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Alabama National Signing Day 2014: Position-by-Position Analysis

Sanjay KirpalaniNational Recruiting AnalystFebruary 6, 2014

Alabama National Signing Day 2014: Position-by-Position Analysis

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    Alabama's 2014 recruiting class is loaded with difference makers across the board.
    Alabama's 2014 recruiting class is loaded with difference makers across the board.Dave Martin/Associated Press

    Alabama’s 2014 recruiting class is another example of Nick Saban’s prowess as a master recruiter.

    With 21 of its 26 signees earning at least a 4-star rating, Alabama once again landed a class billed as the nation’s best for the fourth consecutive season.

    The class features a staggering six prospects who earned a coveted 5-star rating. Additionally, it contains players who hail from 15 different states.

    Now that the members of the 2014 class are signed, sealed and delivered, how does this class stack up when broken down by position? 

    *All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports.

Quarterbacks

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    Signees: 4-star David Cornwell (Norman North High School, Norman, OK)

    Analysis: Alabama’s recent pickup of Florida State transfer Jacob Coker gives new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin a candidate who can immediately compete for the starting job.

    However, David Cornwell, a 6’5”, 241-pound passer from Oklahoma, has already enrolled at Alabama and is in line to become the Tide’s quarterback of the future.

    He’s rated as the fourth-best pro-style quarterback in the 2014 class and has all the physical tools necessary to become an elite college quarterback. Even though he’s already on campus, Cornwell appears destined to redshirt due to a torn ACL he suffered in his senior season, as noted by Chris Walsh of BamaOnline (subscription required).

Running Backs

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    Signees: 4-star Bo Scarbrough (IMG Academy, Bradenton, FL)

    Analysis: Bo Scarbrough is listed as an athlete, but the 6’2”, 225-pounder looks to be the next freakish specimen to find a home in the Tide’s loaded stable of running backs.

    While the Tide swung for the fences in trying to land Leonard Fournette, getting an athlete such as Scarbrough is the perfect complement to a group already brimming with a logjam of talent.

    The biggest issue with Scarbrough, who missed large chunks of his high school career with injuries, is whether or not he can remain healthy. Assuming he can stay on the field, he will give the Tide a physical presence with the necessary speed to take it the distance any time he touches the ball.

Wide Receivers

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    Signees: 4-star Cameron Sims (Ouachita Parish High School, Monroe, LA), 4-star Derek Kief (LaSalle High School, Cincinnati, OH)

    Analysis:  Finding bigger receivers has become a trend in college football, and the Tide added two such pass-catchers to its receiving unit in the form of Cameron Sims and Derek Kief

    Sims, who is one of eight members of the 2014 class who enrolled last month, checks in at 6’4”, 199 pounds. Kief stands at 6’5”, 197 pounds.

    The duo gives the Tide ample replacements for departed veterans Kevin Norwood and Kenny Bell, and both figure to fight for a spot in the receiver rotation this fall. While both players have similar skill sets and physical attributes, Sims figures to have a better chance at making an early contribution, since he will get the benefit of going through spring practice.

Tight Ends

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    Signees: 3-star Ty Flournoy-Smith (Georgia Military College, Moultrie, GA)

    Analysis: With budding star O.J. Howard anchoring the tight end position, Alabama’s need at the position was minimal. In fact, the Tide could’ve benefited from adding a player who is more of a blocking presence in the run game at that spot.

    With the addition of former Georgia tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith, the Tide gained another target who can stretch the middle of the field in the passing game. However, the question becomes whether he can provide an effective complement to an established receiving threat such as Howard.

Offensive Line

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    Signees:  5-star Cameron Robinson (West Monroe High School, West Monroe, LA), 4-star Ross Pierschbacher (Cedar Falls High School, Cedar Falls, IA), 4-star Dominick Jackson (College of San Mateo, San Mateo, CA), 4-star JC Hassenauer (East Ridge High School, St. Paul, MN), 4-star Joshua Casher (St. Paul’s Episcopal High School, Mobile, AL), 3-star Montel McBride (Plant City High School, Plant City, FL)

    Analysis: Alabama’s six-man offensive line class is simply a home run for position coach Mario Cristobal.

    The group is headlined by Cameron Robinson, the nation’s best left tackle prospect. The 6’5”, 337-pounder is a prototypical NFL left tackle who enrolled early and is the rare line prospect who is physically ready to compete in the SEC immediately.

    Fellow tackles Dominick Jackson and Ross Pierschbacher give the Tide options at both tackle spots, with Jackson being another JUCO product who could step in at either spot right away.

    JC Hassenauer is the nation’s top center prospect, and he could be the eventual successor to Ryan Kelly.

    Montel McBride is the only pledge slated to start out at guard, but even though he needs time to develop and adjust to the college level, he’s a prospect with a prototypical frame and immense upside.

Defensive Ends

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    Signees: 4-star D.J. Pettway (East Mississippi Community College, Scooba, MS), 5-star Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge High School, Woodbridge, VA)

    Analysis: Considering that 2013 starters Jeoffrey Pagan and Ed Stinson are off to the NFL, it was imperative that Saban add some impact players on the edge of the Tide’s defensive front.

    In signing D.J. Pettway and Da’Shawn Hand, the Tide added two defensive ends with the size and skill set necessary to play right away.

    Pettway’s familiarity with the scheme dating back to his previous stint with the Tide should help him step in and be effective right away. In Hand, the Tide are getting an elite pass-rusher with NFL size who is athletic enough to drop into pass coverage. He is exactly the type of presence that the Tide have been lacking at defensive end in recent years.

Defensive Tackles

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    Signees: 4-star Jarran Reed (East Mississippi Community College, Scooba, MS), 4-star Josh Frazier (Har-Ber High School, Springdale, AR), 3-star O.J. Smith (Airline High School, Bossier City, LA), 3-star Johnny Dwight (Wilcox County High School, Rochelle, GA)

    Analysis: Alabama completed its overhaul on the defensive line by adding four players who are capable of lining up at nose guard in the Tide’s three-man front. However, it’s likely that a few players contribute at one of the defensive end positions during their careers at the Capstone.

    Jarran Reed, a plugger out of the JUCO ranks, is a powerful force who has drawn comparisons to former Tide nose guard Terrence Cody, as noted by Andrew Gribble of AL.com.

    Of the three prep signees, Josh Frazier appears to be the guy who is the most ready to challenge for immediate playing time. As Travis Reier of BamaOnline notes, Frazier has to work on getting in better shape before he makes it to college. However, Frazier is a brute technician against the run and the pass at nose guard.

    O.J. Smith is another big body that projects as a nose guard, while Johnny Dwight has a frame that could lead him toward one of the end spots.  

Linebackers

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    Signees: 5-star Rashaan Evans (Auburn High School, Auburn, AL) 4-star Shaun Hamilton (Carver High School, Montgomery, AL), 5-star Christian Miller (Spring Valley High School, Columbia, SC) 4-star Ronnie Clark (Calera High School, Calera, AL), 4-star Keith Holcombe (Hillcrest High School, Tuscaloosa, AL)

    Analysis: The one word that would best define Alabama’s five linebacker commitments is versatility. In fact, all five appear to be players who could line up at other positions, including Ronnie Clark (who could end up at safety) and Keith Holcombe (who could inherit the hybrid role that Vinnie Sunseri thrived in recently).

    The group’s headliner, 5-star outside linebacker Rashaan Evans, cemented the Tide’s No. 1 class by announcing for Alabama in favor of archrival Auburn on signing day.  Evans is a natural athlete who can rush the passer off the edge (17.5 sacks as a senior) and drop into coverage and stick with tight ends or slot receivers.

    The other two prospects, Shaun Hamilton and Christian Miller, are intriguing talents who bring skill sets that seem ideal for the positions that they were recruited for.

    Hamilton, who enrolled in January, is an inside linebacker with more lateral quickness than most give him credit for.

    Miller, who racked up 38 sacks over his last two prep seasons, has been told by the Tide staff that he can fill the void left by Adrian Hubbard’s departure, according to Charles Power of BamaOnline (subscription required). However, considering that Miller currently weighs 222 pounds, a redshirt could be needed in order for him to add some weight to his 6’4” frame.  

Cornerbacks

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    Signees: 5-star Tony Brown (Ozen High School, Beaumont, TX), 5-star Marlon Humphrey (Hoover High School, Birmingham, AL)

    Analysis: Considering the Tide’s struggles at the corner position in 2013, one of Saban’s biggest missions in the 2014 cycle was finding multiple impact corners who are capable of contributing immediately.

    Consider that mission accomplished. Saban was able to land the nation’s top two corners in Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey.

    Both players double as standouts in track, which highlights one attribute that makes both of them project as elite corners: speed.

    Both Brown (6’0”, 188) and Humphrey (6’1”, 175) also fit the mold of the bigger corners that Saban prefers on the outside.

    Expect both players to earn a spot in the corner rotation this fall.

Safeties

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    Signees: 4-star Laurence Jones (Neville High School, Monroe, LA)

    Analysis: With Ha Ha Clinton-Dix turning pro, and the unexpected decision by Vinnie Sunseri to follow suit, Alabama’s 2014 class was in need of talent and depth at the safety position.

    Getting Laurence Jones out of LSU’s backyard was a huge get for Saban. As Trevor Hewett of BamaOnline (subscription required) detailed, the 6’2”, 220-pounder and early enrollee shined as a cover man during practices for the Under Armour All-American game.

    That he flashed that ability in an all-star setting is a good sign of his ability to fit in at one of the Tide’s two safety spots or in the nickel corner role that Jarrick Williams occupied last season.

    Ronnie Clark and Keith Holcombe are also options who could potentially land at safety or play in the secondary in nickel and dime sets. 

Kicker/Punter

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    Signees: 3-star JK Scott (J.K. Mullen High School, Denver, CO)

    Analysis: With Alabama losing both kicker Cade Foster and punter Cody Mandell to graduation, the need to bring in a kicking specialist in the 2014 class became a priority.

    JK Scott, who is ranked as the nation’s top punter according to ChrisSailerKicking.com, appears to be the primary option to take over for Mandell this fall.

     

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