Alabama Football: What signing James Smith & Qua Russaw means

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama football was able to land the top two players in the state (and the most sought-after package deal in the nation) in defensive aces James Smith and Qua Russaw. Smith, an interior defensive linemen, and Russaw, a linebacker, are both 5-stars and are among the best in the nation at their respective positions.

Both James Smith and Qua Russaw could be splash players on a 2023 Alabama defense that could lose as many as 10 players in the two-deep to graduation or the NFL Draft.

Alabama Football lands James Smith

Smith is considered the no. 18 overall player in the country and the second-best defensive lineman. He already possesses SEC size and has impressive relative athleticism. He will join an interior defensive line in Tuscaloosa that returns players such as Tim Smith, Jamil Burroughs, Jah-Marien Latham, and Damon Payne, among others.

James Smith is the gem in what was already a solid-looking defensive line class. The Alabama football fan base was in disbelief over the Tide missing on in-state products Peter Woods and Kelby Collins over the summer. Woods and Collins, who committed to Clemson and Florida respectively, are both top-10 players in the state of Alabama, and would’ve been welcome additions to this class.

The Tide stayed afloat by landing 4-stars Jordan Renaud, Hunter Osborne, and Edric Hill. Renaud, although undersized, is one of the best defensive linemen in the nation. Osborne and Hill are both solid linemen with good size who are underrated nationally. All three are high-upside players with positional versatility.

This trio would’ve been enough to provide adequate depth to the Alabama defensive line, but the Tide coaching staff was able to land the big fish in James Smith on early signing day.

Alabama Football lands Qua Russaw

Qua Russaw was a huge get for the Crimson Tide at linebacker. He is adept playing on the edge, as he is a very good pass rusher, but projects as an off-ball inside backer in Tuscaloosa. Russaw combines sideline-to-sideline speed and violent physicality in a way that has been lacking in the Alabama linebacker room for several years.

Always a priority target in this class, Russaw became a must-have as the signing period got closer. The importance of landing the in-state linebacker was elevated when Alabama missed on ILB prospects such as Suntarine Perkins and Arion Carter. Russaw combines with Justin Jefferson, the top junior college defensive player in the country, to form an imposing linebacker tandem in the 2023 class.

With seniors Henry To’o To’o and Jaylen Moody expected to depart, both Russaw and Jefferson will have chances to see the field early. They will compete for snaps with studs such as Deontae Lawson, Kendrick Blackshire, and Jihaad Campbell. Demouy Kennedy, Ian Jackson, and Shawn Murphy will also be in the mix at linebacker.

It cannot be overstated how big it was for Alabama football to add James Smith and Qua Russaw to a 2023 class that was already the best in the nation. Smith and Russaw became the fifth and sixth 5-stars to sign with Alabama in this cycle.

Next. 2023 class could see the field early. dark

This group could be what the program needs to get back on track, and the Carver HS duo figures to play a big role.