Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
In the past Alabama has recruited prospects who would typically end up playing defensive end at most schools and attempts to mold them into linebackers. The class of 2014 continues that trend as two of Alabama’s top three targets, Da’Shawn Hand and Lorenzo Carter, are both being recruited as 4-3 defensive ends by nearly every other college in America. If they sign with Alabama, both are expected to end up as world-class linebackers. Alabama fans have been waiting patiently for the next great quarterback killer. Below are three recruits who have the potential to fill that role.
6’4″ 250 lbs – Woodbridge, VA
At this stage of his development, Hand is easily considered the number one player in the nation. He has impressed at every camp he’s attended, and many analysts have compared him to former five-star recruit Jadeveon Clowney. He lacks the high-end speed Clowney possesses, but the initial explosion is nearly identical. Hand will make an impact no matter which position he ends up playing. If a staff decides he’s better suited to play End in a 3-4 scheme, he has the frame to add an additional 40+ pounds without sacrificing any of his athleticism.
Hand is an elite prospect that an entire defense can be built around. The biggest criticism from the Alabama fanbase during Saban’s tenure has been the lack of a Derrick Thomas-type linebacker who can effectively get to the quarterback on a consistent basis. Da’Shawn Hand is that type of player. He lists his top five schools as Alabama, Florida, Michigan, South Carolina, and Virginia Tech.
6’5″ 225 lbs – Norcross, GA
Carter’s recruitment will boil down to which position he decides to play in college. If he feels like he’s a better fit as a linebacker, he’ll end up at a school like Alabama. If he wants to play with his hand on the ground, he’ll end up at a school like Miami – his childhood favorite. At only 226 lbs, Carter would need to add an additional 70+ pounds to be a defensive lineman in Alabama’s scheme.
On a recent visit to Alabama, Nick Saban sat down with Carter’s mother and addressed some of her concerns about playing time:
"“He told me how much he liked me, then he asked my parents if they had any questions. My mom, she had questions about Alabama because her co-workers and people around her don’t think I should go there because of how deep they are with talent. They don’t know if I would play.“So he answered that. He said the only thing you could not to go to Alabama for is if you’re too good and you don’t think you’ll play. He told me that Ishouldn’t worry about any of that because wherever I go, I’ll play.”"
Carter hasn’t listed a favorite or even a top ten, but he has visited Tuscaloosa several times, most recently for A-Day. He may not list a favorite, but the Crimson Tide are clearly in the mix.
6’3″ 230 lbs – Hinesville, GA
If you haven’t noticed by now, the state of Georgia is loaded with talent for 2014. We should all take a moment to quietly thank Mark Richt for being a sub-par recruiter. As evidence by one of McMillan’s recent tweets, if Richt could manage to sign even half of the state’s talent on a regular basis, linebackers like McMillan would be knocking down doors to play for the Bulldogs:
But, as it stands, the Bulldogs are just another team in a long line of teams hoping to sign the talented linebacker. When asked how his recent visit to Alabama went, McMillan responded:
"“The Alabama trip went great and it made me want to sit back and take a closer look at my top five again. Actually I do not even have a top five right now, but right now it would be hard for me to pick a number one between Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State. I will have a new top five after I visit Ohio State next weekend.”"
Raekwon McMillan was born to be a linebacker. It doesn’t matter which school he ends up at, he’ll line up in the middle of the field. He reminds most analysts of former linebacker Rolando McClain, and not just because of the uncanny initials. He’s a field general who hits running backs like it’s his only mission in life. He’s expected to make his announcement close to signing day.