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16 Days remain: Alabama set for solid class, Defensive linemen are a bright spot

It is 16-days until National Signing Day and what some a month ago considered a dangerous time for UA football has turned into a time of optimism. Since Nick Saban signed with Alabama, Alabama is now in the mix for many players. No doubt it will be tough for Saban to land some of these recruits as most recruits have already made verbal commitments; however, that is not stopping Saban.

Leading up to National Signing Day, I’m going to spend some time examining many of the key players from this year’s class and important stories coming out of recruiting.

First, we’ll look at some general problems with measuring a recruiting class. Next, we’ll look at what I believe could be the best element of this year’s recruits (defensive linemen) and then take a brief look at what the future of recruiting holds (here’s a hint: expect animosity not from AU or LSU, but UT.)

Alabama has a top 20 recruiting class, according to most recruiting “experts.” The ranking ranges by expert, but at the very least, Alabama is moving up in most estimates. I posted over a week ago, that Alabama would finish with a Top 15 class and had a real shot at a ranking between 10-12. I stand by that analysis, and I am now even more optimistic moving forward, even though ranks Alabama at around #27.

One thing to remember about recruiting rankings is not only how subjective they are in ranking the players, but the rankings are even subjective in how each computes where the classes rank.

Do you focus on quality or quantity? Most of the rankings try to balance, but so far no ranking system provides a way to rank which teams got the help they needed the most.

Of course, you aren’t always recruiting to fill a need. In most years, you are able to recruit talent and build a class with a goal or two in mind.

I think this year, Robert Marve is the centerpiece of this offensive class. At least, Saban told Marve he was going to build the offensive side of the class around Marve. That sounds very plausible and when you consider Saban’s efforts to land players like Joe McKnight and Brandon Gibson and Chris Culliver–Saban wants the best athletes on the offense as well as defensive side of the ball.

Speaking of defense, while Marve is impressive on offense, the real bright spot of this class is on the defensive side. The defensive players I believe who will make the greatest impact on the team for the next few years are: Nick Gentry, Kerry Murphy and Alfred McCullough.

I had the opportunity to see Gentry, Murphy and McCullough in person for at least one or two games this year. Each player is special, with McCullough being (in my estimation) the best of the group. Some may disagree, but I think McCullough has lots of upside potential.

McCullough helped Athens to the 5A state crown and in the championship game notched four tackles; his senior season he made over 60 tackles. McCullough was emotional after the state championship; while his team danced around mid-field, McCullough was kneeling at about the 20-yard line taking in the scene.

McCullough is a play maker, who brings a lot to the tackle position.

Gentry is another player with who was in the state championship (6A) and made some big time plays. Gentry had 5 tackles with 2 tackles for loss (12-yards) and one sack.

Those stats came against a very good Hoover offensive line. Gentry is versatile and could play many different positions.

“The main message is he told me he wasn’t going to redshirt me so don’t expect it. That was a big plus for me because I didn’t want to redshirt, I wanted to go in and show my thing and try to start. I really didn’t get to do that my senior year (at Prattville) because of injuries. He got into the academics — coach (Mike) Shula and them really didn’t talk much about academics. He told us he expected us to get a degree more than he expected us to go into pro ball and that’s a big plus for me because that’s what I want to do.” —GENTRY quoted in the Montgomery Advertiser.

According to the Montgomery paper, Saban told Gentry the defensive lineman could end up playing several different positions including: defensive end, defensive tackle, linebacker or possibly fullback. It will be interesting to see if Gentry ends up at linebacker in Saban’s scheme.

Kerry Murphy is considered one of the best defensive tackles available. Murphy is big (over 300 pounds) and strong. Murphy in the 6A championship made four tackles in a losing effort. However, Murphy is a big time player on the line.

When you look at these three players, and I’ve seen each of them in person, you can’t help but be impressed with Alabama’s future defensive prospects. If each of these players gets to play on the line, you’ll have the makings of a very deep and talented line corps.

This season, one of our biggest problems was lack of pressure from the line. You won’t have to worry about that with these types of players. They’ve shown in high school an ability to stop the run and pass rush. The only real limit to their potential is how much work they are willing to put into becoming a contributor at the next level.

These are good players, with a history of success. With the right coaching staff now in place (a coaching staff who will improve the talent), expect great things from these three.

COMING SOON: A look at Marve and some offensive prospects.

More recruiting talk:
In a Saturday Birmingham News column, Ray Melick said recruiting in the SEC will get nastier in the coming years thanks to having Nick Saban in Tuscaloosa. While his premise is probably correct, Melick missed a few important points.

A few problems with Melick’s analysis:
1. Auburn hasn’t dominated the state and never will. Even during probation, Auburn could at best only be considered even. Auburn depends on out-of-state recruits from Florida and Georgia. These bases are diminished even more with the rise of Florida, Fisher at FSU and Richt at Georgia. Auburn faces a serious problem with diminishing returns from every ground it recruits.

2. Melick mentions the Alabama, LSU and Auburn alumni base as something to worry about in recruiting. He forgets the main one to worry about–Tennessee. You can’t forget Roy Adams, whenever you talk about recruiting and Alabama. What do you think Adams and other UT alumni’s response will be the first time Saban gets a high profile recruit out of Memphis, a recruit the UT people really want? Alumni are always a problem, but Melick forgot a major area of concern.

Already UT fans are screaming about an alleged contact by Saban with a student enrolled at UT.
One outraged Vol fan said on a message board: “Again this is Alabama arrogance that they can do no wrong because they are Bama. Pick- up the coach this will surely put the last nail in the coffin since Bama is still on probation.”

Yeah, things are going to get nastier in the SEC. And it’ll get nastier once Saban ends a drought against Alabama’s biggest rivals.

For constantly updated breaking news about Alabama football and other sports, visit our news page. You can find this great link to a story on how Saban’s arrival has helped weaken a Michigan commit (a great all-around player) and how the recruit is now considering Alabama.

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