NCF On The Trail: Alabama Crimson Tide

In the 100 days leading up to signing day, RecruitingNation is looking back at our ESPN recruiting rankings from 2006 to the present and counting down the best player of the past 10 years at each ranking position, No. 100 to No. 1.

Amari Cooper, No. 49 in 2012 class

Cooper came out of Miami Northwestern as a relatively unheralded prospect until his senior season after being limited because of a junior-season injury. He committed to Alabama in September 2011 over Miami and Florida State in a decision that would prove to be a huge loss for the hometown Hurricanes. Cooper was part of the Crimson Tide’s No. 1-ranked class that included Landon Collins, T.J. Yeldon, Cyrus Jones, Denzel Devall, Reggie Ragland and many others.

Cooper burst onto the college football scene as a freshman in 2012, catching 59 passes for 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns, including six catches for 105 yards and two scores in the Crimson Tide’s BCS National Championship game blowout victory over Notre Dame. Cooper was selected to several Freshman All-American teams and the SEC All-Freshman team by the league's coaches.

As a sophomore, Cooper’s numbers took a dip because of nagging injuries and constant bracketed coverage. He managed to finish the season with 45 receptions for 736 yards in 12 games.

Cooper has been arguably the best player in college football in 2014. Headed into the inaugural College Football Playoff, Cooper has 115 receptions for 1,656 yards and 14 touchdown under first-year Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin. He won the Biletnikoff Award, was a Heisman Trophy finalist and a unanimous All-American. With a year of eligibility remaining, he's already the school's all-time leader in receiving touchdowns and holds several other school records.

Cooper is expected to forgo his final season of eligibility and would almost certainly be a top-10 selection in the NFL draft this spring.

Honorable mention: Gerod Holliman, No. 49 in 2011 class; and Aaron Hernandez, No. 49 in 2007 class. Holliman picked Louisville over Ole Miss coming out of Miami Southridge, but was forced to go to prep school before enrolling at Louisville. He won the Jim Thorpe Award and was a unanimous All-American this season after picking off an NCAA FBS-record tying 14 passes.

Torrance Gibson, Nick Bosa win state titles 

December, 13, 2014
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Plantation (Fla.) American Heritage defeated Tallahassee (Fla.) Godby 38-0 and Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas defeated Kissimmee (Fla.) Osceola 31-0 in the FHSAA class 5A and 7A state championship games on Friday. The games featured several prospects in the ESPN 300 and ESPN Junior 300, including five-star athlete Torrance Gibson and the 18th-ranked player in the ESPN Junior 300, Nick Bosa.

Snelson opens recruitment

The 25th-ranked player in the ESPN Junior 300, Dredrick Snelson, recently backed off his commitment to Miami. The 6-foot, 192 pound wide receiver said he felt he made a decision too soon in the recruiting process.

"I just felt like I did it too early," Snelson said. "I just want to do what’s best for me and give everyone an opportunity."

After opening things back up, Snelson said there are five schools he is now focusing on -- Florida, Florida State, Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. He has no time frame for when he would like to make a decision.

Gibson likes what he sees from Ohio State quarterbacks

Five-star athlete and Ohio State commitment Gibson took notice when Ohio State’s third-string quarterback Cardale Jones led the Buckeyes to a 59-0 win against Wisconsin in the Big 10 championship game last Saturday. The 13th-ranked player in the ESPN 300 said he is excited about how Ohio State has developed their quarterbacks this season.

"It excites me a lot," Gibson said. "They were down to their third-string quarterback, and look what Tom Herman did with him. 59-0, that’s very impressive."

Now that Ohio State is in the inaugural football playoff and will take on Alabama in the opening round, Gibson said he will be watching the game closely.

"It’s going to be a great, close game," he said. "Urban Meyer and Tom Herman, they believe in their system. It’s going to be a good game and I’m going to keep my eye on that game."

Bosa names a leader

For the longest time it looked like Alabama was going to run away with the title for the top-ranked class, but here comes Florida State. Plus, why the hype around Josh Sweat?

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Class rankings: Dec. 10 update

December, 10, 2014
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Alabama, which has already signed three consecutive No. 1 classes, has occupied the top spot in the 2015 rankings since its release. Knocking the Crimson Tide's class, which features 17 ESPN 300 prospects, from the top spot might not be impossible, but it remains a tough task. Despite recently losing a commitment from ESPN 300 WR Daylon Charlot, Bama quickly rebounded, adding a verbal from No. 5 OLB Adonis Thomas. The four-star is reminiscent of 2014 Crimson Tide signee Christian Miller, and possesses excellent size and speed measurables in a hybrid OLB/DE skillset and the versatile defender should fit very well in their base 3-4 defense.

The team that could eventually push Alabama for the top class is Florida State after five-star Josh Sweat picked the Seminoles. FSU, which has had some success recruiting defensive linemen in Virginia with Derrick Nnadi in 2014 and Darvin Taylor II in this class, landed a big commitment in the one-time No. 1 overall prospect Sweat. The No. 2 defensive end is an outstanding athlete with a wonderful combination of speed and power and he can be a versatile and disruptive defender in the Seminoles defense. The current No. 5 player overall in the ESPN 300 was sidelined with a knee injury during his senior season and that could slow initial contributions, but the talented defender is an early enrollee and still possesses great upside with the potential to be an impact player while Tallahassee. The addition of the five-star helped the Seminoles to move into the No. 2 spot in the class rankings.

Inside the rankings

The most difficult thing to do in recruiting is project what a player will be three to five years down the line and perhaps no coach in America does it better than TCU's Gary Patterson. The value of having coached at the mid-major level prior to making the jump to the Big 12 has provided this staff with valuable insight and evaluation tools when it comes to developing players who predominantly will be graded in the 77-82 range for just about all their classes. This was particularly true in the 2012-2014 classes.

This includes players like former WR Josh Boyce (who was lightly recruited) as well as freshman Emmanuel Porter just to name a couple. For TCU, it is about getting the right player -- does he work hard, will he compete and does he have upside in his physical development? Those are the three key things to each TCU class. The other undervalued area that has set the Horned Frogs apart is the staff's ability to project a player at a different position than the one he played in high school. Former TCU great Jerry Hughes was a running back, current safety Sam Carter was a quarterback, OC Joey Hunt was a DT and current starting QB Trevone Boykin was a wide receiver/QB athlete that had to transition to playing QB fulltime.



To see the full rankings, click here.

Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

December, 9, 2014
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With Alabama winning the SEC championship on Saturday and the college football playoff now set, SEC schools can now turn their focus to recruiting. Despite there being only one game this weekend, there was still a bunch of recruiting news from around the SEC. There was a couple of big commitments, a few decommitments, a big decision date was announced and some important in-home visits. Here’s a closer look at the top recruiting news from around the conference.


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Scout's Take: Adonis Thomas to Alabama 

December, 8, 2014
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Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide continue to role with the addition of ESPN 300 outside linebacker Adonis Thomas. The former Florida pledge has the frame and athleticism to excel on the edge in Saban's 3-4 defensive front.


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SEC season recruiting superlatives 

December, 8, 2014
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Looking back at the just-completed regular season, it has been another wild year in the SEC, both on the field and in recruiting. There have been several huge commitments, some big decommitments and, as always, a few surprises. Here’s a closer look at the the SEC’s recruiting superlatives.


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Go ahead and debate who should have been in the inaugural College Football Playoff, but there’s no debating Bama, Oregon, FSU and OSU dominate in recruiting.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian defeated Delray Beach (Fla.) American Heritage 27-7 in the FHSAA class 3A state championship game on Saturday afternoon. Trinity features five players in the ESPN 300 and nine prospects who are committed to FBS schools. Here is a look at the latest recruiting updates for a few of Trinity’s top players.

Kevin Toliver II remains firm in his commitment


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The good news Thursday was that both Florida and Nebraska filled their open coaching positions in a timely manner, but the bad news is we’re less than 60 days until signing day. Plus, what type of recruiter is Nebraska getting?


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When the Missouri Tigers take on the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday afternoon in the SEC championship game it will feature two teams with drastically different styles -- both on the field and in recruiting.

Saturday will mark the fourth time Alabama has played in the SEC championship game under Nick Saban and the ninth time overall the Crimson Tide have played in the game; which started in 1992. For the Tigers this is their second consecutive appearance in the title game -- an astonishing feat considering they've only been in the SEC for a total of three years.

In recruiting, Alabama has landed the No. 1 recruiting class the last three years and is on pace to land its fourth in a row. The Crimson Tide continue to bring in five-star talent year-after-year. Missouri, meanwhile, has a roster filled with three-star recruits.

In fact, of the 87 players Missouri has signed since 2011, 75 of them were ranked three-star prospects or lower. During that same period the Tigers signed only one five-star prospect -- Dorial Green-Beckham, who was eventually kicked off the team, and 11 four-star prospects. For comparison, Alabama has landed seven five-star prospects and 67 four-star prospects during that same period.

It's no secret Missouri has done a tremendous job of developing the talent it brings in.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

December, 2, 2014
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There were some big games and a bunch of recruiting news from around the Southeastern Conference. There was a big commitment, some coaching changes and key visitors for rivalry weekend. Here's a closer look at the top recruiting news from around the conference.


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Whoever ends up getting the job at Nebraska has to be willing to take the Husker brand on the national recruiting trail. Alabama proved again this weekend why it's the top recruiting program in the country.

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Best of the visits: SEC

November, 30, 2014
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From Alabama's big 55-44 win over Auburn on Saturday night to Ole Miss' 31-17 win over in-state rival Mississippi State, there were some incredible SEC games for recruits to watch this weekend. Some prospects attended the games, while others watched on TV and used social media as a platform to share their experiences. Here's a look at some of the top social media posts from the weekend in SEC recruiting.

Several recruits posted pictures from the Alabama game Saturday. Five-star Alabama quarterback commit Blake Barnett posted a few pictures of himself at the game and some with other recruits who were also in attendance.


One of the top running backs in the ESPN 300, Damien Harris, also tweeted out a photo, as did ESPN 300 linebacker Ricky DeBerry. Harris has appeared to be a Kentucky lean, but Alabama certainly looks to have made an impression on him.


Recent Georgia athlete commit Jarvis Wilson tweeted out a photo of himself wearing a Georgia uniform and helmet.


ESPN Junior 300 safety Joejuan Williams visited Vanderbilt this weekend and posted a couple different tweets about his experience in Nashville.

Whether recruits are attending games this holiday weekend or watching on television, all eyes around the recruiting world will be focused on several rivalry games. From the Iron Bowl to the Egg Bowl there will be recruiting implications throughout the conference this weekend. Here’s a closer look at how these game might affect the top remaining recruits.


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