football Edit

Look back at Alabamas top 10 prospects

Fluker was ranked No. 3 nationally in the class of 2009, behind only Bryce Brown and Rueben Randle. Fluker committed to Alabama more than a year before National Signing Day and despite taking a closer look at LSU, Florida and Texas Tech after his commitment, he stuck with his word and signed with the Crimson Tide.
Arriving at Alabama, Fluker was actually given an opportunity to take over the open offensive line spot left by the departed Andre Smith, but ended up redshirting. In 2010, his first season on the field, Fluker played in nine games, but missed three others due to an injury. Then as a redshirt sophomore, Fluker reached his potential with the Crimson Tide. He started all 13 games at right tackle during Alabama's national championship season and then all 14 the following season as once again the Crimson Tide took home the top prize. After the 2012 season he was named first-team All-American and first-team All-SEC. In the 2013 NFL Draft, Fluker was selected 11th overall by the San Diego Chargers. Fluker has started 31 games at right tackle for the Chargers in his first two seasons, but a move to right guard may happen this fall after a somewhat disappointing 2014 season.
Farrell's Take: Two for two so far with two offensive linemen grading out at five-stars, going off to Alabama and earning a first-round NFL grade as well. As easily as Smith rolls off my tongue when it comes to the most physical lineman, Fluker is easily in the top five of the most physically imposing linemen. He was simply a monster and it's hard to describe exactly how big he was, which made his somewhat light feet so amazing. The old joke was that when you shook Fluker's hand, he reached your elbow with those massive fingers. He was 6-foot-7 and 350 pounds with no bad weight back in 2009, when massive players weren't as normal as they are now. This kid was special.
Marlon Davidson
Greenville, Ala. (No. 3 in the Class of 2016)
Davidson is ranked No. 3 nationally in the class of 2016, behind only Dexter Lawrence and Shea Patterson. While Davidson holds offers from many of the top programs in the country, it is hard to envision him leaving the state of Alabama. Both Auburn and Alabama are considered the favorites, with Georgia, LSU and Florida State desperately attempting to make up ground. The Tigers are currently the team to beat though, with his older brother, Kenneth Carter, having played for Auburn and currently working for the football program. The Crimson Tide coaching staff has done a fantastic job building a strong relationship with Davidson and his family, but it will still be difficult to lure him away from Auburn.
Farrell's Take: Davidson is a great example of how far high school prospects have come when it comes to pure size and athleticism. Six or seven years ago we'd be talking about a defensive tackle here, but at 6-foot-3 and 280 pounds, Davidson is so athletic that he's not only a rush edge, but he can be an outside edge 7-tech guy as well as a strongside 5-tech or even an inside 3-tech. His gap versatility is off the charts and he's a definite candidate for No. 1 overall as this battle continues in 2016. He reminds me a bit of Marvin Austin from the 2007 class but more versatile and athletic, and certainly not pigeon-holed as a DT.
Julio Jones
Foley, Ala. (No. 4 in the Class of 2008)
Jones was ranked No. 4 nationally in the class of 2008, behind only Terrelle Pryor, DaQuan Bowers and Mike Adams. Jones was a priority for Nick Saban and Alabama since they offered him more than a year prior to signing day. Despite their efforts, Jones didn't rush his recruiting process and waiting until National Signing Day to make his decision public. The Crimson Tide were seen as the favorite throughout his process, but he also took official visits to Florida, Florida State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech, which created some doubt in people. However, in front of an abundance of television cameras, Jones did give his pledge to Alabama.
The wait was definitely worth it for the Crimson Tide, as Jones started all 40 games in his collegiate career and totaled 179 receptions, 2,653 yards and 15 touchdowns. He left his best performance for his junior and final season at Alabama when he grabbed 78 receptions for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns. Not surprisingly, the NFL loved Jones, and he was selected sixth overall by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2011 draft. Aside from dealing with a foot injury during the 2013 season that cut him down to five games, Jones has continued his dominance in the NFL. He is coming off of his best statistical season in 2014 when he finished with 104 receptions for 1,593 yards and six touchdowns.
Farrell's Take: Yet another first-rounder and obviously the most recognized and famous name on this list, his accomplishments speak for themselves. However, that doesn't mean there wasn't a heated, very heated, debate between Jones and A.J. Green that year for No. 1 wide receiver honors. The class of 2008 featured the best wide receiver class in history, at least at the top, but Jones was simply too big and strong to keep from the top spot. Five stars, great college career and first-round NFL pick - another huge hit.
Marlon Humphrey
Hoover, Ala. (No. 9 in the Class of 2014)
Humphrey was ranked No. 9 nationally, No. 1 in Alabama and No. 2 at cornerback, behind only Jabrill Peppers, in the class of 2014. For a good portion of his recruiting process, this looked to be one of those rare occasions that a top Alabama recruit would actually leave the state. Florida State was considered the leader for several months, but Alabama's perseverance paid off at the end. Also helping the Tide's cause was the departure of Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt to Georgia, plus the fact that his father, Bobby Humphrey, was a star player for the Crimson Tide back in the 1980s.
Humphrey redshirted during his freshman year at Alabama and then had a solid spring earlier this year. However, due to Alabama's depth in the secondary he will likely still have to wait another year before he makes a substantial contribution on the field.
Farrell's Take: The jury is still out on Humphrey but he obviously has the talent to be yet another first-rounder for the Crimson Tide. The problem? Alabama has so much talent it takes time for some players to get their chance. In high school he was a long, angular corner with good instincts and a cocky attitude on and off the field, something that usually bodes well at a position where you can be exposed. I have little doubt he'll be successful when he gets his chance, but will he live up to what others on this list already have? Not sure.
Jameis Winston
Hueytown, Ala. (No. 10 in the Class of 2012)
Winston was ranked No. 10 nationally, No. 1 in Alabama and the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the class of 2012. Winston committed to Florida State in August, but also planned to take additional official visits. He took these visits to Alabama, LSU and Stanford, before taking his final one to Florida State. This final visit was enough to answer any lingering doubts that he may have had, and he signed with the Seminoles on National Signing Day.
After redshirting during his freshman season, Winston turned in a remarkable 2013 season that helped lead Florida State to the national championship. Winston passed for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns, which earned him an abundance of awards, most notably the Heisman Trophy. While Winston's sophomore season was also impressive, it did not compare to 2013. After throwing for 3,907 yards and 25 touchdowns, Winston decided to forego his final two seasons at Florida State and declare for the NFL Draft. Despite plenty of off-the-field concerns, Winston was still selected with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2015 draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He will be the starting quarterback in Tampa from day one so now it will be interesting to see how his game progresses at the professional level.
Farrell's Take: The only No. 1 overall pick on this list, Winston's career and success on the field and failures off it have been well documented. All I know is that out of high school he had that "it" factor and it was clear he had a chance to be a superstar. The 2012 class was loaded at the top with six of the top 10 landing in the first or high second round and a couple of players heading into the draft this year, but Winston proved he should have been No. 1 overall. Winston wasn't the guy you see now in high school; back then he was a skinny kid with much more dual-threat ability and athleticism. However, his vision and knowledge of where everyone is on the field was evident back then and has improved so much, his average mobility now wasn't an issue in college. We'll see about the NFL.
Dre Kirkpatrick
Gadsen (Ala.) Gadsen City (No. 11 in the Class of 2009)
Kirkpatrick was ranked No. 11 nationally, as the No. 2 recruit in Alabama behind only Fluker and as the No. 1 cornerback. As with most top-level Alabama recruits, Kirkpatrick was always projected to stay in-state. The Crimson Tide jumped to the forefront and stayed there throughout his recruiting process, even though he waited until National Signing Day to make it official. He did take official visits to both Florida and Texas in January, but when push came to shove, he decided to stay closer to home.
After seeing minimal playing time as a true freshman, Kirkpatrick became a starter during the 2010 season for the Crimson Tide. During his junior season, which would be his last in Tuscaloosa, Kirkpatrick became one of the key members of the Alabama defense. He earned numerous All-American and SEC honors for his play during 2011, which led to his decision to forego his senior season and enter the NFL Draft. Kirkpatrick was selected with the 17th overall pick of the 2012 draft by the Cincinnati Bengals. His rookie season was basically lost due to injuries, but he rebounded nicely and saw valuable playing time in 14 games during the 2013 season. Without becoming a full-time starter for the Bengals, he has totaled 57 tackles and six interceptions during his 35 games in the league to this point. Preparing to begin this fourth season in Cincinnati, Kirkpatrick finally seems poised to claim a starting cornerback spot, as long as he can hold off Darqueze Dennard.
Farrell's Take: This is turning out to be the most impressive list of any state so far when it comes to success and the five stars panning out. Kirkpatrick was a 6-foot-2 cornerback out of high school, that rare tall athlete who could hang with receivers on an island so he was expected to be special. Even if he ended up at safety, we still felt he was going to be a great one and deserve that top 15 status. Yet another Alabama commitment on this list, but Auburn fans and others can't really complain because all of them panned out to be first-rounders. However, it is odd that FSU is represented and the rest are 'Bama, although the Tigers lead for Davidson.
T.J. Yeldon
Daphne, Ala. (No. 12 in the Class of 2012)
Yeldon was ranked No. 12 nationally, No. 2 in Alabama behind Winston and No. 2 at running back behind Johnathan Gray. Once again, Yeldon was another top-level recruit that was very unlikely to leave Alabama. He originally committed to Auburn in June, but after taking an official visit there in late November, he surprised many by scheduling an official visit to Alabama the following weekend. After that point, rumors began intensifying that a flip would occur, which finally happened a week before Christmas.
Splitting time with Eddie Lacy as a true freshman, Yeldon still finished with 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns. Taking over the starting job in 2013, Yeldon rushed for 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns, before splitting time in 2014 with Derrick Henry and finishing with 979 yards and 11 touchdowns. Finishing his three-year Alabama career with 3,322 yards and 37 touchdowns, Yeldon decided to forego his senior season and declare for the NFL Draft. Selected with the 36th overall pick by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 2015 draft, Yeldon will be given every opportunity to be the starting back in an offense that sorely needs a ground threat.
Farrell's Take: The first draft-eligible player on this list to land outside the first round, Yeldon was still drafted very high, just four spots into round No. 2 and there was some talk of him sneaking into the first round. He had a few injury issues that I think affected his draft status and splitting time with some great running backs led to diminished stats, but this kid was a tall, upright runner with amazing athleticism as evidenced by his famous leap over a defender in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Yeldon was so similar to Todd Gurley that same year as a runner and in style but didn't have the home run speed and it cost him that first-round spot Gurley landed. His de-commitment from Auburn to Alabama was an epic moment in recruiting and led to some of the angriest battles between fans on our site I can remember.
Racean Thomas
Oxford, Ala. (No. 12 in the Class of 2014)
Thomas was ranked No. 12 nationally, No. 2 in Alabama behind only Humphrey and No. 2 at running back behind only Leonard Fournette. While Thomas took looks at USC, Oregon, Florida and LSU, once again this came down to Auburn and Alabama. With coach Gus Malzahn and his staff making Thomas a priority from the start and developing a close relationship with him and his family, he committed to Auburn during a visit to campus in early August. He never wavered over the next six months leading up to National Signing Day and signed with the Tigers.
Thomas saw playing time as a true freshman and made a positive impact, however he will most be remembered for a costly fumble during the Iron Bowl. Now he is eager to move past that fumble and once again prove himself on the field. Thomas will be battling for playing time during pre-season camp with Peyton Barber, Jovon Robinson and incoming freshman Kerryon Johnson, so it's still too early to tell how much of an impact he will have this fall.
Farrell's Take: Roc is the only Auburn player on this list and he has some fierce competition at running back so he will need to step up his game to be a success like the rest. However, very good competition brings out the best in the best and it will be interesting to see if Thomas steps it up. Auburn has been known to make one guy a workhorse, at least in recent years, so for Thomas to be that guy he will have to prove it against top talent. Based on his skill set out of high school, he certainly has the ability. He's a powerful runner with good bounce outside and he caught the ball well out of high school in camp settings so he's a dangerous talent. The jury is still out.
Reuben Foster
Auburn, Ala. (No. 13 in the Class of 2013)
Foster was ranked No. 13 nationally, No. 1 in Alabama and No. 1 at inside linebacker. Foster's recruiting process was a chaotic one from start to finish. He gave his commitment to Alabama prior to his junior season while he was playing high school ball in Georgia. Despite taking several visits to Georgia and Auburn after his commitment, he still seemed relatively solid. However, after moving to Auburn, Ala., before his senior season, everything quickly changed. After several more visits to Auburn, Foster flipped to the Tigers in July, but that only lasted until December when coach Gene Chizik and his staff were all let go. Official visits followed to Auburn, Alabama, Washington, Georgia and San Diego State, an odd five for any top-level recruit. With Auburn back in the lead in January, Foster again surprised everyone by taking an unofficial visit to Alabama right after his visit to the Tigers. Two days prior to National Signing Day, Foster again committed to the Crimson Tide, but this time stuck with his word.
With the Crimson Tide, Foster has seen sporadic playing time during his first two seasons, totaling 34 tackles and three tackles for a loss, while becoming a key contributor on special teams. Now more will be expected out of Foster as he heads toward his junior season. He is in position to receive quality playing time next to Reggie Ragland this fall, so now it will be up to him to produce.
Farrell's Take: Another Auburn commitment who flipped to Alabama, Foster could be remembered more for his recruiting process than for his talent if he doesn't step it up. Rather than be a Willie Williams and become known for hot tubs and fire extinguisher fights on recruiting trips (for Foster it was the infamous Auburn tattoo and living with then Auburn coach Trooper Taylor that made his recruitment historic) he has the size and ability to be an SEC star. The only problem? Lack of mobility and burst from a knee injury that seemed to change him as a player during his senior season. With natural instincts and a physical nature, Foster looked like a typical SEC inside linebacker star out of high school and still has time to become that guy, but the time is now.
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Mike Farrell
National Recruiting Director
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