Alabama Crimson Tide: Johnny Dwight

Room to improve: Defensive line

February, 20, 2014
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Editor’s note: This is Part IV in a weeklong series looking at Alabama’s top five position groups with room to improve.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- With a new position coach, maybe it’s time for new expectations. Alabama’s defensive line always has been solid, but when was the last time it was impressive? When was the last time it created the type of pressure that routinely moved quarterbacks off their spot and into bad situations?

Bo Davis’ return to Tuscaloosa as defensive line coach represents an opportunity for Alabama. With starters Jeoffrey Pagan and Ed Stinson off to the NFL, there’s room for both a shakeup in personnel and philosophy.

Granted, Nick Saban is never going to be the type of head coach who chases sacks, or any stat for that matter, but there’s no doubt Alabama could stand to get better at rushing the passer up front.

With more hurry-up offenses and mobile quarterbacks taking over in the SEC and college football, simply getting in the face of the passer won't do it anymore -- the ball is out too quickly or the quarterback will too often scramble out of pressure.

[+] EnlargeA'Shawn Robinson
AP Photo/Butch DillA'Shawn Robinson made an immediate impact as a freshman.
Davis, though, has more than a passing familiarity with uptempo offenses and speedy quarterbacks. After three seasons in the pass-happy Big 12, he understands the demands of pressuring the quarterback in today’s game.

Battling for No. 1: Based on last season, the writing might already be on the wall for who replaces Pagan and Stinson in the starting lineup. Brandon Ivory and Darren Lake should continue to hold down at nose guard, and the way true freshman A’Shawn Robinson played, leading the team with 5.5 sacks, he’s a lock to start. At 6-foot-4 and 320 pounds with surprising athleticism, he’s the kind of “quick-twitch” down lineman Saban has been looking for. The same can be said of fellow rookie Jonathan Allen, who played in all but one game last season. His 16 tackles and half a sack won’t knock your socks off, but considering he played so much as a true freshman without the benefit of spring practice, it’s nonetheless impressive.

Strength in numbers: The return of D.J. Pettway from junior college could push the presumptive starters, however. You’ll recall that Pettway was a Freshman All-SEC selection in 2012 and only left the team after being arrested in an on-campus altercation. Should he remain out of trouble and regain the confidence of coaches on the field, he could make an immediate impact. He’ll be joined by a handful of solid reserves: Dalvin Tomlinson, Dee Liner, Korren Kirven and Dakota Ball. Tomlinson is an intriguing prospect; coaches and players have raved about his potential, but knee injuries in successive years have forced him out of the lineup.

New on the scene: Alabama won’t be hurting for depth as it welcomes in four defensive linemen, not counting Pettway. Junior college transfer Jarran Reed is one to watch. At 6-4 and 315 pounds, he could compete for time at nose guard. Four-star prospects O.J. Smith, Johnny Dwight and Joshua Frazier are big bodies who could fill roles as interior linemen. And don’t forget the most high-profile recruit of them all: Da'Shawn Hand. The five-star defensive end from Virginia is a physical marvel at 6-4 and 262 pounds with a sub-5.0 40-yard dash. He could easily trim down and play outside linebacker, but coaches will get a better look when he enrolls this summer.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The paperwork is in for 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.

[+] EnlargeDre Kirkpatrick
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsCould five-star cornerback become another Dre Kirkpatrick for the Crimson Tide?
DB Tony Brown
Projects as: He’s a heavier hitter and is maybe more physically developed, but Brown will remind many of former Alabama cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick with his length and ball skills. Brown has the kind of size and strength coach Nick Saban covets because it means Brown can be versatile and play near the line of scrimmage when necessary.

ATH Ronnie Clark
Projects as: He’s very much a tweener safety/linebacker prospect, making comparisons difficult. Reaching a bit into the SEC vault, fans can look at former Georgia “rover” Thomas Davis, who was part DB, part linebacker for the Bulldogs.

DL Johnny Dwight
Projects as: Dwight is a bit of an under-the-radar prospect as he was ranked as the 33rd-best defensive tackle in the country. But at 6-foot-2, 282 pounds, he offers a big body who can play end in Saban’s 3-4 scheme. Because of his versatility and lack of acclaim, he reminds some of former Alabama lineman Damion Square.

LB Rashaan Evans
Projects as: In keeping with the Georgia theme, Evans should conjure images of former Bulldogs linebacker Alec Ogletree. Both are slimmer, more athletic linebackers who could slide back and play safety in some systems. As Saban attempts to combat hurry-up no-huddle offenses, having linebackers with Evans’ speed will pay dividends.

DL Joshua Frazier
Projects as: At 6-4 and 336 pounds, Frazier is the type of defensive lineman who eats up space. He’ll likely be a nose tackle in Alabama’s system and primarily fit against the run in the mold of current Tide lineman Brandon Ivory.

LB Shaun Dion Hamilton
Projects as: Hamilton said he’s an inside linebacker who molds his game after former Alabama great C.J. Mosley. But Mosley was probably more athletic than Hamilton, so a more likely comparison might be another former Tide linebacker, DeMeco Ryans. Both are a bit undersized with Hamilton coming in at 5-11.

DL Da'Shawn Hand
Projects as: The comparison to Dont'a Hightower has been thrown around a bit, but given Hand’s size and pass-rush ability, he could easily slide into the Jack linebacker position and play a role similar to the one that made Courtney Upshaw an All-American. Another potential comparison, if he does play with his hand on the ground, is New York Giant Justin Tuck.

LB Keith Holcombe
Projects as: To borrow Holcombe’s father’s comparison, Keith does look a little bit like former Alabama linebacker Cory Reamer. Reamer was a bit of an unheralded recruit coming out of high school like Keith, but both have high motors and deceptive athleticism.

[+] EnlargeLoucheiz Purifoy
AP Photo/John RaouxAlabama signee Marlon Humphrey, a five-star defensive back, compares favorably to former Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy.
DB Marlon Humphrey
Projects as: Like Brown, Humphrey defies comparison because he’s so big for a corner. Because of his other worldly athleticism (just look at his track numbers) he compares favorably to former Florida cornerback Loucheiz Purifoy. They both match up well with taller receivers and can help in run support.

DB Laurence Jones
Projects as: The Landon Collins comparison is going to be thrown around because both hail from Louisiana, but the better comparison might be with former LSU safety Chad Jones, who was also better when the play was in front of him than when he had to drop back in one-on-one coverage. Laurence, who goes by “Hootie,” already has the size (6-2, 208 pounds) to play in the SEC.

LB Christian Miller
Projects as: If he bulks up in a big way, Miller could play Jack. But as it stands, he’s more reminiscent of Adrian Hubbard at the Sam linebacker position. Tall with long arms and a lanky frame, Miller has the skill to rush off the edge but not enough thickness (212 pounds) to put his hand in the dirt on the line.

DL D.J. Pettway
Projects as: The comparisons to Square are going to be there because of his skill against the run and the pass. But Pettway has better production, dating back to his being named to the Freshman All-SEC team in 2012. To borrow and page from former Alabama right tackle D.J. Fluker, Pettway looks more like Marcel Dareus than Square.

DL Jarran Reed
Projects as: At 6-4 and 305 pounds, Reed is similar to former Alabama defensive end/tackle Jeoffrey Pagan. The junior college transfer is mature for a first-year player having gone first to a prep school and then to East Mississippi Community College.

DL O.J. Smith
Projects as: He was a natural fit as a nose guard with Alabama from Day 1. That’s why the Louisiana native committed to the Tide before ever getting an offer from LSU. Smith, all 6-2 and 315 pounds of him, isn’t going to wow you with his quickness but he could eat up space much like current Alabama nose guard Brandon Ivory.

Da'Shawn Hand sets visits 

August, 27, 2013
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Defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) named his list of finalists awhile ago, but only recently set up his official visits. Alabama, Florida and Michigan will all get a shot to impress the No. 4 overall prospect in the ESPN 300.


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Summer recruit wrap: Alabama 

July, 23, 2013
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The summer is almost over. The majority of camps are complete as schools have turned their focus to the beginning of the season. For Alabama, the camp season resulted in a handful of new commitments as well a plethora of new scholarship offers extended to 2014, 2015 and even some 2016 prospects.

This week, we take a look at the top 10 storylines and trends from the summer and look ahead to what’s next for the Crimson Tide.

[+] EnlargeCameron Robinson
Tom Hauck for Student SportsAlabama is battling for OT Cameron Robinson who put on a dominating performance at The Opening.
1. Camps focus on rebuilding the line

The camp season affects all positions, but the best evaluation comes from the 1-on-1 drills between the offensive and defensive linemen. Alabama used its camps to find talent up front as the staff looks to rebuild both lines. ESPN 300 offensive guard Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial) committed to the Tide in late May before the camps began. Since that point, Alabama has added three more offensive linemen including center prospect J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge), one of the stars of The Opening. On defense, Johnny Dwight (Rochelle, Ga./Wilcox County) was one of the top performers from the first camp. He earned an offer and committed on spot.


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Alabama’s 2014 class is beginning to take shape. After a busy June, the class has moved up to No. 2 nationally in the latest class rankings. But the defending champs are not just bringing in talent; they’re also filling needs.

In the last month, they have added depth up front on both the offensive line and defensive line. They also found their quarterback in this class and a punter who will likely take over right away. Still, with more than 10 spots left in the class, there are needs to be addressed.

In this week’s top 10 list, we look at the top five positions of need for the Crimson Tide between now and signing day.

Offensive tackle

Alabama landed a potential instant impact player last week when junior college offensive lineman Dominick Jackson (San Mateo, Calif./College of San Mateo) committed to the Tide. The 6-foot-6, 310-pound prospect has the ability to play either tackle or guard when he gets to Tuscaloosa. However, the staff is still looking for that prototypical left tackle to replace current starter Cyrus Kouandjio if he decides to go to the NFL early. The top option is five-star Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe), who has already narrowed his list to Alabama and LSU. If Robinson stays in state, the Tide could also look at ESPN 300 offensive tackles Damian Prince (Forestville, Md./Bishop McNamara) or Roderick Johnson (Florissant, Mo./Hazelwood).

Outside linebacker

It’s no secret that Alabama wants at least one impact pass rusher in this class. The Tide struggled to get to the quarteback at times last year, and they want to continue to address that need. Five-star defensive ends Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) and Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) currently top the list. Carter would play outside linebacker for Alabama; Hand could either play on the line or at the Jack linebacker position. The staff is also high on former Florida commitment Christian Miller (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley) and ESPN 300 defensive end Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas/Coppell). The latter recently visited Tuscaloosa and put the Tide in his top eight.

Safety


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Editor's note: Each week the TideNation staff will address an issue surrounding the Alabama football program. Today's question: How much does an event like The Opening effect Alabama recruiting?

Alex Scarborough's take


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Now that five-star defensive tackle Andrew Brown (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Frommel Smith) has verbally committed to Virginia, his other four finalists -- Alabama, FSU, Virginia Tech and Clemson -- are forced to look in other directions. Here's a closer look at some of the targets they are considering:


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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.

NEW COMMITMENTS


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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The Alabama coaching staff likes ESPN 150 athlete Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera), but they weren’t sold on what position he would play at the next level. That’s why Nick Saban called and personally invited him to participate in the Crimson Tide’s first summer prospect camp.

The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Clark made the short drive to Tuscaloosa on Tuesday and worked out at safety, the position he’d prefer to play in college.


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Tales From the Road: Alabama 

June, 5, 2013
6/05/13
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Each week, Tales From The Road provides news and updates about where Alabama’s coaches are recruiting and which prospects are getting noticed.

This week’s targets: The week has been all about Alabama’s first summer camp. Prospects from across the country have flocked to Tuscaloosa to either compete or just to visit. The headliner was five-star Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe), the No. 1 offensive tackle in the country, who last visited for the Crimson Tide’s spring game in April. Robinson recently tweeted that his decision will come down to Alabama and LSU. Other ESPN 150 stars who have been on campus this week include quarterback David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North) running back Racean Thomas (Oxford, Ala./Oxford), defensive tackle Elisha Shaw (Tucker, Ga./Tucker) and athlete Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera).

Area of interest: The state of Arkansas isn’t what you’d call a recruiting oasis year in and year out, but there’s still talent to be had. Last year, Alabama plucked out ESPN 150 running back Altee Tenpenny (North Little Rock, Ark./North Little Rock), the No. 1 player in the state. This year, the top player still available is four-star defensive tackle Joshua Frazier (Springdale, Ark./Har Ber). Not surprisingly, the Tide are among his five finalists. This week, Nick Saban and his staff decided to get a head start on next year’s crop, offering 2015 quarterback Ty Storey (Charleston, Ark./Charleston) and 2015 tight end Will Gragg (Pine Bluff, Ark./Pine Bluff). Both prospects camped at Alabama.

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The first commitment from Alabama’s camp came Tuesday evening, and once again it looks like defensive coordinator Kirby Smart has taken a prospect from his old stomping grounds in the Peach State.

Defensive tackle Johnny Dwight (Rochelle, Ga./Wilcox County) gave his verbal pledge to Smart and the Crimson Tide a day after the 6-foot-3, 300-pound prospect impressed the Alabama coaching staff.


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Alabama In Line For No. 1 Class ... Again
National recruiting analyst Craig Haubert breaks down the Crimson Tide's quest for a four-peat atop the ESPN Class Rankings.Tags: Mekhi Brown, Daylon Charlot, Nick Saban, Alabama Crimson Tide
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