Alabama Crimson Tide: O.J. Smith

Room to improve: Defensive line

February, 20, 2014
Feb 20
9:00
AM ET
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.

UA game jersey tour: O.J. Smith

October, 17, 2013
10/17/13
10:13
AM ET
Senior defensive tackle O.J. Smith (Bossier City, La./Airline) 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 a three-month selection tour.

Smith, an Alabama commitment, is one of 90 players selected to compete in the seventh annual Under Armour All-America Game, a nationally televised game spotlighting 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.

[+] EnlargeO.J. Smith
Courtesy of Intersport Alabama commit O.J. Smith is ranked No. 218 in the ESPN 300.
“I just want to say thank you to all the coaches,” Smith said. “My D-line, everybody else, Charlie, Rah Rah for pushing me hard, my mom and dad just for pushing me hard. Thank you.”

Arline coach Bo Meeks expressed how proud the school is to have his star player in the all-star game.

“We want to thank Under Armour. No. 1, for their commitment to high school athletics and to this game, and also for their selection of O.J. Again, 90 student-athletes throughout the country and to have one here at Airline High School… I can’t tell you how proud we are.”

Smith is excited about the opportunity to play on ESPN, and go up against the best of the best from his home state and nationally.

“I’m looking forward to playing with the best, competing with the best and going against the best ... that’s all. ESPN, you know that’s a big stage. Playing on ESPN is a good opportunity for me. I always wanted to play, you know it’s a dream ... the Under Armour Game. I’m looking forward to playing against Leonard Fournette and Big Cam, Cameron Robinson.”

The 6-foot-2, 315-pound Smith is the 218th-ranked prospect in the ESPN 300 and the No. 18 defensive tackle in the class. He committed to Alabama over LSU, Auburn and several others.

Da'Shawn Hand sets visits 

August, 27, 2013
8/27/13
7:12
PM ET
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.

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


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

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.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- ESPN 300 defensive end Davon Godchaux (Plaquemine, La./Plaquemine) made a third trip to the University of Alabama over the weekend for the Crimson Tide’s OL/DL camp. It was his best trip yet.

The 6-foot-4, 271-pound Godchaux was one of the standouts at the one-day camp. Afterwards, UA head coach Nick Saban met with him in his office and offered a scholarship. Saban said he still wants to check on his grades, but based on what he had seen on film and at the camp, it was enough to warrant an offer.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Tales from the Road: Alabama 

May, 29, 2013
5/29/13
10:00
AM ET
Each week, Tales From The Road provides news and updates about where Alabama’s coaches are recruiting and which prospects are getting noticed.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Louisiana DT jumps on Alabama offer 

May, 24, 2013
5/24/13
1:09
PM ET
Defensive tackle O.J. Smith (Bossier City, La./Airline) wasted little time in accepting an offer from Alabama, knowing a chance to play for the back-to-back national champions does not come very often.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES

1Q ALA B. Sims pass,to A. Stewart for 16 yds for a 1ST down
Blake Sims pass complete to ArDarius Stewart for 16 yds to the WCaro 6 for a 1ST down
VIDEO PLAYLIST video