Weíve reached the dead period in the college football season. Spring practice ended a couple of weeks ago, and fall practice is still several months away. However, this is the South, and as you all know, football season never really ends around here, so I thought it might be fun to look back at the previous 2 signing classes signed by Nick Saban. Specifically, if you recall, I ranked my Top Ten signees out of each class, so letís take a look back and see how these guys are doing, and also how well I did in ranking my Top Ten.
10. Doníta Hightower (DE/LB) Ė First, yes, I know I misspelled his name. Itís Dontía, not Doníta, so that was a mistake. However, ranking him in my Top Ten was absolutely not a mistake. Dontía has started from Day One, and has been an impact player ever since. Unfortunately for both him and us, he went out with a devastating knee injury four games into the 2009 season, but all indications are that he is going to be 100% by the fall. The tragedy for me is that weíll never again get to see him and McClain prowling the middle of the field together again, but it sure was a sight to see while we had it! Iíve seen Dontía projected as high as the Number 5 pick in next yearís NFL draft if he chooses to come out early. Suffice it to say I nailed this pick; Hightower has met and exceeded every expectation.
9. Devonta Bolton (LB) Ė Unfortunately, Devonta never made it to the Capstone. He had grade issues that forced him to go the JUCO route, and to be honest, I donít know exactly why he never made it back. Itís too bad; heís a superlative athlete, and I think he would have been an outstanding outside linebacker or wide receiver.
8. Marcel Dareus (DT) Ė If you recall in my initial rankings, I said that Dareus would have been much higher on my list if I thought he would qualify. Well, he did qualify, and the rest is history. Marcel exploded on the scene in last yearís national championship game, making 3 huge plays that directly affected the outcome of the game (as an aside, everyone can name 2 of those plays, but can you name the third?). Marcel will be a force this year, and if he stays healthy, I think heíll be the most important person on the field for us, and I also predict heíll be a first string All American. Another pat on the back to me for putting him on my list!
7. Alonzo Lawrence (CB) Ė OK, I blew this one. Alonzo has a lot of talent, but he never really got his head right. He never played a down for Alabama, and has since transferred to Southern Miss.
6. Barrett Jones (OL) Ė Starting as a redshirt freshman for the national championship team, blocking for the Heisman trophy winner? Not too shabby! I expect Barrett to continue to develop and become a stalwart on the offensive line.
5. Tyler Love (OL) Ė Even though itís still early, Tyler hasnít developed like I expected. I really expected him to take over the LT job once Andre Smith left, or if not that, then the RT job once Drew Davis left. However, that hasnít happened yet. Donít get me wrong, heís still in them mix, and he still has 3 years left, and I still expect to see him crack the starting lineup before he leaves.
4. Mark Barron (Ath) Ė This is going to sound crazy to all of you, but Iíve been a little bit disappointed in Markís play. Let me explain. I ranked him Number 4, but deep down, I thought he might be the best in the class. As a matter of fact, I kind of thought that he would be a McClain-like force out of the safety position immediately. Of course, he was a third-string All-American as a true sophomore, his first year as a starting safety, so if you think Iím nuts, I wouldnít argue with you. I just think this guy has all-time, hall of fame talent, and I think he has a LOT more in him than what weíve seen.
3. Jerrell Harris (LB) Ė Itís now or never for Jerrell. He had a hard time learning the defense as a freshman, and he got into NCAA trouble effectively costing him his sophomore season. However, all indications are that itís finally starting to click for Jerrell, and if thatís the case, he might still turn into the force that I expected him to be when he signed with us out of Gadsden. Keep a close eye on this guy Ė heís a pivotal player, and his play could be the difference in a couple of games this year.
2. Burton ďBJĒ Scott (Ath) Ė BJ didnít do too much as a WR in his freshman year, and to be honest, Iím not sure why. He was moved to cornerback last off-season, and redshirted last year. However, this year it looks like BJ will be a starting CB. He has all the talent in the world, and if he can translate that superior athleticism into Saban demanding schemes, he can have a stellar career. Nowís the time, BJ!
1. Julio Jones (WR) Ė Julio changed the face of our offense the second he stepped onto the field against Clemson in 2008. Even though he went through a little bit of a sophomore slump last year, the importance of Julio to our offense cannot be overstated. Defenses are terrified of Julio, and their focus on him helps open up every aspect of our offense. And the fact that he is one of the most tenacious blocking WRs Iíve ever seen only amplifies his importance to the team. There is a big difference between a 6-yard run and a 20-yard run, and Julio often makes that difference. Expect a breakout season from Julio this year, and then wish him well as he moves onto the NFL!
So overall, I think I did pretty well. The obvious miss was that I didnít list Mark Ingram in my Top Ten. Sorry Mark! However, I think we can all agree on how important this class has been and will continue to be in the history of Alabama football. It was ranked as the nationís Number One recruiting class, and itís hard to argue after seeing them on the field. Did I mention we won the national championship? J
Thatís it for now. Iíll review the 2009 class soon, but since most of them redshirted them, Iíll mostly have to provide updates on their progress and how theyíre supposedly looking. Until then, feel free to send me any questions or comments.