When Nick Saban offers a scholarship to a player it is a huge compliment. When he shows up at their house and has breakfast with them, it means he thinks they could be impact players for Alabama.
This was the case with Alabama’s most recent commitment, linebacker Denzel Devall. Devall committed to Alabama while having breakfast with Saban at Denzel’s home in Bastrop, Louisiana. Denzel is a 6-foot 2-inch, 240 pound linebacker prospect who hails from a historical pipeline to LSU. His commitment is a testament to the job Saban has done on the recruiting front.
With the BCS national championship game coming up against Devall’s home state school, his commitment sends a message to the rest of the recruits in Louisiana and potentially opens up a few more doors for Alabama. Being a highly-sought recruit in LSU country brings with it tremendous pressure from a ravenous fan base, and not all recruits have what it takes to face that pressure and make the best decision.
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Devall had previously named Alabama and Texas A&M as the top two schools in his recruitment. Upon the firing of Mike Sherman, Devall’s decision to roll with the Tide became much easier. He described his relationship with the Aggies coach as a good one, but Devall had been a fan of Coach Saban since his days at LSU; that proved to be the tipping point.
Alabama has a lot of selling points for recruits, and kids choose the Tide for various reasons. In Devall’s case it begins and ends with the head coach. He said that his mind has been made up for a while, and he knew he wanted to play for the Tide and was just waiting for the right time to let Saban know.
Devall becomes the 22nd commitment for Alabama in the 2012 recruiting class, and the fifth elite linebacker to commit to Alabama this year. Adding a player of this caliber to an already impressive group puts the Tide head and shoulders above any school in the country in the linebacker class. If Alabama can seal the deal with a couple of other top-tier defensive prospects in this cycle, it would be the biggest defensive signing class since allotted scholarships went into effect.
Scouting Devall is no tough task; he is an all-around athlete and an exceptionally good football player. He displays elite football instincts and is a ferocious defender. Devall is the type player that offensive skill players don’t forget; he is very vocal on the field and disrupts every aspect of the opposing offense. He has a mean streak on the defensive side and plays the game at a relentless pace, often getting stronger as the game wears on.
Devall isn’t as tall as some of the other Alabama linebacker prospects, but he is as physically ready to play as any player in the country. Denzel is listed as a defensive end in his high school’s 4-3 defense, but is capable of playing all four linebacker spots in Alabama’s 3-4 scheme, and will likely wind up playing a similar role as Courtney Upshaw or Nico Johnson.
For a kid his size, Devall runs around a 4.6 forty-yard dash and has a great linebacker physique. He can be an extremely intimidating player, with similarities to fellow recruit Ryan Anderson. Denzel excels between the tackles and runs to the ball very well, but is also capable of dropping into coverage. He is used to taking on blockers and does a great job getting off blocks to pursue the ball carrier, which is rare at the high school level. Many young players tend to get tangled up with linemen and other blockers but not Devall; he uses his hands well and has been well coached.
It is no surprise Saban is high on Devall. He is a great kid on and off the field, and he fits into everything Saban looks for in a prospect. For Saban, recruiting isn’t only about offering the best players; they have to display strong character, and Devall fits the bill to a tee.
Bastrop High School coach Thomas Bachman raved about Devall, saying, “This is a great kid. I can’t say that enough. When coaches come here, that’s what they first talk about; they talk about the kid, not about the player. He’s always smiling and has a lot of charm. He’s very intelligent and carries a 3.8 GPA. He scored really high on the ACT. Denzel is ‘yes sir’, ‘no sir’ all the time.”
Devall should make an excellent student and player for the Crimson Tide and should have no problem keeping up the standard set by great linebackers before him.
Strengths: Physicality, Hard hitting, Good instincts, Lateral movement, physically advanced/strong kid, plays with high intensity, an intimidating player
Needs Improvement: Cover Skills, Adjusting from 4-3 to 3-4 defense.
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With the pro-style set Alabama runs on offense, the tight end position is a crucial for success and Alabama’s 21st commitment of the 2012 class is the perfect fit.
Kurt Freitag is a tight end from Buford, Georgia who chose the Tide two days before Devall did. Freitag is also the teammate of current Tide commit Dillon Lee, who will enroll early at the end of December. Kurt and Dillon have been friends and teammates since childhood and have always dreamed of playing college football together. Now that dream will become a reality.
Freitag is listed as a three-star prospect at tight end, but is considered one of the best prospects at his position. He had recently named Alabama and Florida as his top two after a long recruitment by both schools, ultimately citing Alabama’s tradition of winning and the style of offense as the deciding factor in his decision.
Freitag played in the state championship game in the Georgia Dome against Calhoun High, home of Tide commitment and No. 1-ranked kicker Adam Griffith. Buford put up a battle all the way down to the wire with Calhoun, only to lose after a Griffin field goal in overtime.
Freitag’s style of play can be best described as physical. He excels in the run game and short passing game with his physical, hard-nosed attitude, and fits the Tide offense perfectly. Being more physical then the other team is the essence of Alabama’s offense, and that trend will continue as long as Saban is in charge.
With Brad Smelley graduating this year, the addition of Kurt to this class is a big deal. Alabama has some big-bodied tight ends that are good blockers, but Freitag offers the versatility to be a threat in the passing game. He is not afraid of contact and catches the ball very well. He displays flashes of athleticism that some scouts feel he lacks due to him being physically imposing. Kurt has a quick first step from playing defensive end in high school, and that will benefit him getting off defenders and into his routes.
Checking in at 6-foot 3.5-inches tall and 240 pounds, Freitag is a bit bigger than Smelley, and while he may not be as athletic, his physicality will compensate.
Most high school players have issues adjusting to the speed of the college game and the physical nature of the SEC, but Freitag is ahead of the curve and could see time on special teams as a freshman. Saban likes kids who are determined and hungry for playing time to contribute on special teams, and Kurt fits the description.
He also has the advantage of coming from a championship program where expectations are high, which will benefit him mentally. His coaches have done a good job playing to his strengths in the offense and using him to bully defenders, but watching the receptions he does have reveals more potential in the passing game than is advertised. Freitag is a great prospect that fits right in with what Saban likes to do on offense, making his commitment a key part of this recruiting class.
Strengths: Physicality, Good blocker/understands schemes, Toughness, Good hands, Quick feet, Good attitude, Team player, Good size, Plays bigger than he is.
Needs Improvement: Agility, Exploding off the line, Route running/stretching the defense.