TUSCALOOSA — College football recruiting is not immune to the peculiar era that has been the spring of 2020.
Tennessee (No. 2 in the 247 Sports Composite rankings) and North Carolina (No. 4) are ahead of traditional recruiting powers such as Michigan, Florida, LSU and Notre Dame. Minnesota and Iowa are top 10 teams; Texas and Georgia are not.
Another oddity: the absence of the University of Alabama near the top.
UA’s current recruiting ranking (33rd in the 247 Sports Composite) is primarily a function of its small class to date. UA has six commits in its 2021 class at the moment, while Tennessee’s ranking is boosted by 17 commits since April 10 and Auburn (12th) is boosted by five commits since May 15. Conventional wisdom suggests UA can make up the ground and then some when it fills out its own class — one four-star commitment on Thursday bumped the Crimson Tide up 15 spots — but starting as slow as it has may make that climb more difficult than normal.
If Alabama is to shoot up to its typical recruiting stratosphere, it not only has to fill the class, but fill it with its typical highly rated talent. In the 2015 through 2019 recruiting classes, 104 of the 118 high school prospects Alabama enrolled (88.1 percent) were among the top 20 at their position in the 247 Sports Composite. At some positions, recruiting that highly remains possible; at others, UA’s opportunity is slim to borderline none.
Wide receiver and linebacker are two positions that already have a strong start, and may see more added. Alabama has commitments from four-star wide receivers Jacorey Brooks and Agiye Hall, both top 75 prospects nationally, and recently made the top four schools of another four-star receiver, Brian Thomas Jr. At linebacker, UA has two in-state four-stars aboard: Deontae Lawson of Mobile Christian and Ian Jackson of Prattville, who committed Thursday.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are quarterback and running back. Drake Maye’s decommitment and ensuing switch to North Carolina left Alabama without a quarterback in the class, while 17 of the top 20 at the position are currently committed elsewhere. Thirteen of the top 20 running backs are already committed, none of them to the Crimson Tide, although Alabama will have seven scholarship running backs on its 2020 roster. A top of the line running back may not be for the taking, but UA may not need one.
In between the extremes lies where Alabama has the most room to make serious jumps in the recruiting rankings while filling team needs as they go — the offensive and defensive lines.
Alabama has yet to get an offensive line commit in its 2021 class, but has opportunities to do so with highly rated players. The Brockermeyer twins — Tommy and James of Fort Worth, Texas — both have the Crimson Tide as a finalist and are both among the top 30 offensive linemen in the nation, Tommy No. 1 overall and James as the top center. If unsuccessful with the Brockermeyer twins, Alabama still has opportunities with five-stars Amarius Mims of Georgia and JC Latham out of IMG Academy in Florida, among others.
On the defensive line, Alabama already has a commit from Montgomery’s Anquin Barnes, but will need more than that. Alabama remains a factor on at least eight four- and five-star defensive linemen, including two at Birmingham’s Ramsay High, Jeremiah Williams and Tim Keenan.
With those prospects there for the taking — and entertaining interest from Alabama — the Tide has potential for upward mobility in the recruiting rankings. However, as the slim pickings at other positions suggests, the opportunities are becoming increasingly rare with each passing day: nine four-star recruits have committed since Monday alone.