TUSCALOOSA — The early signing period drew Nick Saban’s ire. On top of preparing his Alabama team for a College Football Playoff appearance, the coach had to assemble what he hoped would be the Crimson Tide’s eighth straight No. 1 recruiting class.
“I think the exposure you get from a program standpoint and from a player standpoint obviously probably helps you a little in recruiting,” Saban said of the College Football Playoff. “We didn’t lose any time. What I did think was difficult was with the early signing date, trying to get ready for a game and recruit at the same time, I thought that was pretty difficult.”
Fifteen signees later, and with the “traditional” signing day looming today, that hope is far-fetched. Alabama sits No. 6 in 247Sports’ composite team rankings with eight more spots to fill during Wednesday’s National Signing Day festivities.
Saban said in December that ideally, Alabama would carry four scholarship quarterbacks on its roster. It enters this spring with three — Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones — and does not have one committed in this class.
Since the early signing period concluded, the Crimson Tide centered its focus on three quarterbacks: Montgomery’s four-star dual-threat target James Foster, three-star pocket passer Brock Purdy and four-star Princeton commitment Bevin White.
White and Purdy each eliminated the Tide from contention. Though Foster still holds an Alabama offer, the Tide took Braxton Barker — son of former Tide quarterback Jay Barker — as a preferred walk-on earlier this week, making it less than likely it gets a quarterback in this class.
Alabama remains overrun with running backs. Only Bo Scarbrough departed, leaving two-time 1,000-yard rusher Damien Harris, change-of-pace back Joshua Jacobs and rising sophomores Najee Harris — the team’s leading rusher during the national championship game — and Brian Robinson.
Three-star Jerome Ford, who profiles much like Jacobs, signed with the Tide in December. That should suffice at a loaded position.
The decisions of three wide receiver prospects are dwarfed only by the Tide’s need for defensive backs. Alabama signed just one receiver — Xavier Williams — in the early signing period and must replace three that departed.
The Crimson Tide is more than equipped for next season with sophomores DeVonta Smith, Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy, but building depth is required. Justyn Ross, the No. 1 player in Alabama, will choose between the Tide, Clemson and Auburn around noon. Four-star Jacob Copeland commits around that time, too, with home-state Florida and Tennessee as options.
Ross and Jaylen Waddle are Alabama’s two top targets. Waddle commits at 3:30 p.m., 30 minutes before Saban’s post-signing day news conference.
Alabama has a commitment from Huntsville’s Michael Parker, a three-star who pledged during the early signing period, but did not sign a letter of intent. Three-star Glenn Beal has the Tide in his final three, too, and he’ll announce his commitment at noon.
The Tide does return all of its tight end production from last season, including Miller Forristall, who now has an extra year of eligibility following a medical redshirt.
The Tide addressed its most immediate need in the early signing period, nabbing Emil Ekiyor — the No. 3 center in the class, according to 247Sports’ composite rankings — in the wake of both starter Bradley Bozeman and backup Josh Frazier’s graduation. It also signed four-star guard Tommy Brown.
There are two offensive linemen who could choose Alabama on Wednesday — tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere and Penei Sewell — though the Crimson Tide is not considered a favorite for either player, according to 247Sports’ Crystal Ball predictions.
Four-star defensive tackle Bobby Brown committed to Alabama during the early signing period, but did not sign a letter of intent. The battle has since waged for his signature between the Tide and Texas A&M, one that will be settled when Brown signs at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday.
Four-star defensive end Malik Langham chooses between the Tide, Auburn and Florida at 2:30 p.m., too.
Otherwise, the Crimson Tide are set up well. It signed four-star defensive tackle Christian Barmore and four-star defensive end Jordan Davis during the early signing period, along with four-star defensive end Stephon Wynn — who is one of the team’s four early enrollees.
Two of the four Alabama commitments who did not sign during the early signing period are linebackers — Quay Walker and Vernon Jackson. Speculation has grown that one or both could flip from their commitments and sign elsewhere Wednesday.
Three-star Jaylen Moody is waiting in the wings, should either flip. Moody is an almost 70 percent lean to Alabama, according to 247Sports.
This is the foundation around which this class was built.
Alabama lost its top six defensive backs off last season’s team. After the Tide signed three in the early signing period — Saivion Smith, Jalyn Armour-Davis and Josh Jobe — Saban revealed he’d like to replace all six that he lost.
That ostensibly leaves three of the final eight slots open for defensive backs. Three of Alabama’s targets are Eddie Smith, Patrick Surtain Jr. and Tyson Campbell — all of whom are scheduled to announce their decisions by 10 a.m. Wednesday. Olaijah Griffin, a five-star corner, chooses at noon, too.
Their decisions will dictate the day for the Crimson Tide
Alabama signed Skyler DeLong, the No. 4 punter in the country according to 247Sports’ composite rankings, as JK Scott’s replacement. DeLong is one of the Tide’s four early enrollees.
Temple graduate transfer Austin Jones entered the place-kicking battle, too, alongside Joseph Bulovas. Jones will count as a walk-on, though, and not toward the 2018 scholarship limit.