On the eve of National Signing Day, the Alabama Crimson Tide are closing the deal on several high-profile recruits. Some players have already made their commitment however, and are already enrolled in classes at the Capstone and hoping to get an early jump on the competition at their positions. Here is our breakdown of the nine early enrollees making up part of the 2013 Alabama football recruiting class.
Position: Tight End/H-Back
Vitals: 6-foot-5, 225 Pounds
- Rivals: 5 Star; No. 1 Position
- Scout: 5 Star; No. 1 Position
- ESPN: 4 Star; No. 2 Position
Other Offers of Interest: Auburn, Ole Miss
Best Attributes: Speed, Size
OJ Howard from Autauga Academy is an intriguing prospect. He has the frame of a jumbo wide receiver, but played tight end in high school. Howard will continue to man a tight end/H-back spot at Alabama. As a receiving threat, he has no equal in the 2013 tight end class. Howard can simply outrun most linebackers and safeties. If a defense shifts a corner onto him, he has enough body control to shield the defender and match the catch.
As a blocker, Howard needs work. At only 225 pounds, he would have trouble with any SEC defensive end or linebacker. Scott Cochran’s strength and conditioning program will help with this deficiency. If Howard can maintain his speed and receiving skills as he adds weight, he can very easily be mentioned in the same breath as Bama great Ozzie Newsome.
Vitals: 6-foot-2, 220 Pounds
- Rivals: Unranked
- Scout: Unranked
- ESPN: Unranked
Other Offers of Interest: None
Best Attribute: Maturity
Jai Miller is an odd case. Miller is a 27-year-old former professional baseball player that decided to walk-on to Alabama. He is the definition of a “no risk” player since his contract had a stipulation that the Marlins would pay for his college education.
Questions abound about Miller’s ability to pick football back up after a decade-long hiatus from the sport, but where Miller can contribute is with his maturity. He is used to the grind of being a professional athlete. He knows how important each workout, meeting, and practice is and can help bring younger players along.
Jai Miller projects as a safety for the Crimson Tide.
Position: Running Back
Vitals: 6-foot-3, 240 Pounds
Rivals: 4 Star; No. 5 Position
Scout: 5 Star; No. 4 Position
ESPN: 5 Star; No. 1 Position
Other Offers of Interest: Georgia, Tennessee
3 Best Attributes: Speed, Balance, Vision
Yulee, Florida’s Derrick Henry is a physical freak. Guys his size don’t run 4.5s, except that Henry does. He only broke a high school rushing record that had stood since 1953. He followed that up by being one of the most dominant offensive players at the US Army All-America bowl.
Derrick Henry has the potential to make the same impact that T.J. Yeldon did last year for Alabama. The backfield will be a bit more crowded after the spring with other running backs coming in the summer, as well as Dee Hart and Jalston Fowler returning from injury, but with the departure of Eddie Lacy, Henry is in prime position to take on the No. 2 role.
One of the chief knocks on Henry is that he runs high, and doesn’t get behind his pads as well as other running backs. But other running backs aren’t 6’3″. All that can hold Henry back from being a major contributor to the Tide in 2013 is if he cannot learn blitz pickups. If he can figure that out, he’s got the size to stone any cornerback, or safety and many linebackers that blitz Alabama’s AJ McCarron.
Vitals: 6-foot-3, 195 Pounds
- Rivals: 4 Star; No. 11 Position
- Scout: 4 Star; No. 5 Position
- ESPN: 4 Star; No. 3 Position
Other Offers of Interest: Auburn, LSU, Florida
3 Best Attributes: Field Vision, Size, Mobility
Cooper Bateman out of Cottonwood High School in Salt Lake City, Utah is one of nine early enrollees for Alabama. He is the highest-rated of three quarterbacks that joined the Tide for the spring 2013 semester.
The backup quarterback situation at Alabama will be one of the storylines as the 2013 football season speeds toward its inception. Blake Sims isn’t a polished downfield passer, and Phillip Ely hasn’t impressed in limited mop-up duty. The door is wide open for Bateman or Alec Morris to take the job.
On film, Bateman shows a cannon attached to his shoulder. He can throw the ball on a frozen rope. If Bateman’s pocket breaks down, he also shows mobility to evade. He will never be Johnny Manziel, but he won’t be a statue throwing fastballs all over the field either.
Vitals: 6-foot-3, 185 Pounds
- Rivals: 3 Star; NR
- Scout: 3 Star; No. 61 Position
- ESPN: 3 Star; No. 31 Position
Other Offers of Interest: Boston College, Oklahoma State, Louisville
Best Attributes: Field Vision, Touch
Parker McLeod, hailing from Marietta, Georgia, displayed astonishing control in all of his motions and command of the offense as a senior at Walton. McLeod’s film is littered with instances where he has to shift in the pocket and opposed to tucking and running, he keeps his eyes down the field and makes a completion. Whenever McLeod is rolled out, passes came out strong.
One weakness to McLeod’s game is that his arm isn’t the strongest. He makes up for it by having great touch. Perusing Parker’s film, there are very few lasers from the young man, but there are plenty of towering passes targeting a receiver’s back shoulder.
Given that AJ McCarron is coming back for Alabama, and there are quarterbacks littering the Tide roster, McLeod seems destined for a redshirt. Still, despite his relatively low ranking by the recruiting services, he is a serviceable prospect that can certainly be molded into a good college quarterback.
Luke Del Rio
Vitals: 6-foot-2, 190 Pounds
- Rivals: 3 Star; No. 28 Position
- Scout: 3 Star; No. 47 Position
- ESPN: 3 Star; No. 27 Position
Other Offers of Interest: Oregon State, Oklahoma State
Best Attributes: Arm Strength, Maturity
Luke Del Rio, son of Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, chose to walk onto the Crimson Tide as opposed to taking a scholarship offer to Oregon State or Oklahoma State. Luckily, Jack can afford to send Luke to where ever he wants to go.
One thing that sets Luke apart from the other quarterbacks on the Crimson Tide roster is that he has had the opportunity to work with Peyton Manning. After Manning joined the Broncos, Luke Del Rio was able to sit in on quarterback meetings with the Broncos thanks to his father’s position with the team. The experience will be invaluable for Del Rio as he moves forward at the Capstone.
Position: Wide Receiver
Vitals: 6-foot-4, 195 Pounds
- Rivals: 4 Star; No. 39 Position
- Scout: 3 Star; No. 64 Position
- ESPN: 4 Star; No. 82 Position
Other Offers of Interest: Colorado, Illinois, Tennessee
Best Attributes: Height, Athleticism
Raheem Falkins has very impressive film if you are looking for a wide receiver that out- jumps everyone for the ball. Falkins possesses elite ability to high point a ball. Many plays on film were simply jump balls that Raheem went up and got. There are legitimate plays where a quarterback simply turns and throws the ball into the stratosphere and Falkins, along with a gaggle of defensive backs, waits for the ball to come down to go after it.
The rest of Falkins’ game is a big question mark. He barely had to fight off any press coverage or jams. While he is very tall at 6-foot-4 he is on the small side at 195. It will be interesting to see how Raheem Falkins develops under the Fourth Quarter Program.
Falkins could potentially work his way into playing time in the red zone in jump ball scenarios. You cannot coach such natural ability to go get contested balls where it is often about who wants the ball the most.
Position: Offensive Tackle
Vitals: 6-foot-6, 378 Pounds
- Rivals: 3 Star
- Scout: 3 Star
- ESPN: 3 Star
Other Offers of Interest: Ole Miss
Best Attributes: Size, Athleticism
Brandon Hill finally made it to Alabama after spending a year at Hargrave. The man is gigantic; he weighed in at a little under 400 pounds on his official visit to the Capstone. In order to compete, some of that weight will have to be shed. Still, much like Leon Brown, Hill has a chance to work into a starting role due to the departure of DJ Fluker.
Hill is considered a high upside prospect, but is still pretty raw. It will be on the shoulders of Alabama’s Jeff Stoutland to bring out the potential in Hill.
Position: Offensive Tackle
Vitals: 6-foot-6, 310 Pounds
- Rivals: 4 Star
- Scout: 4 Star
- ESPN: 4 Star
Other Offers of Interest: None
Best Attribute: Run blocking
Junior college offensive tackle Leon Brown proved to be one of the most difficult prospects to scout inAlabama’s 2013 signing class. He showed tremendous ability run blocking from the left tackle position. There were several strong pulls by Brown, and a few seal blocks that were gorgeous.
Unfortunately, his pass blocking was not on display in his film very much. On all three plays in one set of film, Brown destroyed his opponent and then the quarterback promptly through it to an opposing defensive back.
Nick Saban does not take a junior college player if he doesn’t believe they can contribute immediately. Cyrus Kouandjio has the left tackle spot on lock, but the departure of DJ Fluker leaves the right tackle up for grabs. Brown will be in the thick of that competition throughout the spring and leading up to the Virginia Tech game to start the fall season.