Top Tide Targets: Defense

Top Tide Targets: Defense

Alabama is at 20 commitments in the class of 2015, but plenty is left to be said for how the signing class will end up. Defensively, Nick Saban’s staff is still looking to fill some priorities at multiple positions before season’s end. BamaMag takes a closer look at each.

Perhaps not as a surprise, Alabama has double-digit defensive commitments in the fold by August, though it won’t wrap up the unit any time soon.

The deepest position is the secondary, as a half-dozen commitments fit the “Saban mold” of standing about 6-foot (or more) and weighing 180-plus pounds. All six are currently four-stars on Scout.com, led by fringe five-star Deionte Thompson. Shawn Burgess-Becker, also a safety projection, is also a Scout 100 prospect as is cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick of New Jersey. Ronnie Harrison and Montrell Custis round out the projected safety group and former Georgia commitment Rico McGraw rounds out the cornerback bunch.

The linebacker group is a light one to this point, based on Scout's position projections, but that can and will likely change soon. After Leo Lewis decommitted last month, in-state star Keaton Anderson is the lone holdover at the second-level. As mentioned, supreme targets are making decisions very soon.

Up front, ‘Bama is deep at defensive end, with four-star Mekhi Brown and in-state three-stars Christian Bell and Anfernee Jennings in the fold. T.D. Moton, one of two Louisiana pledges currently on board for the Crimson Tide, is the lone defensive tackle at this point. Like linebacker, expect that to change by season’s end.

Clear Priorities 

DT Daron Payne

Even before the departure of Jonathan Ledbetter (Georgia) from the commitment list, this feature wouldn’t have begun anywhere else. The in-state standout, and top prospect in Alabama, has been the interior defensive line focus of Saban’s staff for well over a calendar year. It remains in good position, and likely pole position for his commitment at that.

DE CeCe Jefferson

Jefferson has traveled to Tuscaloosa a few times since his junior season ended and he often has good things to say about the way Nick Saban and company recruit him. Still, as much as Alabama would like to pair him with a solid defensive end group in the class, getting him out of state may be an uphill challenge all the way through the process. Jefferson isn’t in a rush to pull the trigger and UA is going to host him for an official visit this fall, so the door remains open.

CB Kendall Sheffield

Another five-star from out of state that will take a visit is Sheffield, the top cornerback in America on Scout. He’s working with a top 12 at the moment, but unofficially visited Alabama in the summer and spent considerable time with five-star UA signee and emerging freshman Tony Brown while in town. The two are often in contact and Sheffield admits that Brown has set the precedent for track stars from Texas playing cornerback at the next level. Saban has reiterated to Sheffield that he can do the same, should he select Alabama.

OLB Ricky DeBerry

Despite transferring high schools last week, the Virginian has the same top eight, with Alabama in the mix, and he’ll take his official visit to the Capstone on September 20 for the Florida game. In-state Virginia and Virginia Tech have been thought of as leaders for his commitment for some time, but Penn State, Texas A&M and the Tide have each made a splash in the process. DeBerry won’t decide anytime soon.

LB Joshua McMillon

Making his commitment public on Friday, Alabama feels good about its position for one of Tennessee’s best. BamaMag learned earlier this week that he’ll be selecting between Alabama and just Michigan, despite some considering Ole Miss and Auburn as dark horses -- odds that will favor UA. Securing McMillon’s commitment could be big on many levels for the class, considering his ability to play multiple linebacker spots as well as possibly defensive end down the road.

Daron Payne at The Opening:

Options to Eye 

DE Kyle Phillips

Working with a top five, another Volunteer State standout could be a big pickup for Alabama. Unlike McMillan, however, Phillips is not leaning towards making an early commitment, electing to take visits and see how the season plays out instead. The way programs like Tennessee, Ole Miss and Alabama recruit him could prove to be the late difference for the pass rusher.

LB Darrell Williams

An Auburn commitment, Williams has admitted to appreciating Alabama’s consistent recruiting approach despite his pledge. UA has attempted to get his mother on campus and will likely continue to do so, but multiple UA commitments feel as if the state’s top linebacker is ‘Bama-bound anyway. Time will tell.

LB Leo Lewis

The one-time Tide commitment has his mind focused on in-state Ole Miss and Mississippi State now-a-days, though Alabama, LSU and others will continue to jockey for visits and position. The hulking middle linebacker is not expected to rush to a second commitment, though the Egg Bowl rivals will seemingly be tough to beat in the end anyway.

DE Tyrone Wheatley Jr.

Arguably the quietest recruit in the 2015 class, this NFL legacy gives little away even when he does speak. He’s unsure of official visits and a commitment timeline, but he does have a working top five of Michigan, Alabama, Miami, USC and UCLA. The Wolverines are the media favorite because of his father’s time in Ann Arbor, but he’s never declared a top school.

DL Fletcher Adams

Another versatile defensive line prospect, Adams could be the latest Mississippian to leave the Magnolia State for other SEC programs, but will he? Alabama has made as good a case as any other out-of-state program, but the potential tackle or end at the next level continues to keep things closer to the vest.

LB Adonis Thomas

Yes, he committed to Florida to kickoff the month, but it was a tough decision between the Gators and Tide. The fact that it was even a close race speaks to Alabama’s closing power, getting Thomas and his mother on campus just before the decision. It wouldn’t surprise anyone if he took multiple official visits anyway, to which Alabama would surely be on the list.

Wildcards 

LB Malik Jefferson

Alabama is much more likely to snag his teammate DeAndre McNeal for 2015, but it won’t stop its pursuit of the nation’s top second-level defender. Jefferson could surprise and take an official visit to Tuscaloosa, but his chances to ink Crimson would still be low after that point, based on what BamaMag has learned in recent months.

DE Byron Cowart

Another five-star Floridian expected to stay in-state? Yes, as the Noles and Gators will battle it out for one of the most likeable kids in the country seemingly sooner rather than later. Cowart last told BamaMag that Alabama was running third on his list, but seeing him end up anywhere outside of the Sunshine State, including at one-time leader Oregon, would still be a surprise.

DL/LB Rasheem Green and John Houston

The Gardena (Calif.) Serra teammates are linked together here because if either is set to take an official visit to Alabama, which has been discussed, the other would accompany him for the weekend. However, the Pac-12 seems to be the sure bet destination for each in the end, at least at this point.

CB Tarvarus McFadden

Another top Floridian that isn’t likely to leave is McFadden, who has turned plenty of heads with his length at cornerback and ball skills this summer. Florida State feels it has the inside track, and rightfully so.

DE Kengera Daniel

Once a trendy pick to end up at Alabama, this North Carolinian has wavered on his fall plans. While he maintains that he wants to make am in-season decision, his official visit process seems a bit shook up. If Alabama presses, it could get him on campus and push enough to surprise and end up with his pledge. Daniel is the true wildcard on this list.

McFadden at The Opening:


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