In the Great Race of 2015, Nick Saban is lapping the field
JUN 04, 2014 1:00p ET
The two biggest recruiting stories of the past week in college football have originated from the depths of Texas and Pennsylvania.
There was Texas A&M securing the commitment of top 2015 dual-threat quarterback Kyler Murray -- punctuated by Kevin Sumlin’s customary tweet -- and Penn State coach James Franklin irritating Southern coaches because he has the audacity to seek a competitive advantage within the NCAA’s rules.
And yet the story with the greatest future impact might be this: In the great recruiting race of 2015, Nick Saban and Alabama are starting to lap the field.
On Monday, the Crimson Tide received a verbal commitment from T.D. Moton, a four-star defensive tackle from LSU territory – Shreveport, Louisiana. Moton originally committed to Mississippi State before rescinding his pledge in January, and then gained increased interest from the Tigers. But a meeting with Saban in Tuscaloosa sealed his recruitment.
Moton is Alabama’s 18th commitment for 2015, and only Clemson (19) has more in 247Sports’ composite team rankings. The most jarring figure in those rankings, though, is the current distribution of top-end talent.
That list should actually read something more like this: Alabama, [Indian Ocean], [the beginning of those vying for distant second place].
The Crimson Tide currently have only one five-star commit – cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick out of Jersey City, New Jersey – while Texas A&M, LSU and USC have two, but they’re squarely in the mix for seven of the top 10 uncommitted five-star recruits, according to 247Sports’ rankings (which list 23 five-star recruits as currently uncommitted – plenty to go around). Where Alabama elevates itself is in the next tier.
The Tide have 13 four-star commits – three more than next-best Penn State – and the gap in overall class points between them and No. 2 Clemson (56.51) is much greater than the gap between Clemson and No. 8. Florida State (41.92).
A couple of other nuggets about the Crimson Tide class coming together, courtesy of B/R:
Alabama has again assembled a well-rounded crop of talent, featuring 11 prospects who rank among the top six players at their respective positions in 247Sports' composite rankings.
Recruiting success spreads far beyond the Tide's home turf.
Saban landed the top-rated recruits in New Jersey (cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick) and Washington, D.C. (offensive lineman Richie Petitbon), the No. 2 recruit in Missouri (Hale Hentges), No. 3 in Mississippi (linebacker Leo Lewis) and No. 5 in Louisiana (wide receiver Daylon Charlot).
This doesn’t even consider that Ricky Town, one of three five-star quarterbacks in 247Sports’ 2015 composite rankings, was originally committed to the Crimson Tide before backing out in January and choosing USC. That leaves the most obvious hole in Alabama’s 2015 class, as it has zero QB pledges.
That will change, of course. Saban has offers out to six pro-style quarterbacks (all verbally committed elsewhere) and five dual-threat QBs, three of which remain uncommitted. Of those – Torrance Gibson, Travis Waller and Kai Locksley – 'Bama's best shot appears to be Waller, as he seems to be psyched on the Tide. Gibson called Auburn’s offense the “perfect fit,” and 247 doesn’t have Alabama listed among Locksley’s top five choices at the moment.
Assuming Saban gets one of the quarterbacks he wants, plus at least another handful of five- and four-star guys, it seems impossible that the Tide won’t cruise to their fifth consecutive No. 1 recruiting class.
But it doesn’t have to be a complete landslide, as it currently seems. There are some things competitors can do.
Of the three five-star recruits from Florida uncommitted and listed among Alabama’s top targets, the Florida Gators could take a huge bite into the Tide’s momentum by getting defensive end Byron Cowart (86 percent current chance to land him), offensive tackle Martez Ivey (93 percent) and DE CeCe Jefferson (97 percent) to Gainesville. That’d be a huge haul.
Georgia would help everyone by keeping defensive tackle Trent Thompson home (98 percent chance as of now, per 247), and Sumlin could strike again by persuading linebacker Malik Jefferson to remain in Texas and become an Aggie (70 percent chance). Defensive tackle Daron Payne, the last uncommitted five-star among 'Bama's top targets, is from Birmingham and has the Tide listed at 97 percent.
Of course, there are a bevy of others – outside the top targets, 'Bama has 19 uncommitted “high choices” listed on 247Sports, plus a long list of players they’re at least interested in – as Alabama has offers out to more than 100 uncommitted players.
Most of those will go elsewhere, some of the players at the very top of Saban’s wish list will actually not choose the Tide and by the time Signing Day arrives next February, maybe even some who have given a verbal to Alabama will decide their best opportunity is elsewhere, like Town did. I can assure you Saban won’t secure every good player in America. Promise.
But, for now, Alabama is building an impressive avalanche of recruiting momentum and leaving the field behind.
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Teddy Mitrosilis writes and edits college football for FOXSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @TMitrosilis.