Recruiting takes center stage

Can anyone doubt Alabama needs to upgrade its talent? Improved attitudes went a long way toward Alabama’s 12-2 SEC West division winner, Sugar Bowl invited team. 2008 was a good season, but there is considerable work to do for 2009 and 2010 to be even better. The process continues and once again enters the important final recruiting push.

Alabama stands at 20 commitments for the 2009 recruiting class. Last season Alabama signed 32. Could the Tide go as high as 30 commitments this year? There has been some speculation the Tide could reach the high 20s depending on what happens in the coming weeks. Fans should expect the typical attrition through graduation, injuries and transfers. Some speculation has centered on players like Terry Grant. Grant was a superb player at running back, but has fallen on the depth chart. Could Grant transfer or change positions? With Alabama possibly signing one or two additional backs in this class his spot could sink even lower in the rotation. With situations like this it would be foolish not to expect some attrition or players shifting positions.

Secondary focus
Watching the last two Alabama games (Florida and Utah) could anyone argue the Tide needs improvement in the secondary? Missed tackles and not being able to handle single coverage were glaring weaknesses in Atlanta and New Orleans. Can Alabama improve its situation this year?

If Gadsden’s Dre Kirkpatrick winds up in Tuscaloosa (as many expect) it would help. Kirkpatrick is ranked the #2 corner by Rivals.com, the #3 corner prospect by Scout.com and ESPN’s recruiting experts have Kirkpatrick ranked the #2 overall player in the nation.

Kirkpatrick is expected to start for the West team in today’s Army All-America game in San Antonio, Texas on NBC (noon central.) You can catch an early glimpse and see for yourself the impact Kirkpatrick could make if he signs with Alabama.

Another prospect to watch is defensive back Branden Smith of Atlanta. ESPN’s Tom Luginbill spoke very highly of Smith on Paul Finebaum’s radio show Friday. Luginbill said Smith will announce his commitment during the Under Armor game (Sunday on ESPN). Luginbill described Smith as one of the “premiere cover corners” at the Under Armor practices.

“I think he is a difference maker in the secondary,” Luginbill said on the Finebaum show. “If for some reason Alabama is able to lure him away from LSU and Georgia it would be huge because in my opinion down the stretch, they (Alabama) are going to get the other premiere corner in this class right now in Dre Kirkpatrick…that would be two perimeter players who could be lockdown, difference maker type corners.”

Landing two corners this year would be nice, but fans shouldn’t forget what Alabama landed last year. In the 2008 class, Alabama signed Alonzo Lawrence. Lawrence, the #2 ranked corner by Rivals last year, rose to dizzying heights during last year’s Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game. Lawrence coverage skills were the buzz of that game, but little was heard of him this year. Can he arrive on the scene in spring practice to help the secondary?

Also, with Lawrence sitting on the sidelines his freshman year should fans expect Kirkpatrick to redshirt too?