Alabama: 2012 college football recruiting

T.J. YeldonNick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide have done it again as 2012 was a success and the Tide will finish as the number one recruiting class in college football according to multiple sites.

The Crimson Tide held on to all recruits they were expected to and also stole a few four-star defensive tackles in their 26-man class.

Many recruiting experts have said this Alabama recruiting class rivals the 2008 Alabama recruiting class that brought in some names you might remember. Mark Barron, Terrence Cody, Marcell Dareus, Dont’a Hightower, Mark Ingram, Barrett Jones, Julio Jones, and Courtney Upshaw to name a few were apart of that 2008 class. Only time will tell if the 2012 class is able to have the same success as the 2008 class.

Here’s a player-by-player breakdown of the Tide’s 2012 signing class.

T.J. Yeldon (RB/Daphne, AL): Rivals: 5*, Scout: 4*, ESPN: 4*, 247: 5*

T.J. Yeldon was committed to Auburn for quite a while, but surprised everyone by switching his pledge to Alabama in December. Rivals rates Yeldon as the #2 ranked running back prospect in the country, and the #12 player overall. His teammate Ryan Anderson played a role in getting Yeldon to flip from Auburn.

Look for Yeldon to seriously push for playing time next season as he gets the advantage of going through spring football at Alabama. With Trent Richardson headed to the NFL, it is widely expected that Eddie Lacy will be the #1 running back for the 2012 season, but guys like Yeldon, Dee Hart, and Jalston Fowler should compete for carries.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to me if Alabama went with an LSU-like approach to running the football in 2012 with four very capable runners.

Ryan Anderson (DE/OLB/Daphne, AL): Rivals: 4*, Scout: 4*, ESPN: 4*, 247: 5*

Anderson pledged to the Tide last April, and like I said before, he was in high school teammate T.J. Yeldon’s ear the whole time about coming to Alabama. Anderson enrolled in January, and projects as a defensive end or outside linebacker on the next level.

He’s a hybrid end/linebacker, and he reminds me of Courtney Upshaw. He’s comfortable standing up or putting his hand in the dirt. He’s already got great size to be as young as he is at 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds.

He’ll go through spring practice and the strength and conditioning program during the Summer, so Anderson has a shot at getting some early playing time during his freshman season in Tuscaloosa.

Chris Black (WR/Jacksonville, FL): Rivals: 4*, Scout: 4*, ESPN: 4*, 247: 4*

Black is the 2nd highest rated wide receiver to sign with the Crimson Tide in 2012. He doesn’t have ideal size at just 5-foot-11 and 170 pounds, but with Alabama’s top two receivers Darius Hanks and Marquis Maze graduating, Black will compete for early playing time.

Enrolling early will obviously help his cause. I don’t think Black is going to be a big time difference making wide receiver, but I could see him making a Darius Hanks-like impact at Alabama.

Amari Cooper is one of many incoming Tide freshmen ready to compete for early playing time.

Amari Cooper (WR/Miami, FL): Rivals: 4*, Scout: 4*, ESPN: 4*, 247: 4*

Rivals ranks Cooper as the top wide receiver in Alabama’s 2012 class. Cooper is a 6-foot-1 175 pound wide receiver from Miami and chose the Tide over offers from Miami, Florida State, and Ohio State. He’s rated as the 6th best wide receiver in the class according to Rivals.

I was extremely impressed with what I saw out of Cooper at the Under Armor All American game, and he showed game changing ability as a receiver and a return man. He scored a long receiving touchdown from Jameis Winston, and had a punt return for a touchdown later in the game.

With Cooper enrolling early, he’s another guy that will seriously push for playing time in 2012.

Dillon Lee (LB/Buford, GA): Rivals: 4*, Scout: 4*, ESPN: 4*, 247: 4*

The 6-foot-4 220 pound linebacker from Georgia is another in the deep class of linebackers reeled in by the Crimson Tide in this recruiting class. Lee needs to put on a little weight, but he plays really hard, and is quick to the football.

Most experts expect Lee to redshirt his first year at Alabama. He needs to bulk up some, and he recently underwent shoulder surgery. Even if he does redshirt in 2012, I expect Lee to make a big impact at Alabama down the road.

Alphonse Taylor (DT/Mobile, AL): Rivals: 3*, Scout: 4*, ESPN: 4*, 247: 4*

Taylor is a massive prospect at 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds. Alphonse Taylor was originally committed to Florida State, but switched his pledge to Alabama in December before enrolling in spring classes.

It’s not yet known whether Taylor will play offensive tackle or nose guard in college, but I do know he was going to Florida State as an offensive tackle. He could play either side of the ball, but he could very well be headed for a redshirt season as well.

He has the size to play right now, but he is obviously a raw prospect at this point.

Travell Dixon (CB/Eastern Arizona CC): Rivals: 4*, Scout: 4*, ESPN: NR, 247: 4*

Travell Dixon was a huge pickup for the Crimson Tide from the JUCO ranks. Alabama lost two of its top three corners in Dre Kirkpatrick and DeQuan Menzie, and Dixon should seriously compete for early playing time next season.

Dixon was one of the top rated players from the junior college ranks, and was a two-year starter and All American. At 6-foot-2 200 pounds, Dixon has the ideal size you would want in a cornerback. Dixon could end up starting alongside Dee Milliner next season.

Deion Belue (CB/NE Mississippi CC): Rivals: 3*, Scout: 3*, ESPN: NR, 247: 4*

Belue originally signed with Alabama in 2010, but couldn’t qualify so he went the community college route, and is now finally in Tuscaloosa. With the roster attrition at corner, Belue, like Dixon, should seriously push for playing time at corner.

Belue could also make an impact for the Crimson Tide in the return game. Belue was rated as the #7 overall JUCO prospect in the country. Saban does not bring in junior college transfers that he doesn’t expect to make an immediate impact.

Dakota Ball (DT/Lindale, GA): Rivals: 3*, Scout: 3*, ESPN: 3*, 247: 3*

Ball is a 6-foot-2 292 pound defensive tackle who committed to Alabama all the way back in October of 2010, and officially signed with Alabama today. Ball plays hard and has a high motor, but he’s not likely to make much of an impact right away.

Ball will have to develop further, and time spent in the Alabama strength and conditioning program will do him a lot of good. Ball is another redshirt candidate, and I’d say it is more than likely he’ll get one.

After a dramatic recruitment, Landon Collins signed with Alabama on Wednesday.

Landon Collins (S/Geismar, LA): Rivals: 5*, Scout; 5*, ESPN: 5*, 247: 5*

Collins recruitment was a roller coaster ride with the backlash from his mother following his initial commitment to the Crimson Tide. Despite her objection to him playing for Alabama, Collins faxed in his letter of intent this afternoon.

Collins is widely regarded as the #1 overall safety in this class, and the top signee for the Crimson Tide. At 6-feet and 210 pounds, Collins is physically ready to play right away for Alabama, but as everyone knows, Nick Saban and Kirby Smart run a very complicated defensive system that will be tough for Collins to pick up when he enrolls at Alabama during the summer.

Collins plans to come in and compete for the star position in Alabama’s secondary next season.

Denzel Devall (Bastrop, LA): Rivals: 4*, Scout: 4*, ESPN: 4*, 247: 4*

Nick Saban plucked Devall out of Louisiana as the four star inside linebacker prospect chose Alabama over LSU in December. Devall is a very versatile prospect, and could seemingly play three different linebacker spots in the Crimson Tide’s 3-4 defensive set.

Devall was also being recruited as a 4-3 defensive end. He’s just another in the long list of strong linebacker commits for Alabama in this class.

Kenyan Drake (RB/Powder Springs, GA): Rivals: 4*, Scout: 4*, ESPN: 4*, 247: 4*

The four star running back out of Georgia committed to Alabama last February, and held strong with his commitment to the Tide despite the addition of T.J. Yeldon to the class. Drake is an extremely versatile prospect, and it is not yet known what his role will be on the next level.

He could play running back, but he could also wind up as a slot receiver for the Crimson Tide. Drake is a great athlete with a good ability to run the ball, but he also catches the ball like a receiver. Comparing him to former Florida receiver Percy Harvin may be a bit much, but he could end up playing that kind of role in the Tide offense.

Kurt Freitag (TE/Buford, GA): Rivals: 3*, Scout: 3*, ESPN: 4*, 247: 3*

The 6-foot-3 245 Freitag committed to Alabama back in December over Florida. He joins high school teammate Dillon Lee in this class.

With Brad Smelley graduating, Freitag should get an opportunity to compete for the open H-Back role in the Alabama offense. He could very well win out and see some early playing time his freshman year, or he could redshirt to spend a year further developing.

Brandon Greene (OT/Ellerwood, GA): Rivals: 4*, Scout: 4*, ESPN: 4*, 247: 4*

ESPN rates Greene as the 6th ranked offensive tackle in this class, and he is an absolute mammoth at 6-foot-6 and close to 300 pounds. Greene committed to Alabama last March, but had a late flirtation with Georgia. He ultimately signed with the Tide.

With four returning starters on the Alabama offensive line, and strong depth all over the offensive line already, Brandon Greene will almost certainly redshirt in 2012. Greene could ultimately be the successor to D.J. Fluker at right tackle.

Adam Griffith (K/Calhoun, GA): Rivals: 3*, Scout: 3*, ESPN: 3*, 247: 3*

Alabama’s kicking troubles on field goals longer than 40 yards may finally be over with the addition of Griffith in this class. Griffith is ranked as the #1 kicker in this recruiting class by Scout and 247sports.

You never know with kickers as Cade Foster came to Tuscaloosa with high expectations, but Griffith has a big leg, and has been said to have made a 69-yard field goal in practice. Griffith will have an opportunity to earn the starting duties for kickoffs and potentially longer field goals that are out of Jeremy Shelley’s range.

Caleb Gulledge (OL/DL/Prattville, AL): Rivals: 3*, Scout: 3*, ESPN: 3*, 247: 3*

While Gulledge is listed as a guard on rivals, Gulledge is expected to at least start his Alabama career on the defensive line. He attended a camp at Alabama following his junior season of high school, and the coaching staff was impressed enough with his ability on defense to offer him.

At 6-foot-4 255 pounds, Gulledge projects as a defensive end on the next level. Look for him to redshirt this season though as he’s given time to acclimate to the system and add some bulk.

Tyler Hayes (LB/Thomasville, AL): Rivals: 4*, Scout: 4*, ESPN: 4*, 247: 4*

At just 215 pounds, Hayes is likely headed for a redshirt this season at Alabama, but he projects very well down the road for Alabama as an outside linebacker. Hayes needs to add some bulk, and a redshirt season would obviously help him do so.

Hayes is another guy who is quick to the ball, and he has a ton of upside. He should make a big impact for Alabama in the future.

Brandon Hill (OT/Collierville, TN): Rivals: 3*, Scout: 3*, ESPN: 3*, 247: 3*

There was some late rumblings that Alabama may not accept Brandon Hill’s letter of intent due to some worries about him qualifying, but the school announced his LOI earlier today. Hill is reportedly on the path to qualifying.

Hill is massive at 6-foot-6 and 352 pounds. Just like Brandon Greene, Hill is a likely redshirt during his first season at Alabama due to the current depth on the Alabama offensive line.

Cyrus Jones (ATH/Baltimore, MD): Rivals: 4*, Scout: 5*, ESPN: 4*, 247: 4*

Jones, one of the top high school athletes in the nation, committed to Alabama at the Under Armor All American game. Jones is an extremely versatile athlete who could play slot receiver or cornerback on the next level.

Jones is likely to get a first look as a slot receiver for Alabama, and could make an immediate impact in the return game. Jones is a dynamic play maker in the open field so he’ll definitely get a look at taking over for Marquis Maze in the return game.

Korren Kirven (DT/Lynchburg, VA): Rivals: 4*, Scout: 4*, ESPN: 4*, 247: 4*

As was reported yesterday, Alabama made a late charge for Korren Kirven, and earned his signature early this morning. Kirven chose Alabama over in-state Virginia Tech.

Kirven has good size already at 6-foot-4 and 272 pounds, and is also versatile enough to play defensive tackle or defensive end in college. Kirven is very quick off the ball, and is very good at rushing the passer. His technique needs work, but defensive line coach Chris Rumph will certainly help with that.

Darren Lake (DT/York, AL): Rivals: 3*, Scout: 3*, ESPN: 3*, 247: 3*

Darren Lake has great size for his position at 6-foot-3 330 pounds, but is another guy that is headed toward a redshirt season at Alabama. Lake is still an extremely raw prospect, and a year spent in the strength and conditioning program will do wonders for him moving forward in Tuscaloosa.

The additions of Kirven and Tomlinson this morning to go along with Alphonse Taylor, Dakota Ball, and Lake give Alabama a deep class at a position of need after Josh Chapman and Nick Gentry graduating.

Alec Morris (QB/Allen, TX): Rivals: 3*, Scout: 3*, ESPN: 3*, 247: 3*

Alec Morris was originally a Wake Forest commitment, but after Jameis Winston committed to Florida State, Alabama offered Morris a scholarship, and he flipped his commitment to the Crimson Tide. Morris’ recruitment is eerily similar to that of Greg McElroy who flipped from Texas Tech to Alabama after the Tide missed out on Tim Tebow.

A lot of people compare Morris to McElroy in terms of his leadership ability, but Morris has a stronger arm. Morris will spend next season holding a clipboard as a redshirt behind A.J. McCarron, Phillip Sims, and Phillip Ely.

Reggie Ragland (LB/Madison, AL): Rivals: 4*, Scout: 5*, ESPN: 4*, 247: 4*

At 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, Ragland has the size to come in and play right away on the college level. Ragland is good enough to come in and make an early impact for the Crimson Tide. With as good as Trey DePriest played in the National Championship game when C.J. Mosley was injured, he obviously has the inside track to start alongside Nico Johnson next season.

But Ragland could come in and make a DePriest like impact next season as a special teams contributor, and situational player at linebacker, although I’m sure he will get a crack at starting during the summer. Ragland could be the eventual successor for Nico Johnson in 2013.

Geno Smith (CB/Atlanta, GA): Rivals: 4*, Scout: 4*, ESPN: 4*, 247: 4*

Geno Smith committed to Alabama in August, and despite some rumblings that Georgia was making a late run for him, remained solid with the Crimson Tide. At 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds, Smith needs to bulk up a bit to play cornerback in the SEC.

ESPN has Smith rated as the #2 cornerback in the country, and while a redshirt year is possible, we could also see Smith come in and earn some early playing time when opposing offenses have four wide receivers on the field.

Dalvin Tomlinson (DT/McDonough, GA): Rivals: 4*, Scout: 4*, ESPN: 3*, 247: 4*

Tomlinson signed with Alabama over Georgia Tech this morning as many came to expect over the last week. Tomlinson is a really good story having overcome so much adversity with losing his mother recently. Tomlinson is defending two state wrestling titles, and has a 3.9 core GPA.

Tomlinson is an extremely hard worker, and could earn some early playing time on the Crimson Tide defensive line.

Eddie Williams could solve Alabama’s size issues at wide receiver in 2012.

Eddie Williams (ATH/Panama City, FL): Rivals: 5*, Scout: 4*, ESPN: 5*, 247: 5*

Rivals rates Eddie Williams as the #1 athlete in this recruiting class. From an athletic standpoint, Williams might be the best signee of the Crimson Tide this recruiting season. He’s versatile enough to play wide receiver or safety in college, but he’s likely to begin his college career at wide receiver.

At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Williams could easily solve the size issues Alabama had at wide receiver a year ago following Julio Jones’ early departure to the NFL. Williams stands a good chance of getting some early playing time at receiver in 2012.