What Alabama football should expect from the highest-rated class in rankings era history

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

What was already the best recruiting class in the nation became the best recruiting class in the 21-year history of 247Sports’ recruiting rankings, when Alabama football added a commitment from five-star running back Camar Wheaton to its 25 signees in the December period.

Wheaton signed on Wednesday and was later joined by four-star safety Terrion Arnold, who picked UA over Florida and Georgia. The Crimson Tide is bringing in seven five-stars, 16 four-stars and nine of the top 46 prospects in the nation, but it is also acing a test not considered by the recruiting rankings: filling team needs.

FOR SUBSCRIBERS: Alabama signs advanced runner in Camar Wheaton

Alabama lost three senior starters on its offensive line and could lose two more after 2021 in Chris Owens and Evan Neal as a potential early entrant to the NFL Draft. To compensate, Alabama secured the nation’s top two tackles (JC Latham and Tommy Brockermeyer), the top center (James Brockermeyer) and the No. 2 guard (Terrence Ferguson), all of them signing in December.

UA has also lost wide receivers early to the NFL Draft in four of the last five seasons, giving it a constant need for reinforcements, which it got with four of the top 10 receivers in the class: Jacorey Brooks, Agiye Hall, JoJo Earle and Christian Leary.

In spring practice, without adjusting for COVID-related eligibility relief, UA will have two seniors and two juniors in its inside linebacker group. Deontae Lawson and Kendrick Blackshire, two of the top 11 inside linebackers in the class, provide attractive replacement options if the pair of top 10 inside linebackers from last year’s class (Demouy Kennedy and Jackson Bratton) don’t fit the task.

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Similarly, UA will have Jordan Battle, Daniel Wright and DeMarcco Hellams as draft-eligible safeties after the 2021 season, then Malachi Moore and Brian Branch after the 2022 season. Should the draft force a high rate of attrition at the position, UA has reinforcements in Arnold and December signee Kaine Williams, the Nos. 3 and 11 safeties in the class, respectively.

In some cases, the signings were dabbling in excess at the given position group. The addition of Wheaton will give UA the top running back in the 2019 class, two of the top backs in the 2020 class and the top running back in the 2021 class. If Brian Robinson Jr. returns for 2021 and Keilan Robinson opts back into the team, that would add a player with 15 rushing touchdowns and a four-star prospect from 2019 to the loaded position group.

All told, of the 26 high school prospects UA signed, seven of them were either the No. 1 or No. 2 prospect in their state, including in that list the top prospects in Florida, Texas, Michigan and Alabama.

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson