With the Alabama Crimson Tide landing the top recruiting class of 2013, Tide fans can breathe a sigh of relief. Not so for head coach Nick Saban, who has already had his eye on the class of 2014 for a while.
Alabama recruits prospects who would typically end up playing defensive tackle at most schools and attempts to mold them into defensive ends. Despite prevailing sentiment, Nick Saban’s 3-4 defensive scheme doesn’t require its defensive ends to disrupt the quarterback. Sure it’s encouraged, but their main goal is to seal off the sideline and force running backs to the middle of the field. This is why Alabama puts a premium on big, strong defensive lineman.
For all the great defenses that Alabama has put on the field over the last five years, the one position they’ve struggled to recruit the most is that of defensive end. With the quantity of defensive lineman Alabama has brought in over the last few recruiting cycles, the Tide can to cherry pick among several of the nations top prospects. Here are five to keep an eye on:
6’4” 290 lb
Brown is the prototypical 3-4 defensive end Nick Saban craves. He will enter college with the type of body that a mad scientist would spend his entire life attempting to recreate in a lab. Brown also possesses an elite speed that Alabama’s lacked among many of its recent defensive ends. Brown could potentially start from day one at almost any school in the country, and even if he signs with Alabama, it would be hard to keep him off the field as a freshman.
Brown’s size will remind some of Marcel Dareus, but his body type is very different. He’s built like Ndamukong Suh and plays with a familiar mean streak. But that’s not meant to imply he’s a dirty player. When watching film, you’d think his sole purpose in life is getting to the quarterback. Brown hails from Oscar Smith High School, the same school as former Alabama QB Phillip Sims, and has offers from nearly every college in the country. While he hasn’t named a leader, he did name Alabama among his top 10. Many feel like the Tide may have the inside track to getting Brown’s signature.
6’6” 300 lb
Much like Brown, Shaw already has the size to play defensive end in Alabama’s scheme, but he’s expected to end up at defensive tackle no matter who he inks with. Despite his intimidating size, he isn’t quite as strong as other recent big bodied prospects and he still plays a bit raw for someone so highly rated. But that’s not necessarily a criticism. To be as highly regarded as he is shows that he’s only scratched the surface of his potential.
Shaw possesses outstanding athleticism and exceptionally quick feet for a big man. His long arms will make more than a few coaches consider moving him to one of the offensive tackle positions, but his ceiling is much higher along the defensive line. He currently holds offers from Alabama, Florida State, Georgia and Ohio State. Even though signing day is over a year away, Shaw has already named Alabama and Georgia as his two leaders.
6’4″ 320 lb
Frazier has slowly been moving up the recruiting rankings and could skyrocket with a dominant summer camp circuit. He’s the No. 1 prospect from the state of Arkansas and quite possibly the best defensive lineman the state has produced in over a decade. Not surprisingly, he’s expected to face immense pressure to play his college ball close to home. With his size, he’s a lock to play defensive tackle or nose tackle once he reaches college.
So far, Frazier holds offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, UCLA and USC with more expected to come pouring in over the summer. When asked what he was looking for in a university, Frazier responded:
“I’m just looking for a college to just not want me for the football player but wanting me for Josh Frazier. I hold my values and what I believe in and caring about me as a person and not just a football player.”
Frazier has already visited and camped at Alabama several times. During the summer before his junior season, the Crimson Tide became the first school to offer Frazier a scholarship, something that seems to be a common theme among all top 2014 recruits. He doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to make a decision, and could wait until signing day to announce a school.
6’5” 260 lb
Coatney is considered a bit of a tweener and should he sign with a team that utilizes a 3-4 defense, would more than likely spend a year or two in the weight room before being expected to contribute. Coatney has an excellent first step, superb speed and is very powerful. He plays the defensive end position a bit raw, but again, that’s not necessarily a knock. Room for improvement means room for growth.
Coatney still has some work to do with his academics which is cited as one of the main reasons he’s yet to pick up any scholarship offers. Coatney was invited to the 2012 AT&T Georgia Junior Bowl; a second annual showcase of the top juniors in the state of Georgia. He was recently quoted as saying “I’d love to go to UGA,” but don’t get too excited Bulldog fans. It’s a long way until NSD 2014.
6’3” 300 lb
Russell marks the third defensive lineman on this list from the state of Georgia. The Peach State typically has a wealth of talent, but the quality of this year’s crop would make even Nick Saban blush. Russell is, like everyone else on this list, extremely quick and athletic. He’s a high motor player who never takes plays off. He’s also earning a reputation as a very humble kid who shies away from the spotlight and instead focuses on his team.
Despite being double teamed on nearly every play, he still managed to make 88 tackles over the past two seasons, an impressive number for someone who was featured exclusively at nose tackle. Russell was named honorable mention All-State as a junior and already holds scholarship offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, Stanford and USC. Russell visited Alabama twice during his junior season, and though he’s yet to name a leader, many expect the Tide to be in the mix until the very end.