Alabama stands fourth in Rivals’ rankings

Alabama’s 2009 recruiting class looks strong in the latest Rivals rankings. The Tide stands at fourth in the latest ranking compilation at the recruiting service. The Tide has several players and prospects in the top of the Rivals 100; three commitments sport five-star rankings. One thing fans should notice is that this year’s commitments and prospects consist of many out-of-state players. Here is a brief look at some of the five-star recruits committed to Alabama or the focus of a strong Alabama recruiting effort.

Alabama commitment D.J. Fluker is the third ranked player in the nation according to the January 13 update to the Rivals list of the 100 best players in the nation. Fluker has emerged as a strong contender to fill Andre Smith’s left tackle position on the Alabama Crimson Tide’s offensive line.

Fluker made the move upward to challenge for the top recruit thanks to good performances in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game and the US Army All-American Bowl, according to Rivals.

Another Alabama commitment sits in the top ten too. Trent Richardson is ranked sixth, and could see playing time if his commitment holds firm. Richardson comes from Florida and would be a major addition to the 2009 Crimson Tide—a team suddenly needing depth with the departure of Glen Coffee for the NFL.

Before venturing beyond the Rivals top ten, consideration has to fall on the second ranked prospect Rueben Randle. Randle is the top ranked receiver, according to Rivals. It is widely considered a race between Alabama and LSU to land the 6’3 195 lbs recruit.

Why is Alabama in the running for this Louisiana standout? Nick Saban.

According to Ian Rapoport’s Birmingham News article from last weekend, Saban makes all the difference in recruiting this player.

“When he walks through the door, they all know who he is,” Randle’s high school coach told the Birmingham News. “They’ve got a shot, because of Coach.”

Compare that to Auburn coach Gene Chizik who was making up stories that Randle visited Auburn last weekend.

Can Alabama land Randle? It would seem to be a difficult proposition, but the longer Randle goes without declaring, the better the chances the Tide could land the prospect. Everyone knows how rude LSU fans (or any SEC fans for that matter) can behave when they don’t get their way. What recruit would want to put up with that? Reading the tea leaves on a recruit like Randle is made even more complicated as top recruits often wait until the last possible moment regardless of pressures.

Leaving the Rivals top ten, it doesn’t take long to encounter another Alabama prospect. Gadsden’s Dre Kirkpatrick is ranked 11 by Rivals. Kirkpatrick is a consensus five-star prospect as a defensive back. His size and skills have recruiting analysts for all three major services singing Kirkpatrick’s praises. He could be a critical cog in Alabama’s defensive plans. Depth on defense and improved corner play would help Alabama when it faces teams like Florida and Georgia. Kirkpatrick is anticipated to pick Alabama, but that type of projection from recruiting experts carries about as much weight as a Dan Rather/CBS projection on election night. Don’t trust it until it actually happens.

Nico Johnson now sports a five-star ranking; he is listed as the 32nd best player in the Rivals list. The linebacker improved thanks to a strong showing in the Army All-American Bowl. Johnson is 6’3, 220 lbs. He projects at inside linebacker, according to Rivals. ESPN projects Johnson could easily add another 20 pounds to his frame in college.

Alabama’s class currently features three five-star recruits and holds the possibility to add several more to an already outstanding class. Rounding out Alabama’s current commitments are nine four-star recruits and eight three-star recruits. Alabama’s 2008 class held three five-star signees, 19 four-star signees and eight three-star players.