Nick Saban’s recruiting success since taking over at the Capstone has been well documented. Year after year, Saban reels in a Top 5 class according to the major recruiting websites. Saban’s success on the recruiting trail has led to success on the gridiron, as Alabama has captured two of the last three National Championships, and compiled a 55-12 record under Saban.
This series will examine each of Alabama’s recruiting classes under Nick Saban, and how successful they really were. The first class we will examine is Saban’s inaugural recruiting class in 2007. Mike Shula had a hand in this 25-man class, but it was Nick Saban who pieced it all together to lead the Crimson Tide to a Top-10 recruiting ranking according to rivals.com.
Fifteen of Alabama’s 25 commitments in this class gave their verbal pledge to the Crimson Tide after Nick Saban was announced as Alabama’s new head football coach on January 3rd, 2007. Here’s a look at each of the guys who signed with Alabama in 2007.
(Note: All star ratings are according to rivals)
***Josh Chapman, DT, Hoover, AL
Chapman committed to Alabama in February after Saban arrived. Chapman redshirted in 2007 before going on to have a strong career in Tuscaloosa. He backed up Terrence Cody for two years in 2008 and 2009 before taking over as Alabama’s starting nose tackle in 2010 and 2011. Chapman was never super-productive, but he routinely took on multiple blockers and was the anchor of Alabama’s National Championship defense in 2011. Chapman was selected in the 5th round by the Colts in the 2012 NFL draft.
***Patrick Crump, OL, Hoover, AL
This prospect out of Hoover chose Alabama over Michigan in September of 2006 when Mike Shula was still roaming the sidelines. After a redshirt season in 2007, Crump gave up football, stating his heart was no longer in it.
****Luther Davis, DT, West Monroe, LA
The four-star defensive tackle never fully reached his potential at Alabama. This was a big recruiting win for Nick Saban, snagging Davis out of LSU territory, but it never really materialized. Davis was a serviceable backup for the Crimson Tide during his four years on campus, but never made much of an impact. Davis was signed by the Buffalo Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2011.
**Jeremy Elder, DE, College Park, GA
The little-sought defensive end chose Alabama over Georgia in February. He never saw the field at Alabama, and was booted off the team after robbing two students from gunpoint of $26 in February of 2008. Elder transferred to Georgia Military Academy, and ultimately finished off his college football career at Troy.
***Nick Fanuzzi, QB, San Antonio, TX
Fanuzzi was a late add to the recruiting class, choosing Alabama over the likes of Miami and Michigan State. Fanuzzi never saw the field in Tuscaloosa in any meaningful way, and he ultimately transferred from Alabama in 2008. Fanuzzi spent his final three seasons playing for Rice.
***Tarence Farmer, DB, Houston, TX
Farmer chose Alabama over Nebraska and Tennessee in February, but is another guy who never saw any meaningful action with the Crimson Tide and ultimately transferred. Farmer transferred to Wyoming in 2008 after redshirting his first season at Alabama. Some will say Farmer was one of a few forced out by Nick Saban to make room for Alabama’s huge 2008 recruiting class.
***Nick Gentry, DT, Prattville, AL
Gentry was never a star, but he was one of my favorite Alabama players during his time in Tuscaloosa. Gentry committed to Alabama when Mike Shula was still coaching, and remained solid after he was fired. Gentry chose the Tide over offers from Clemson and Florida State, and was a blue-collar player in every sense of the word. He played hard on every single snap, and was a key cog in Saban’s defensive line rotation in 2011. Gentry made a big impact in the BCS Championship Game win over LSU in New Orleans, including a key fumble recovery in the fourth quarter that sealed the deal for Alabama’s 14th National Championship.
****Brandon Gibson, WR, Mobile, AL
The four-star receiver out of Mobile chose the Crimson Tide over offers from several other big-time SEC schools. Gibson never lived up to his expectations either, totaling 20 catches for 204 yards and one touchdown in his Alabama career. Fourteen of his 20 receptions came last season, as well as his lone touchdown catch coming on a 10-yard reception in the end zone against Ole Miss.
****Demetrius Goode, RB, Chatham, VA
The running back chose Alabama over Kentucky. Goode showcased his talent on several occasions during garbage time, but could never work his way onto the field for meaningful snaps. That’s not a slight at Goode in any way; a lot of running backs would struggle to find playing time behind the likes of Glen Coffee, Mark Ingram, and Trent Richardson. Goode transferred from Alabama to North Alabama following the 2010 season.
***Jermaine Griffin, RB, Batesville, MS
Jermaine Griffin also found himself behind Ingram and Richardson on the depth chart, and he, like Goode, showed flashes of potential during garbage time with the Crimson Tide. Unfortunately for Griffin his football career came to an end due to injuries in 2010.
***Darius Hanks, WR, Norcross, GA
Hanks wasn’t very highly recruited out of high school, with Alabama being his only offer from a BCS school. He committed to Alabama in January, and went on to a productive career at the Capstone. Hanks was never a No. 1 receiver with the Crimson Tide, but he did catch 84 passes for 1150 yards and seven touchdowns during his career. Hanks signed with the Washington Redskins as an undrafted free-agent in April.
**Jennings Hester, LB, Atlanta, GA
Hester chose Alabama over Ole Miss in August of 2006, and stuck by his commitment when Nick Saban arrived. Hester redshirted in 2007, didn’t play in 2008, and went on medical scholarship in 2009 due to chronic hamstring issues.
****Kareem Jackson, DB, Fork Union, VA
Jackson came to Alabama as a four-star prospect after spending a year at the prep ranks at Fork Union Military Academy. Jackson was a three-year starter for the Crimson Tide, and recorded five interceptions. Jackson was a key member of Alabama’s 2009 National Championship defense. He surprisingly left Alabama a year early for the NFL, where he was drafted 20th overall by the Houston Texans in 2010.
****Chris Lett, DB, Pensacola, FL
The highly recruited defensive back out of Pensacola chose the Crimson Tide over Arkansas and Florida. Lett never saw the field with Alabama, as he was placed on medical scholarship during the fall of 2007 due to a diabetic condition. Lett transferred to South Alabama in 2008 to give football another shot.
***Marquis Maze, ATH, Birmingham, AL
Only a three-star recruit, Maze received offers from some of the top programs in the nation such as Auburn, Miami, Michigan and Tennessee. Maze ultimately signed with Alabama after Nick Saban came to Tuscaloosa. Maze had a productive career with the Crimson Tide, catching 136 passes for 1844 yards and eight touchdowns during his four-year Alabama career. Maze had 627 receiving yards in 2011 as Alabama’s No. 1 receiving option. Maze was also a major factor in the return game over the last two seasons, and had a memorable punt-return for a touchdown against Arkansas last season. Maze was signed as an undrafted free-agent by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
****Rolando McClain, LB, Decatur, AL
The biggest prize of Alabama’s 2007 recruiting class was Decatur linebacker Rolando McClain, the 2nd-ranked middle linebacker in the recruiting class. Mike Shula received McClain’s verbal commitment, and he didn’t waver from that commitment after Shula was canned. McClain went on to become one of the best linebackers in Alabama history. McClain was a two-time All-SEC performer, a unanimous All-American in 2009, and won the Butkus Award his junior season as well as being named the SEC’s Defensive Player of the year the same season. McClain was the leader of the Crimson Tide’s 2009 National Championship defense. He was selected by the Oakland Raiders with the 8th pick of the 2010 NFL Draft.
****Alfred McCullough, DT, Athens, AL
McCullough came to Alabama as a defensive tackle prospect, choosing the Crimson Tide over the likes of Clemson, Ole Miss and South Carolina. After spending a year as a reserve on the Tide defensive line in 2007, McCullough redshirted in 2008 while making the transition to the offensive line. McCullough spent 2009 as a backup, and made four starts in 2010. Last season, McCullough started the season as a backup before starting the final six games of the season. The Philadelphia Eagles signed McCullough as an undrafted free agent.
****Kerry Murphy, DT, Hoover, AL
At the time, Murphy was thought to be one of the biggest prizes of Alabama’s 2007 recruiting class. Nick Saban won Murphy over as he signed with the Crimson Tide over offers from Miami, Auburn and Clemson. Injuries prematurely ended Kerry Murphy’s career before he could ever realize his full potential.
****Michael Ricks, DB, Booneville, MS
The defensive back chose Alabama over Mississippi State in February, but never qualified academically. Ricks spent his college football career at Stillman College. After college, Ricks was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Baltimore Ravens in 2011.
***Jamar Taylor, RB, Lakeland, FL
This running back picked the Tide over offers from Oregon, West Virginia and others. Taylor went through spring practice with the Crimson Tide, but transferred shortly thereafter due to “personal problems.” Taylor transferred back to his home state to attend South Florida, where he played until leaving the program in 2010.
**Chris Underwood, TE, Birmingham, AL
Underwood chose Alabama over Southern Miss and UCLA. He was a backup tight end and special teams player throughout his Crimson Tide career. He saw action in eight games in 2008, and ten in 2009. He played in all 13 games in 2010, and caught his first and only touchdown pass in a game against Georgia Southern. Underwood was a valuable contributor on special teams last season, and had a pair of catches against LSU in the BCS Title game, including one on a trick play where he fought for a crucial first-down.
***William Vlachos, OL, Birmingham, AL
One of the most underrated signings of the 2007 class was William Vlachos out of Birmingham. Vlachos picked Alabama over Florida State, Georgia Tech and West Virginia. After redshirting in 2007, and being used as a reserve in 2008, Vlachos started 40 consecutive games from 2009-11 for Alabama at center. Vlachos was a leader on the Tide’s offensive line, and helped the team win two BCS Championships in his career. He was signed by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent.
****Alex Watkins, DE, Brownsville, TN
Watkins was a highly-sought defensive end prospect and ultimately chose Alabama over in-state Tennessee. Watkins redshirted in 2007, and didn’t see much action in ’08 or ’09, but provided valuable depth at outside linebacker over his final two seasons in Tuscaloosa. Perhaps his most impressive feat was overcoming a seemingly serious knee injury in May of 2011 to not miss a single game. He continued to epitomize toughness after suffering a broken arm against Tennessee. Not only did Watkins not miss a single game, he did not miss a single practice. Along with providing quality depth, Watkins was a meaningful special teams contributor. He was signed by the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent.
***Chavis Williams, DE, Dora, AL
Williams, a defensive end out of Dora, chose Alabama over Arkansas and spent his Alabama career coming off the bench and on special teams. Williams gave the Crimson Tide quality depth throughout his Tide career as a backup linebacker and contributed on special teams. Williams recorded 17 tackles and a sack during his four-year Alabama career, and was signed by the Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in 2011.
Next week we will take a look at the recruiting class that changed everything in 2008.
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