Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama Football Recruiting: Signing Day Wrap Up


For the fifth time in six years, the Alabama Crimson Tide signed the No. 1 overall recruiting class according to rivals.com. Nick Saban and company had already assembled a great recruiting class coming into signing day, but they made sure to close strong and secure the top ranked class in the country.

There was no drama on signing day for Alabama as every recruit who was committed to the Crimson Tide signed their National Letters of Intent on Wednesday with Alabama. There was some brief uncertainty regarding Reuben Foster’s fax, but it turned out to be nothing at all as it came through as scheduled.

Alabama also hung on to running back Altee Tenpenny, who some expected to spurn the Tide in favor of the home state Arkansas Razorbacks.

Here’s the complete list of Alabama’s 25-man class:

Jonathan Allen, DE, Ashburn, VA
Anthony Averett, ATH, Woodbury, NJ
Cooper Bateman, QB, Salt Lake City, UT
Leon Brown, OL, Brooklyn, NY
Jonathan Cook, DB, Spanish Fort, AL
Raheem Falkins, WR, New Orleans, LA
Reuben Foster, LB, Auburn, AL
Robert Foster, WR, Monaca, PA
Derrick Henry, RB, Yulee, FL
Brandon Hill, OL, Chatham, VA
Grant Hill, OL, Huntsville, AL
O.J. Howard, TE, Autauga, AL
Eddie Jackson, ATH, Lauderdale Lakes, FL
Tyren Jones, RB, Marietta, GA
Walker Jones, LB, Cordova, TN
Alvin Kamara, RB, Norcross, GA
Dee Liner, DE, Muscle Shoals, AL
Cole Mazza, OL, Bakersfield, CA
Parker McLeod, QB, Marietta, GA
Darius Paige, DT, Foley, AL
A’Shawn Robinson, DT, Fort Worth, TX
Maurice Smith, DB, Sugar Land, TX
ArDarius Stewart, ATH, Fultondale, AL
Altee Tenpenny, RB, North Little Rock, AR
Tim Williams, DE, Baton Rouge, LA

Alabama’s 25-man class consists of players from 13 different states. The Tide only signed seven players from the state of Alabama, but they locked down the state by signing the five best in-state players. Alabama’s recruiting pipeline now stretches far outside the Southeast as they went to states such as New York, New Jersey, Texas and California to pull recruits. Of course, Nick Saban doesn’t have to make much of a recruiting pitch these days. Three National Championships in a four year stretch pretty much does that for you.

Of course, you never know how a recruiting class will pan out until a few years down the road, but Saban has been as good at developing talent as he has been at signing it.

Best Sign

Alabama signed four Five Star recruits according to rivals in defensive end Jonathan Allen, linebacker Reuben Foster, tight end O.J. Howard and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson. But which of these guys is the best among Alabama’s stellar recruiting class? Or is it one of the four star recruits?

In my opinion, the top player in this class for the Crimson Tide is linebacker Reuben Foster, who is the best high school linebacker I have ever seen on film. Foster has great speed to make sideline-to-sideline tackles, and is adept at making plays in the opposing backfield. He also delivers devastating hits to ball carriers.

Rivals gives him as high of praise as I can imagine by comparing him to former Tide great Rolando McClain. As long as Foster keeps his head on straight, he has a chance to be extremely special.

His road to playing time next season will be tough because Alabama is returning starting inside linebackers C.J. Mosley and Trey DePriest. Still, the best players will play and as soon as Foster is able to learn the defensive system, he’ll be hard to keep off the field.

In the very least he should contribute on special teams in 2013.

Best Running Back

The allure of playing running back at Alabama is great, and it showed this year with Saban and company signing four highly regarded running backs. Four star backs Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara and Altee Tenpenny joined early enrollee Derrick Henry today.

There wasn’t drama coming into the day regarding Henry and Jones, but many were unsure of what Tenpenny and Kamara would decide. Tenpenny had been committed to Alabama for quite some time, but there was pressure for him to say in-state with Arkansas.

For Kamara, it was down to Alabama and Georgia and he didn’t make his final decision until today when he decided to sign with the Crimson Tide. Tenpenny too decided to sign with Alabama today, giving Alabama a surplus of running backs headed into the 2013 season. Which of them is more likely to see early playing time?

I think it has to be Derrick Henry, the monster back who early enrolled to go through spring practice. At 6-foot-3 and 243 pounds, Henry is a load to bring down in the open field, but he also has speed to run away from defenders if he chooses not to obliterate them by running through them.

Henry’s future in Tuscaloosa could be at fullback or H-back instead of running back, though considering his size.

I think Alvin Kamara is the next in line, but don’t sleep on Altee Tenpenny or Tyren Jones. All of these guys would see plenty of playing time as freshmen at other schools.

Alabama has become a running back factory, churning out first round draft picks in Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson to go along with another possible first round pick this year in Eddie Lacy, who in the very least will go in the second round of the draft in April., and that obviously has been a great recruiting tool.

Player(s) with the Best Chance at Starting Next Year

Three star offensive line recruit Cole Mazza has the inside track to start at long snapper next year replacing Carson Tinker. Mazza is obviously pretty good at his craft to earn a scholarship as a snapper.

He’s the obvious choice, but I also think five star tight end O.J. Howard has a good chance at starting at H-back next year if he develops enough as a blocker in the spring and summer. Howard is as good as a receiving tight end as Alabama has seen in quite some time, and his ability as a receiver provides another dangerous facet to Alabama’s offense.

Kelly Johnson was an excellent blocker from the H-back spot last year, but he didn’t provide anything as a receiver. That should change with the addition of O.J. Howard.

Surprise Sign

This was a signing day with really no surprises for the Crimson Tide as aforementioned above. Things pretty much went as expected for Alabama today with everyone who was previously committed signing letters of intent today.

The biggest surprise happened before signing day on Monday night with Reuben Foster committing to Alabama. Foster was committed to the Crimson Tide for quite a while before moving to Auburn prior to the start of his senior season. He ultimately flipped to Auburn, but reopened his recruitment after Auburn’s entire staff was fired, specifically wide receiver’s coach and mascot Trooper Taylor.

Even then it seemed like Auburn was the favorite to land Foster because that is where his family is, and the Tigers had the last official visit with Foster visiting this past weekend. But, in a strange turn of events, Foster left his official to Auburn early and came to Tuscaloosa on Saturday night before committing to Alabama for the second time on Monday night.

Off the Radar Signee Who Could Make a Big Impact

We all know about the big named recruits, but what off the radar signee will make the biggest impact down the road for Alabama?

I think cornerback Maurice Smith hasn’t gotten enough credit for as much potential as he has. Rivals rates him as only the 12th best corner in this class, but I believe he has the potential to be as good as anyone.

Smith had offers from practically every major program in the country. He seems like the prototypical Nick Saban cornerback with his ability to play bump and run and be physical at the line of scrimmage.

He also has excellent ball skills, and if he picks off a pass he is a threat to take it back for a defensive score. Look for Maurice Smith to become an elite cornerback in Tuscaloosa.

Ones That Got Away

Alabama fans wouldn’t be Alabama fans if they didn’t take time to lament about the ones that got away after signing the No. 1 class in the country. Perhaps the biggest one to get away was five star offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, but many expected him to sign with Ole Miss for quite some time.

The same can be said for five star linebacker Matthew Thomas, who was unlikely the leave the state of Florida. Safety Vonn Bell seemed like an Alabama lean for a while, but most expected him to sign elsewhere today.

Alabama came into the day, however, liking their chances with Antonio Connor, Eddie Vanderdoes, and Jarran Reed.

Some thought Connor was an Alabama lean, but pulling a highly regarded prospect out of South Panola proved to be too daunting of a task even for Nick Saban. It looked like Alabama was going to sign either Vanderdoes or Reed coming into the day, but ended up with neither.

Vanderdoes enjoyed his official visit to Tuscaloosa, but he ultimately signed with Notre Dame. JUCO defensive tackle Jarran Reed opted for Florida.

Still, I’m nitpicking because Alabama signed an absolutely stellar class; one that could rival the 2008 class if everyone pans out.

That remains to be seen, but Saban and company have jammed more elite prospects into their already stocked cupboards.

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