Alabama Crimson Tide: Kalvaraz Bessent

SEC's lunchtime links

May, 27, 2014
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SEC teams are still alive in NCAA tournaments in several sports, perhaps most notably the five teams from the conference that were awarded NCAA baseball regionals over the weekend. But this is also one of the most important times of the year for money distribution and agenda setting within the league. We'll start today's links there, as the league's power players convene in Destin, Fla.


SEC lunchtime links

February, 19, 2014
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Let's take a quick spin through the headlines from across the SEC:

Lunchtime links

February, 12, 2014
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Here's to hoping everyone in the Deep South is hunkered down and warm during this winter storm.

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.

Recruiting hits and misses: SEC West

February, 6, 2014
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Now that the fax machines are quiet, the 2014 signing classes have been announced and before we start looking ahead to 2015, let's take a moment to examine how each of the SEC schools did in filling immediate needs via recruiting.

We're checking out what all 14 teams did to fill holes, and we're looking at which holes still remain. We'll start with the SEC West (click here for the SEC East):

ALABAMA

Needs filled: It was obvious Alabama needed help at cornerback, and the Crimson Tide went out and got two of the best in the country in five-star prospects Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey. Pass rushers were also a priority, which makes five-star defensive end Da'Shawn Hand and four-star outside linebackers Rashaan Evans and Christian Miller key pickups. Cameron Robinson, yet another five-star prospect, could end up starting at left tackle next season on the offensive line.

Holes remaining: The Crimson Tide could have used another marquee receiver and lost out on No. 1 wideout Malachi Dupre to LSU. With Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Vinnie Sunseri both heading early to the NFL, the Tide also might have come up short at safety.

ARKANSAS

Needs filled: The Hogs’ passing game was in need of a jump-start, and getting an ESPN 300 player out of Miami the caliber of JoJo Robinson adds another playmaker to the equation. Arkansas’ offensive line class is equally impressive with four-star prospects Brian Wallace and Frank Ragnow and three-star prospect Jovan Pruitt joining Denver Kirkland and Dan Skipper from last year’s class.

Holes remaining: The highest-ranked player in the Hogs’ class was defensive tackle Bijhon Jackson of El Dorado, Ark., which was big considering they need help everywhere on defense. But they missed out on a pair of highly ranked defensive ends in Solomon Thomas and Demetrius Jackson.

AUBURN

Needs filled: Gus Malzahn called ESPN 300 prospect Tre' Williams the key to the class, and he should provide an immediate boost at linebacker. With Chris Davis departing, the Tigers also needed to replenish at cornerback, which is where four-star prospects Kalvaraz Bessent and Stephen Roberts come in. Both were ranked in the top 10 nationally at their position. With Greg Robinson leaving early for the NFL draft, it was good to add muscle on the offensive line with ESPN 300 prospect Braden Smith, who could play guard or tackle.

Holes remaining: The sting of losing Evans, who’s from Auburn, to Alabama could be felt for a while. He's the kind of explosive athlete who would fit on any defense, and the Tigers need more of those guys, particularly at linebacker.

LSU

Needs filled: The loss of running back Jeremy Hill early to the NFL draft was lessened by landing Leonard Fournette, the No. 1 overall prospect in this class. It only got better for the Tigers’ offense on signing day when the country’s No. 1 receiver, Dupre, said he would play his college football on the Bayou. Safety was a real sore spot on defense last season, so getting ESPN 300 prospect Jamal Adams was a major pickup. Adams is rated by ESPN RecruitingNation as the No. 2 safety in the 2014 class.

Holes remaining: Robinson would have been a nice centerpiece on that LSU offensive line, but Alabama came into West Monroe, La., and swiped the five-star prospect. The Tigers also lost five-star athlete Speedy Noil of New Orleans to Texas A&M.

MISSISSIPPI STATE

Needs filled: Junior college signee Jocquell Johnson is already on campus and will battle for a starting job next season on an offensive line that’s losing two starters, including All-SEC guard Gabe Jackson. The Bulldogs also added a pair of playmakers at receiver in ESPN 300 prospects Jamoral Graham and Jesse Jackson. Flipping 6-foot-6, 265-pound defensive lineman Cory Thomas from Tennessee on signing day added some more punch to an already deep and talented defensive line in Starkville.

Holes remaining: More secondary help would have been nice, which is why losing cornerback Tee Shepard to Ole Miss on signing day was a downer. A couple of the offensive linemen the Bulldogs wanted, Jordan Sims and Sean Rawlings, also opted for Ole Miss.

OLE MISS

Needs filled: The Rebels wanted to continue to stockpile talent on the offensive line after reeling in Laremy Tunsil and Austin Golson a year ago and did that with four-star prospects Rod Taylor, Tyler Putman and Sims. Upgrading the defense was also a priority, which is why beating Alabama for ESPN 300 safety C.J. Hampton was so important along with getting ESPN 300 defensive end Garrald McDowell out of Louisiana. Flipping junior college cornerback Shepard from Mississippi State was a nice signing day coup.

Holes remaining: You can never have enough defensive linemen in the SEC, so losing defensive tackle Michael Sawyers to Tennessee was a blow. The same goes for ESPN 300 defensive end Davon Godchaux, who stuck with his commitment and signed with LSU.

TEXAS A&M

Needs filled: With Johnny Manziel taking his show to the NFL, Texas A&M has to find a quarterback. Early enrollee Kyle Allen is an ESPN 300 prospect and ranked as the No. 1 pocket passer in this class. Noil, another early enrollee, should help fill a void with big-play receiver Mike Evans headed to the NFL, and the Aggies also loaded up on offensive linemen, including a pair of junior college signees. Any help on defense was a priority, which makes five-star defensive end Myles Garrett one of the keys to the class.

Holes remaining: The Aggies are still thin at safety after swinging and missing on several of their top targets in this class, including Adams, Steven Parker II and Mattrell McGraw. They also had ESPN 300 safety Dylan Sumner-Gardner committed but lost him to Boise State when Marcel Yates took the defensive coordinator job there.

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.

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

December, 23, 2013
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We are one week into the dead period that runs through Jan. 15. While the dead period limits contact, it doesn’t stop prospects from announcing decisions. As is always the case, recruiting doesn’t stop during Christmas vacation, and that was certainly the case last week.

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SEC signing day storylines 

December, 17, 2013
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With signing day 50 short days away, several questions remain in the SEC. Here's a look at the top storylines as signing day quickly approaches.


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Senior cornerback Kalvaraz Bessent (Kingsland, Ga./Camden County) was presented his honorary game jersey Thursday at his school during the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2014 Under Armour All-America High School Football Game. The event was part of the three-month selection tour.

Bessent, an Alabama commitment, is one of 90 players selected to compete in the seventh annual Under Armour All-America Game, a nationally televised contest featuring the country’s top high school seniors. The game is set for 4 p.m. ET Jan. 2 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., and will be televised on ESPN.

“I would like to thank the coaching staff, all my coaches and teammates for supporting me,” he said.

Having a former teammate rave about the experience was big in Bessent's decision to play in the game.

"I just think it is a great game. I have seen the game on TV. A former player here, [Georgia freshman quarterback] Brice Ramsey, played in it and told me he liked it a lot. It's closer to home than the other game, and it is close enough that my parents and some of my friends and teammates can make it. I think it's a good accomplishment for me, and I'm very excited about it."

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Bessent is the No. 42 prospect in the ESPN 300 and the No. 7 cornerback in the class. He committed to Alabama over Florida, Auburn, Florida State, Ohio State and several others.

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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SEC recruiting mailbag

August, 9, 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.

@cpage2911: who are the top SEC assistant coaches recruiting wise?

Derek Tyson: As evident by having 10 SEC schools ranked in the top 25 of the Recruiting Nation class rankings, the SEC is full of recruiting savvy coaches. The list is long and full of quality coaches, and I could make a case for a number of SEC coaches, but here's a glance at three coaches who stand out to me this year.

Auburn co-offensive coordinator Dameyune Craig is responsible for Auburn landing commits from five ESPN 300 members including Tre' Williams, Nicholas Ruffin, Justin Thornton, Kamryn Pettway and Stanton Truitt. Florida defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson is the primary recruiter for four committed ESPN 300 prospects -- Dalvin Cook, Khairi Clark, J.C. Jackson and Duke Dawson. He is also the primary recruiter for ESPN 300 prospects Ermon Lane and Quincy Wilson, who the Gators have a shot of landing on Monday.

Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart continues to be an outstanding recruiter and has helped the Tide stand firm in the top five of the class rankings. Smart is the primary recruiter for ESPN 300 committed players Kalvaraz Bessent, Stephen Roberts, Shaun Dion Hamilton and Zach Whitley.

@SleeperAthletes: Out of all the #SEC states, which state is most heavily recruited?

DT: As far as sheer numbers, Florida is always one of the most heavily recruited areas in the country. In fact, 17 percent (52) of the prospects ranked in the ESPN 300 are from the state of Florida. Texas is the next state in SEC territory with 34 players on the ESPN 300 followed by Georgia with 29 players.

Louisiana might not have the total number of prospects as Florida, Texas and Georgia, but what it lacks in numbers it makes up for in quality. Three of the top 10 players in the country including the No. 1 overall prospect, Leonard Fournette, and eight of the top 50 players in the country are from Louisiana.

SECfan: Will an SEC team take home the recruiting championship again?

DT: Five of the top 10 recruiting classes are from the SEC including three -- Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia in the top five. When it's all said and done, though, I believe it will be a battle between Alabama and LSU. Alabama is at No. 2 while LSU is at No. 10, and with several key targets still available LSU could certainly jump to the top.

Louisiana natives and top 10 players including Fournette, Cameron Robinson and Speedy Noil are high on the Tigers. Linebacker Clifton Garrett, wide receivers Trey Quinn and Malachi Dupre, safety Laurence Jones and defensive tackle Gerald Willis III are just some of the top prospects considering LSU and the Tigers could end up with a monster class. Alabama, however, is still very much in contention for both Fournette and Robinson which could quickly cement the Tide as the top overall class. Bottom line is, yes, I believe the SEC will land the No. 1 recruiting class for the third straight year.

Weekend wrap: SEC recruiting 

August, 5, 2013
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The No. 2-ranked offensive tackle prospect in the country, David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School), has always maintained that he wants to play football and basketball in college. For many two-sport athletes, it's a feat that is talked about but rarely followed through on.

As difficult as it might be, the 6-foot-8, 288-pound Sharpe said he would at least like to attempt to play both when he gets to college.


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It should come as no surprise that the University of Alabama’s 2014 recruiting class is littered with recruits in both the ESPN 150 and the new ESPN 300 rankings as the Crimson Tide are coming off back-to-back national championships. But the class received its biggest boost yet with a pair of commitments over the weekend.


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Tales From the Road: Alabama 

June, 5, 2013
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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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videoMONTGOMERY, Ala. -- As Shaun Dion Hamilton (Montgomery, Ala./Carver) picked up scholarship offer after scholarship offer, he continued to wait for one from the University of Alabama. Finally, the Crimson Tide offered the ESPN Watch List linebacker in February, and it completely changed his recruitment.

When Hamilton sat in his high school’s auditorium Wednesday with three hats in front of him, it was an easy decision. After reaching for each hat, he pulled an Alabama hat and gloves out of a bag, signifying his commitment to the Tide.

“It was just the program,” Hamilton said. “It’s a great program. Coach [Nick] Saban, he’s a great coach. They’re known for winning championships. You know they’re going to be in a BCS bowl every year. I just love Alabama.

“Coach [Kirby] Smart and I, we have a great relationship. We’ve been talking on and on. I’ll be ready to play for them and try to help them compete so we can win national championships.”

The other two hats on the table belonged to Auburn and Tennessee. Hamilton, who had over 25 offers, made two late visits to Auburn, but it wasn’t enough to sway the in-state star.

“It was real hard,” he said. “There were a lot of great schools out there who gave me opportunities. Auburn is right down the road. I have a teammate who signed with them, but at the end of the day, my heart was with Alabama and I had to do what’s best for me and my family. It was a business decision.”

Hamilton becomes the Tide’s fourth commitment for 2014, joining running back Bo Scarbrough, and defensive backs Kalvaraz Bessent and Chris Williams in the class. The Carver High School linebacker plans to graduate early and enroll at UA in January.

“Whenever you can be on the weight program for a whole semester in front of everybody else, know the playbook, learn the playbook, it’s worth it,” Hamilton said. “I saw that with my friend Dee Milliner. He went in there in January. He started as a freshman. He was an All-American. Now he’s about to get drafted in the top five.”

Milliner, a former Alabama cornerback, was on hand for Hamilton’s commitment. He flew back from a meeting with the Kansas City Chiefs to attend the event.

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