June 28, 2006

June heatwave for 'Bama

After a return to national prominence in the 2005 season, Mike Shula and the Crimson Tide coaching staff landed their best recruiting class yet in 2006. Entering the 2007 recruiting season, Shula and company were hoping to keep that momentum rolling and over the last 30 days, they seem to have done just that.

June was a stunningly successful month for Alabama with seven prospects committing to join the Tide for the 2007 season as well as two greyshirt commits who will come in with the 2008 class.

2007 Commits from Florida




Chris Lett


Pensacola, FL

Robert Marve


Tampa, FL

Jermaine McKenzie


Bradenton, FL

Sherod Murdock


Tampa, FL

Jamar Taylor


Lakeland, FL

Rivals.com Recruiting Analyst JC Shurburtt said the Tide's early success should come as no surprise after watching them reel in big time names from around the Southeast over the last few years.

"I don't think it's a secret that this staff recruits well," said Shurburtt. "I really like the fact that they are recruiting more in Florida, especially on the Panhandle and in Tampa. That could turn into a goldmine for the Tide."

Five of the Tide's 10 commits thus far hail from the Sunshine State, a state where the "Big Three" usually reign supreme. This year, however, the Tide has pulled several highly-touted prospects, all of whom Shurburtt believes will go on to be major contributors for the Tide.

"I also think going into Florida and getting Chris Lett, Robert Marve and Jermaine McKenzie early were huge," he said. "All three of those guys are going to end up being players."

The Tide also had success to the North and to the East as well landing rising linebacker prospect Jennings Hester from Georgia and defensive end Alex Watkins from Tennessee.

Shurburtt said Watkins could be one of 'Bama's biggest commits so far, along with in-state stud Rolando McClain, the Tide's most recent commitment.

"I really like Rolando McClain and Alex Watkins. Both are big, rangy athletes with size and speed that can find the ball on defense. They are the type of prospects that have enough athleticism and versatility to be used in a variety of ways and to create a variety of mismatches and cause havoc."

"For example, Watkins can go to the strongside or weakside and is athletic enough on some occasions to stand up. McClain is more of a stand-up guy who will mostly play in space, but has the size to put his hand down. "

So how has this Tide coaching staff managed to take the team from a sanction-crippled mess to a premier recruiting power?

"I think it's been about assistant coaches like Chris Ball, Sparky Woods, Dave Ungerer and others going out and not only identifying talent, but establishing relationships with these kids," Shurburtt said.

"Alabama wasn't just one of the first programs to know about Watkins, to know about Lett, to know about McKenzie, they were one of the first programs to let those guys know that they were wanted. That resonates well with a prospect when they see you went 10-2 last year, there is a renewed interest in the program and that you have limited scholarship numbers. It makes a kid feel wanted."

While the Tide's recent recruiting success doesn't guarantee wins on the field, it does take away many of the disadvantages that plagued the Tide prior to the 2005 season.

"Any time you recruit well, you have a chance because that means you can survive things like injuries. It's all about building quality depth and lining up superior or at least equal talent across from an SEC opponent."

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