESPN or @HamiltonESPN and use the hashtag #SECRecruiting.

@LisaHorne: If UGA loses again this week, will it affect their recruiting?

Derek Tyson: If history is any indication, then no, it should not make much of a difference in recruiting. Remember, Georgia started off 0-2 in the 2011 yet finished with the No. 5-ranked recruiting class including stud running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Head coach Mark Richt has recruited at a very high level and has Georgia in a place to compete for conference and national championships just about every year. His job is not in jeopardy and recruits believe in what he and his staff are trying to accomplish. Starting the season off with two top-10 opponents is no easy task for any team, and I would be shocked if Georgia isn't in the hunt for the SEC East title come November. Georgia will be just fine in recruiting.

@Time2Strive: No LSU in Gerald Willis III & Speedy Noil top 3. Is UF the team to beat?

DT: I'll admit, I was just as shocked as everyone else to see LSU not in the top three for New Orleans Edna Karr teammates Speedy Noil and Gerald Willis III. Though I wouldn't completely count out the Tigers, it looks as if Florida, Texas A&M and USC are the teams to beat. Florida will have the first crack to impress the two Under Armour All-Americans, as they are both set to officially visit the Gators when UF hosts Tennessee on Sept. 21. At this point, I believe this will be a Florida-Texas A&M battle. Rarely do "package deals" work out, but in this case, the two seem set on playing together in college.

@kylelambsports: How much do Alabama's chances increase for Leonard Fournette and Hootie Jones with the commitment from Cameron Robinson?

Gerry Hamilton: I’m not sure Robinson picking Alabama helps with Leonard Fournette (New Orleans, La./St. Augustine). Their decisions will be separate, and Fournette has a long way to go in the process with his recruitment having even more importance now for LSU after Robinson picked the Crimson Tide. When looking at Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville High), he’s on I-20, where Alabama has made its run in the Pelican State in this class. Obviously, Jones knows Robinson and Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita High), but he’s not as close as Robinson and Sims. It certainly doesn’t hurt Alabama’s chances with Jones, but I don’t believe it will sway his decision one way or another. Both players will very likely come down to LSU and Alabama, as has been expected.

@AshevilleLaw: What effect does Clemson's win have on recruits balancing CU-GA decision?

GH: I believe the Clemson win and showcasing of an electric atmosphere will resonate more with the 2015 class than 2014. When looking at the 2015 class, and especially in the Atlanta area, the Clemson staff being able to walk into high schools having beaten LSU and Georgia is suddenly a different and stronger message than a year ago. It will also be even easier to get top prospects to make unofficial visits -- not that the Tigers have struggled in that area. That’s not to take away from the positive reviews by David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School) and Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County High), but the win will almost certainly have a lasting impact on 2015 if the Tigers go on to have a BCS bowl game-type of season. Beating SEC powers changes the message of the staff on the trail, and that is very key when battling SEC programs in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida for top prospects.

SEC recruiting storylines: Sept. 5 

September, 5, 2013
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After a sensational weekend to open the college football season, this weekend features a number of marquee games that are sure to have an impact on recruiting. Two games in the Southeast Region, in particular, are expected to bring out a number of big time prospects in the class of 2014 and 2015. Here is a closer look at some of the hot topics throughout the SEC:

The beat goes on for No. 1
Not only is Alabama going for a three-peat on the field this season, but also in recruiting. Already opening up a nice lead in the 2014 class rankings with the commitment of Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita High) two weeks ago, the Crimson Tide placed a stranglehold on the competition Wednesday securing a commitment from five-star offensive tackle Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe). With the pledge from Robinson, Nick Saban and Co. now have 20 commitments, including 14 in the ESPN 300.

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SEC class rankings analysis 

August, 28, 2013
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Once again 13 out of 14 SEC teams were ranked in the Recruiting Nation team recruiting rankings. Alabama, Kentucky and Missouri all picked up commitments but there weren’t many changes in this week's updated class rankings.

Trending up: Alabama strengthened its hold on the No. 1-ranked class with the addition of ESPN 300 wide receiver Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish). Sims, the No. 6-ranked wide receiver in the country, gives the Crimson Tide 13 commitments that are ranked in the ESPN 300.

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