Posted by Bryan Fischer
In case you haven't heard there is a, well, epic match up on CBS this week between Alabama and LSU in Tuscaloosa. As part of extensive coverage of both teams on CBSSports.com and CBS Sports Network, the Eye on Recruiting will be breaking down the biggest reason each team is thinking BCS national championship this year: the players they are recruiting.
Today we'll take a look at what Nick Saban is doing on the trail. The Tigers currently have 20 commitments for the class of 2012.
Team Ranking: 4th overall, 2nd in the SEC
Number of recruits: 19
Number of five-stars: One, cornerback Geno Smith.
Best position: Linebacker. Ryan Anderson, Tyler Hayes, Dillon Lee and Reggie Ragland.
Weakest position: Offensive lineman, one commitment.
Top recruit: #19 Geno Smith (left)
Sleeper: Defensive tackle Darren Lake.
Top target: #9 overall recruit Landon Collins.
Ever since Nick Saban signed on in Tuscaloosa, the Crimson Tide have been in the running for the top recruiting class in the country. It's remarkable how consistently good they've recruited, grabbing a mix of five-star talent with solid in-state prospects that turn into high draft picks later. If there's an elite recruit somewhere in the country, chances are they have Alabama somewhere on their shortlist, especially on defense.
This year's class isn't complete by any means but is stacked with athletes that can run and that can hit. Geno Smith is the top ranked player committed to the Tide and should be an excellent fit in Saban's defensive system that has churned out an NFL corner just about every year. Safety Eddie Williams is a big safety who can roam the secondary and provide punishing hits while out-leaping opposing receivers for interceptions. No group is as deep as the linebackers the team is looking to sign in February. Dillon Lee is a big interior 3-4 linebacker who can drop quickly in coverage while Reggie Ragland is another polished linebacker that fits the mold of a Courtney Upshaw or Dont'a Hightower. This class is heavy on defense and, frankly, loaded on that side of the ball.
Offensively, wide outs Chris Black and Amari Cooper are not Julio Jones physically but are super fast and quick - just the type of player you want to get into open space so they can score. There's a few athletes, such as Justin Thomas, who could play multiple positions while Kenyan Drake could be the next in line at the running back position to impress with a great blend of speed and power. They didn't land top quarterback Gunner Kiel the first time but have a solid replacement in Alec Morris, who is a big signal-caller at every bit of 6-foot-3, 240-pounds.
The one glaring need for this class is probably at offensive line. That is normally a position the staff has done a great job with but this year it seems to be lacking, with only Brandon Greene committed at the position. Don't be surprised if the school doesn't sign at least one additional tackle if not more.
Heading into the home stretch of this recruiting cycle, Saban is looking to do what he does best: close. With Pete Carroll and Urban Meyer no longer coaching college football, it's fairly easy to say that he's the best recruiting coach in the country. It remains to be seen how hard they'll go after Kiel now that he's back on the market but there's certainly a chance after the Tide lost another highly ranked quarterback, Jameis Winston, to Florida State. Running back Keith Marshall, Barry Sanders Jr., wide receiver Dwayne Stanford, offensive tackle Avery Young, defensive end Jordan Jenkins, tackle Armond Armstead and cornerback Tracy Howard are some other top targets remaining on the board the program is heavily pursuing. Safety Landon Collins will be in Tuscaloosa this weekend for an official visit and a win could go a long way in him putting on crimson instead of purple and gold.
As big a game as this will be Saturday, it is also one of the biggest recruiting weekends of the season for the Alabama coaches. Nick Saban already has a great group committed in 2012 and certainly will add to it between now and Signing Day.