Alabama Team News

2017 Alabama recruiting review: Crimson Tide is No. 1 again

Nick Saban
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports

For the seventh consecutive year, Alabama has the top-ranked recruiting class in college football.

The Crimson Tide again was a unanimous selection at the top among the four major recruiting services (247Sports, Rivals, Scout, ESPN) – a familiar spot for the program over the past decade.

In its 2017 class, the Crimson Tide signed 26 recruits, including six five-star prospects – the most of any school in the nation. Twelve of the recruits also were early enrollees, giving the class an early jump in comparison to nearly every other program in the nation.

In particular, Alabama signed two quarterbacks, two running backs, four wide receivers, two tight ends, four offensive linemen, three defensive linemen, four linebackers, two safeties, one cornerback, one athlete and one long snapper in the class.

Going into National Signing Day, Alabama – including the ones who enrolled early – had nearly its entire class filled with the exceptions of five-star defensive end LaBryan Ray and four-star wide receivers Henry Ruggs III and DeVonta Smith.

Marquee recruit: RB Najee Harris. Alabama’s top-ranked class has five other five-star recruits on top of a few others who would be worthy of such a distinction, but it’s hard to go against Harris. Of the 42 five-star recruits the Crimson Tide has signed since Nick Saban became coach in 2007, 247Sports Composite ranks Harris fifth overall. Either way, Harris looks like a can’t-miss recruit who looks certain to join a growing list of top running backs the Crimson Tide has produced in recent years.

The one who got away: DT Akial Byers. For every top recruit Alabama didn’t sign, it got another back that ranked just as high, if not higher. And while that was the case with Byers, a four-star prospect, his loss was still an unfortunate one for the Crimson Tide. Because of academic reasons, it was only revealed two days before National Signing Day that Byers would be going to junior college instead of signing with Alabama. Four-star defensive tackle Phidarian Mathis’ subsequent commitment and signing helps fill a need inside, but signing two at the position would have been better.

Position of strength: Linebacker. Alabama loses three of the better linebackers in college football last season in Reuben Foster, Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson, but it’s getting plenty back to compensate for that. While it’s more likely than not that Dylan Moses, VanDarius Cowan, Markail Benton and Christopher Allen see only limited action at best this upcoming season, each should be a big part of the Crimson Tide’s plans for years to come. Before Allen was reclassified as an inside linebacker, all four were ranked in the top nine among outside linebacker prospecta. As a group, the quartet appears to be a versatile one, too. All four have the ability to go either way – inside or outside – if needed.

Position of worry: Cornerback. Of all offensive and defensive position groups, only cornerback had one or fewer players signed. On top of that, while recruiting rankings don’t always mean everything, the one cornerback Alabama did sign, Kyriq McDonald, is one of only two three-star prospects in a class that has six five-star recruits. Still, it’s possible that four-star athlete Chadarius Townsend could play corner to help add depth at the position, so it may be a little better than it seems. And while Alabama did have one other cornerback committed until recently, it should be noted that the Crimson Tide coaching staff didn’t make cornerback a priority in this class after signing four last year.

Recruits to watch this spring: With 12 early enrollees, including five five-star recruits, arguments could be made on this front for almost any one of them. Harris – for reasons already explained – certainly is one to watch, but there’s a few other key offensive players who also could make early impacts. While Alabama seems to have found its quarterback of the future in Jalen Hurts, it’s not as crazy as it sounds to think five-star dual-threat Tua Tagovailoa could push him for the job this season. Offensive tackles Alex Leatherwood (five-star) and Elliot Baker (top-five junior college prospect) could two vacancies on the offensive line; Alabama has a recent history of starting high-end offensive lineman prospects immediately. Additionally, with some turnover at wide receiver – and in part because former south Florida wide receiver products Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley did it – it probably wouldn’t come as a surprise if five-star wide receiver Jerry Jeudy — another former south Florida prep star — bursts on the scene as a true freshman.

Recruiting editor Ryan Green’s take

Nick Saban has done it yet again. Alabama has the top recruiting class in the country and has loaded up with highly rated prospects who should keep the Tide rolling right along. Alabama’s class is headlined by running back Najee Harris, and offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood and linebacker Dylan Moses are among the top-20 overall prospects in the country. The bottom line for Alabama is it has hauled in some major talent in this class and Saban has once again proved why he is the best recruiter in the game today. Grade: A+

Alabama’s signees

NOTE: * denotes early enrollees
ILB Christopher Allen (6-4, 234), Baton Rouge (La.) Southern University Lab School
OT Elliot Baker* (6-7, 295), City College of San Francisco
OLB Markail Benton (6-2, 237), Phenix City (Ala.) Central
DE Isaiah Buggs* (6-5, 290), Mississippi Gulf Coast CC
OLB VanDarius Cowan (6-4, 226), Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) High
LS Thomas Fletcher* (6-2, 220), Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy
RB Najee Harris* (6-2, 225), Antioch (Calif.) High
TE Kedrick James (6-5, 245) Waco (Texas) La Vega
WR Jerry Jeudy* (6-1, 175) Deerfield Beach (Fla.) High
QB Mac Jones (6-2, 180) Jacksonville Bolles School
OT Alex Leatherwood* (6-6, 327), Pensacola (Fla.) Booker T. Washington
DT Phidarian Mathis (6-4, 287), Monroe (La.) Neville
CB Kyriq McDonald* (5-11, 190), Madison (Ala.) James Clemens
S Xavier McKinney (6-1, 192), Roswell (Ga.) High
OLB Dylan Moses* (6-3, 235), Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy
OG Kendall Randolph (6-4, 310), Madison (Ala.) Bob Jones
DE LaBryan Ray (6-5, 275), Madison (Ala.) James Clemens
RB Brian Robinson (6-1, 224), Tuscaloosa (Ala.) Hillcrest
WR Henry Ruggs III (6-0, 175), Montgomery (Ala.) Lee
WR Tyrell Shavers* (6-6, 202), Lewisville (Texas) High
WR Devonta Smith (6-1, 160), Amite (La.) High
QB Tua Tagovailoa* (6-1, 215), Honolulu St. Louis School
TE Major Tennison* (6-6, 240), Bullard (Texas) High
ATH Chadarius Townsend* (6-0, 190), Tanner (Ala.) High
OT Jedrick Wills (6-5, 318), Lexington (Ky.) Lafayette
S Daniel Wright (6-1, 187), Lauderdale Lakes (Fla.) Boyd Anderson

K Joseph Bulovas@ (6-0, 205), Mandeville (La.) High
C Hunter Brannon@ (6-4, 290), Cullman (Ala.) High
DE Jarez Parks% (6-2, 253), Sebastian (Fla.) Sebastian River

%Grayshirt (Player’s enrollment is delayed an extra semester. In the meantime, he won’t be on scholarship, can’t play and can’t practice with the team.)

@Blueshirt (Player is not formally recruited as a part of the class but will be put on scholarship at start of fall practice in August. They can practice, but not play.)

(You can follow Kevin Connell on Twitter @_KevinConnell)

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