Alabama closes signing day with multiple hits and misses

Alabama closes signing day with multiple hits and misses

February 8th, 2018 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Alabama landed the nation's top defensive back prospect Wednesday when cornerback Patrick Surtain Jr. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., signed with the Crimson Tide.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Alabama's string of seven consecutive No. 1 recruiting classes came to an end Wednesday, but not without the Crimson Tide making a splash.

Having to replace six defensive backs from their 2017 national championship roster, including five who have invitations to the NFL combine in Indianapolis next month, the Crimson Tide on Wednesday landed the nation's No. 1 cornerback. Patrick Surtain Jr., who favored LSU throughout the recruiting process and made recent visits to Clemson and Miami, picked Alabama based on its trophy case during the Nick Saban era.

"Why Alabama? They win championships," Surtain said Wednesday on ESPNU after making his announcement from American Heritage High in Plantation, Fla. "I want to be a part of that winning culture."

Alabama entered Wednesday having assembled a record 10 consecutive top-five recruiting classes under Saban, including nine that had been ranked No. 1. This year's crop of 19 signees was ranked No. 6 by ESPN and No. 7 by both Rivals.com and 247Sports.com.

"We're really excited about the players we were able to attract here in this recruiting class," Saban said during a news conference. "Overall, I think we solved a lot of needs, and I think we had to recruit by need. We had to have a punter. We had to have some defensive backs, because we've never lost this many players at one position at one time.

"I think we did a good job in that area."

Alabama also added Jaylen Waddle of Bellaire, Texas, who is rated by 247Sports as the nation's No. 5 receiver and No. 39 overall prospect. Waddle joins the Tide a year after they signed Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith and Henry Ruggs III, who each had starring moments during Alabama's recent run to its fifth national title in the last nine years.

Wednesday began with the Tide losing two four-star commitments from the state of Texas to Texas A&M, with Arlington defensive tackle Bobby Brown and Boling defensive end/outside linebacker Vernon Jackson switching and signing with the Aggies. Alabama also lost outside linebacker Quay Walker of Cordele, Ga., who decommitted and signed with Georgia.

Although Alabama landed the nation's top uncommitted player by snagging Surtain, it did lose offensive tackle Nick Petit-Frere of Tampa, Fla., to Ohio State. Florida, Michigan and Notre Dame were also in the running for Petit-Frere.

"When you've had the continued success we've had, you become the target," Saban said, "which I think makes it a little more difficult."

For the first time under Saban, the Tide did not sign a quarterback. Alabama currently has Jalen Hurts, Tagovailoa and Mac Jones on the roster, and Braxton Barker, son of former Alabama quarterback Jay Barker, recently announced that he was walking on.

ESPN analyst Tom Luginbill believes that could be a tricky situation in several months.

"This is all about Jalen Hurts and the anticipation of a scenario that plays out after spring football where they decide to move forward with Tua and Jalen is likely no longer in the program," Luginbill said. "You've got to project that and prepare for that, and they've gone out and recruited and made overtures to players who I don't think Alabama would recruit otherwise. They feel they've got to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.

"Brevin White decided to stick with Princeton, and I think there are some challenges before Alabama right now at the quarterback position. They may not have the hard and fast answers to solve those challenges until they know what Jalen Hurts is going to do after those two compete during the spring."

Saban was asked about the position Wednesday and said, "We'll probably have a quarterback join us in some kind of way."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.