TUSCALOOSA — For Alabama head coach Nick Saban, quarterback is a need position every year.
Yet, with three scholarship quarterbacks under the age of 20 already on the roster, including two — Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa — as potential starters, it appears Alabama’s coaching staff has struck out everywhere it’s looked to land a quarterback for its 2018 recruiting class.
“We have tried to recruit a quarterback, and we’re going to continue to try to do that,“ Saban said in December's early signing period. “I would always like to have four (scholarship quarterbacks) on the roster.”
After two of the Tide’s targets — four-star California product Brevin White and three-star Arizona product Brock Purdy — have chosen to go other directions, it appears quarterback might just be a luxury position even Alabama can’t fill in this year’s class.
While there has been no clear indication any of the three quarterbacks is a certain transfer threat, the perception is that if the expected quarterback competition between Hurts and Tagovailoa doesn’t go in Hurts’ favor, it could lead to his looking elsewhere.
“Right now, Alabama is in a position where they are forced to anticipate that they may not have the services of Jalen Hurts after spring football depending how that competition goes,” ESPN recruiting expert Tom Luginbill said Monday.
But while landing a quarterback as part this class might not work out, Alabama won’t be without some fireworks today.
With 15 members already signed, the Tide has about eight scholarships available, though that number could expand if players accept blue- or grayshirt opportunities.
“Eight’s a number people are floating around, and obviously it could be eight, but I think there’s a lot of different variables still in play,” 247Sports.com’s BamaOnline recruiting writer Hank South said last week.
Among Alabama’s top targets are four five-star prospects, including top-rated cornerbacks Patrick Surtain Jr. and Tyson Campbell of Plantation, Florida; No. 3 cornerback Olaijah Griffin of California; and No. 1-rated offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere, also of Florida. The Tide is also in the running for several four-star receivers, including Texas product Jaylen Waddle, Florida’s Jacob Copeland and Phenix City’s Justyn Ross, the consensus No. 1 player in Alabama.
“From what they need going forward, they'd love to get an offensive tackle — Nick Petit-Frere would be that guy they'd love to pull out of the Sunshine State,” Luginbill said. “They'd love to get a wide receiver, whether it's Jacob Copeland or Jaylen Waddle. And then they'd love to get a corner. Is it going to be likely to get Patrick Surtain or Tyson Campbell? I don't know.”
Surtain Jr., the nation’s No. 1 cornerback, remains the favorite to sign with Alabama, while Campbell and Petit-Frere could elect to make their mark in the SEC East at Georgia and Florida, respectively.
“But if you get three players and two of them are at premium positions and you're Alabama, I think you would feel very confident coming away from signing day that you accomplished the task,” Luginbill said. “But it's not going to be easy.”
Here’s a look at Alabama’s top remaining targets, broken down by likelihood of signing with the Crimson Tide:
Patrick Surtain Jr., 5 stars, No. 1 CB: By far Alabama’s top target and a Day 1 difference-maker; it helps his father recently interviewed with Saban for the since-filled defensive backs coach position.
Jaylen Waddle, 4 stars, No. 5 WR: A dynamic playmaker who could make a similar impact to the trio of freshmen receivers that factored favorably into the Tide’s offense down the stretch.
Justyn Ross, 4 stars, No. 12 WR: The consensus No. 1 player in the state of Alabama, the Phenix City product is also considering Auburn but appears to be Tuscaloosa-bound.
Malik Langham, 4 stars, No. 14 DE: Another highly-coveted instate product, the Class 5A lineman of the year from Huntsville could help replace some of the Tide’s defensive losses.
Eddie Smith, 3 stars, No. 42 CB: A late riser in the recruiting process, this Louisiana product has drawn rave reviews and is the cousin of Tide sophomore receiver DeVonta Smith.
Glenn Beal, 3 stars, No. 26 TE: Another late addition, Beal’s addition might indicate others ultimately turned the Tide down.
Michael Parker, 3 stars, No. 33 TE: Expected to take a blue-shirt opportunity since he never took an official visit to Alabama, could be only commit to “sign.”
Jaylen Moody, 3 stars, No. 50 LB: A recent offer, the South Carolina product is another potential signee whose addition might be contingent on Alabama losing its two current linebacker commits to other schools.
Nicholas Petit-Frere, 5 stars, No. 1 OT: The nation’s top tackle would be a welcomed addition to any class, but the Florida product might be staying home.
Olaijah Griffin, 5 stars, No. 3 CB: One of two corners from California that would certainly be welcomed but might pursue opportunities elsewhere.
Isaac Taylor-Stuart, 4 stars, No. 4 CB: Could be Alabama’s third corner signee or a backup should Surtain Jr. spurn the Tide.
Quay Walker, 4 stars, No. 2 OLB: The longtime Alabama commit has been flirting with other programs, including homestate Georgia and Tennesse.
JJ Peterson, 4 stars, No. 3 OLB: A longtime Tennessee commit has reportedly drawn heavy interest from the Tide as Walker has looked elsewhere.
Jacob Copeland, 4 stars, No. 12 WR: The third of the trio of receivers Tide coaches have pursued, and Alabama would take all three if it could.
Bobby Brown, 4 stars, No. 17 defensive tackle: A one-time Texas A&M commit who flipped to Alabama late in December but is once again talking with the Aggies.
Vernon Jackson, 4 stars, No. 20 athlete: A linebacker by trade, Jackson is another Texas product and current Tide commit who has flirted with A&M.
Tyson Campbell, 5 stars, No. 2 cornerback
Penei Sewell, 4 stars, No. 2 offensive guard
Tanner McKee, 4 stars, No. 3 pro quarterback
James Foster, 4 stars, No. 12 dual quarterback
Moro Ojomo, 3 stars, No. 27 defensive tackle