Alabama Crimson Tide: Stephen Roberts

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.

Biggest flips: SEC 

February, 3, 2014
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As expected, with the plethora of commitments followed by decommitments and second and third verbal pledges, it's no surprise that the hotly contested Southeast and SEC feature a number of impactful flips in 2014.

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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OPELIKA, Ala. -- When you grow up in Alabama, it’s either Roll Tide or War Eagle. There’s no in between, and there’s certainly no love lost between the two in-state rivals. That’s what makes the Iron Bowl rivalry so unique.

“I think the Alabama-Auburn game is one of the great rivalries in college football,” Opelika High School coach Brian Blackmon said. “I think the history of the game speaks for itself, and there are very few fence riders in Alabama. Most of them are on one side or the other. You’d have a hard time finding somebody, especially this week, saying they don’t care who wins.”

Stephen Roberts
Greg Ostendorf/ESPNESPN 300 defensive back Stephen Roberts flipped his commitment from Alabama to Auburn last week.
It’s no different for the state’s top football recruits. It’s rare to see an ESPN 300 recruit from the state go anywhere but Alabama or Auburn, but it’s even more rare to see an Alabama fan commit to Auburn or vice versa.

That’s why Opelika defensive back Stephen Roberts, who is ranked No. 69 in the ESPN 300, caught a lot of people off guard when he committed to the Crimson Tide in the spring.

Sure, Alabama had just won its second consecutive national championship, and coach Nick Saban has a reputation for sending defensive backs to the next level. But Roberts grew up an Auburn fan. He lives just a hop, skip and a jump away from the AU campus.

“For a kid like Stephen that grew up going to Auburn University and watching them play, it was really kind of a surprise in the spring when he decided he was going to Alabama,” Blackmon said.

But the Auburn coaches, specifically offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee, stayed on him. They continued to recruit the ESPN 300 target.

“They didn’t quit,” Roberts said. “Even though I was committed to Alabama, they didn’t drop my scholarship or anything. It kind of felt like I was still part of them.”

The efforts paid off. Roberts attended Auburn’s camps over the summer. He has been to every home game this season, including the Tigers' dramatic win over Georgia their last time out. He said it was the loudest he had ever heard Jordan-Hare Stadium when Ricardo Louis pulled in the game-winning touchdown grab from Nick Marshall.

Roberts has been a part of Auburn’s miraculous turnaround every step of the way, and last week, he decided he wanted to be a part of the future, too. He flipped his commitment from Alabama to Auburn, a decision that looked more and more plausible with every Tigers victory.

“I basically wanted to see what they were going to do this year,” Roberts said. “They kind of showed what they were going to do, and even though they only lost one game, they’re still rising.”

Auburn has risen all the way to No. 4 in the latest BCS standings, and whether it was Roberts’ decision to flip or the recent come-from-behind win against Georgia, the Tigers seem to have all the momentum heading into Saturday’s matchup with No. 1 Alabama. But do they have what it takes to topple the Tide?

Regardless of which side you’re on, it’s setting up to be one of the all-time great games in this series, and Auburn’s new four-star commitment will be on hand to see it. It will be his first Iron Bowl experience.

“There’s nothing like it,” Roberts said. “It’s going to be a good game between both teams because both teams play hard.

“It’s always been a big rivalry since I was little. I think I’ve been knowing about it since I first started playing football. I remember watching Trent Richardson on TV one day -- he was talking about when he came to Alabama, he didn’t know Auburn was a big rival coming from where he came from. I know it’s big. It’s always been big.”

So when it comes to picking a side Saturday, Roberts has already made his choice.

Early Offer: Big week for Bama, Auburn 

November, 25, 2013
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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: With the newest edition of the BCS rankings released, we take a look at the biggest headlines of the top five teams from the recruiting trail.


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Alabama lands ESPN 300 DT Frazier

November, 23, 2013
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Alabama ended its recent recruiting skid by landing a verbal commitment from ESPN 300 defensive tackle Joshua Frazier (Springdale, Ark./Har Ber) on Saturday night.

The 6-foot-4, 336-pound interior lineman chose the Crimson Tide over Arkansas, Texas A&M, Auburn and USC. He announced his decision on Twitter.




Frazier went on to tweet about why he chose Alabama. The resources Alabama provides for it's football program had an influence on his decision.



Frazier's commitment comes as welcomed news for Crimson Tide fans. Alabama lost two ESPN 300 commits last week in Viane Talamaivao (Corona, Calif./Centennial) and Stephen Roberts (Opelika, Ala./Opelika).

With Frazier's commitment, Alabama is now back up to 22 commitments, including 17 which are ranked in the ESPN 300, and remain as the No. 1-ranked recruiting class in the country.

Frazier is the ninth-ranked defensive tackle in the country.

SEC recruiting storylines: Nov. 21 

November, 21, 2013
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It has been another busy week in the SEC. Alabama has had a rough week, while other programs will be getting visits from high-priority targets. Here's a closer look at the latest story lines in the Southeastern Conference.

Bama loses second recruit in three days


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SEC recruiting storylines: Nov. 14 

November, 14, 2013
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A week after LSU-Alabama took center stage in the recruiting universe, the Auburn Tigers will take the spotlight this weekend with a number of big-time prospects expected on the Plains.

Stellar visitor list expected on the Plains


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SEC class rankings analysis 

November, 13, 2013
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With Missouri's recent run on the field and the recruiting trail, all 14 teams in the SEC are in RecruitingNation's top-40 class rankings. While Missouri and Tennessee have made the most news of late, the strangle hold on the top spot remains in the hands of Alabama.

Trending up: Missouri and Auburn are a pair of schools on upward trends. Missouri's Tigers had a huge week with commitments from ESPN300 No. 82 Andy Bauer (Saint Louis, Mo./De Smet Jesuit High) and No. 239 Brandon Lee (Indianapolis, In./Lawrence Central High). The SEC East leaders are now clearly in the picture for No. 145 Brian Wallace (Saint Louis, Mo./Christian Brothers College High), No. 156 Roderick Johnson (Florissant, Mo./Hazelwood Central High) and others.


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UA Game jersey tour: Stephen Roberts

October, 31, 2013
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Senior cornerback Stephen Roberts (Opelika, Al./Opelika High) was presented his honorary game jersey on Wednesday during the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the 2014 Under Armour All-America High School Football Game.

[+] EnlargeStephen Roberts
Courtesy of IntersportAlabama commit Stephen Roberts will get his chance to shine at the Under Armour All-America Game.
The event was part of the three-month tour for the game.

Roberts, an Alabama commitment, is one of 90 players selected to compete in the seventh-annual Under Armour All-America Game, a nationally televised competition 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 off, I want to thank God for letting me have this opportunity,” Roberts said. “I want to thank my coaches for helping me through the summer time. I want to thank my teammates for pushing me to get this award. I'm honored to represent Opelika at the Under Armour All-America Game."

Opelika High School head coach Brian Blackmon says his star player represents the team and school the right way.

“It’s an honor for us at Opelika High School to have a guy to represent us in a game like this. We hope we can make this an annual event with some of the guys coming behind [Roberts]. Again, thank you for everything you do on and off the field to help our team improve and be the leader you are. We look forward to watching you in all your future endeavors, especially playing in January in this ball game.”

Roberts cited Trent Richardson as a player who had an impact on him selecting the Under Armour All-America Game.

“It [Under Armour Game} means a lot because I know all the great players that have played in this game. I respect Trent Richardson a lot, and when I was at Alabama I met him, and he was talking about the Under Armour Game. But I didn’t even expect to be in this game. There are a lot of great players, and only 90 got chosen. I’m excited to see how my talent really works against the other great players.”

The 6-foot-0, 180-pound Roberts is the No. 69-ranked prospect overall, and the No. 9 cornerback in the class. He committed to Alabama over Auburn, Florida State, Kentucky and others.

Best SEC recruiters 

October, 15, 2013
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video
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 class rankings analysis 

October, 9, 2013
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Each Wednesday, ESPN RecruitingNation updates its national class rankings. For an in-depth look at the SEC, check out our conference rankings:

1. Alabama, 21 commits: The Crimson Tide sit atop the RecruitingNation class rankings with a class that features 15 ESPN 300 prospects, including most recent commitment Ronnie Clark (Calera, Ala./Calera), the No. 96 overall prospect. Alabama remains in the hunt for several five-star prospects, including No. 1 overall Leonard Fournette (New Orleans/Saint Augustine) and No. 9 Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover).


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HOOVER, Ala. -- When ESPN 300 cornerback Stephen Roberts (Opelika, Ala./Opelika) committed to Alabama in April, he said he was done taking visits. The in-state star since has backed off that stance, making multiple appearances at Auburn this summer and also looking into a trip to Miami during the season.


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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The defending national champions are preparing to host their final camp of the summer next week, and some of the top 2014 and 2015 prospects nationally are expected to descend on the University of Alabama. The camp runs Sunday through Wednesday.

Here are five storylines to watch as the Crimson Tide's camp plays out.

Addressing the OL


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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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