It’s been two years since I covered my first signing day at Alabama. That was way back in the dark ages of 2010. At the end of the day, I put together a quick reference box to run with my story. It spelled out a few predictions for the future. Today, we’ll see how accurate I was (new stuff in italics):
FIVE TO WATCH
DeMarcus Milliner, CB, Stanhope Elmore High in Millbrook: As one of the signee who enrolled in January, Milliner will be one ready to compete for playing time right away. His speed helped make him one of the most sought after defensive backs and he chose to train further under a coach known for turning out top defensive backs, Nick Saban. With three starting jobs open, Milliner could be one of those rare true freshman starters on a defending national championship team.
He’s now known as Dee and Milliner was a starter from Day 1. He led the team with three interceptions a year ago and will be the only starting cornerback who’ll return for 2012.
Phillip Sims, QB, Oscar Smith High in Chesapeake, Va.: Also an early enrollee, Sims won’t have the same pressure to perform. He’s yet another top quarterback prospect joining the crowded group of talented passers in Tuscaloosa. His strong arm can develop while backing up returning starter Greg McElroy while competing with sophomore-to-be AJ McCarron for the No. 2 job.
Well, he competed for the starting job before last season, but McCarron won out. His future remains a mystery with McCarron sitting on two more years of eligibility.
Jarrick Williams, Safety, Bount High in Eight Mile: Alabama needed plenty of top defensive backs and Williams adds depth to the class. He too could compete for playing time this fall, but his recruitment didn’t carry as much weight as Milliner. The two shared the secondary during the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game along with fellow-signee Nick Perry so there should already be a degree of comfort there.
Williams played in four games as a freshman and seven games last fall. He made five tackles in 2011, but hasn’t cracked the starting lineup yet.
Alfy Hill, DE, West Brunswick High in Shallotte, N.C.: There was plenty of attention placed on the departure of all the defensive backs, so it was easy to forget all three defensive linemen were leaving too. So the addition of Alfy Hill at defensive end should help rebuild the depth on the line. Hill brings the speed to rush passers off the edge just how Saban likes it.
Hill appeared destined for big things before a last-minute academic eligibility issue led to a sudden departure before the 2010 season. He transferred to East Carolina and then to a Los Angeles community college.
Brian Vogler, TE, Brookstone School in Columbus, Ga.: As the 2009 season progressed, tight end Colin Peek became more and more important. Now, he’s gone too, but Vogler size and athleticism could challenge Michael Williams for playing time as a pass-catching tight end. He’s a McDonald’s All-American nominated basketball player as well and he told reporters Wednesday that he’s spoken with Anthony Grant about making cameo appearances on the hardwood.
Vogler could be poised for a breakout year with Brad Smelley graduating. Though Michael Williams still has a year to play, Vogler could still challenge for playing time with ideal size and nagging injuries healed.
OTHERS OF NOTE
• Sleeper: Defensive lineman Brandon Ivory wasn’t a five-star name (only three, actually) but he was good enough for Saban to make a late push on a player who was already committed to another school (Memphis). Ivory told reporters he was custom built to replace Terrence Cody as the Tide nose guard. We shall see if they is true soon enough.
Ivory hasn’t seen significant playing time just yet.
• Immediate impact: It’s always a tough pick because so much happens and changes from the fall of a high school season and the summer as a college freshman. Big names easily go bust if they can’t make the adjustment, but DeMarcus Milliner will have a semester’s head-start on the academic side of college and participated in spring practice, so he’s primed for a big fall.
• Fitting gaps: Kickers and punters are taken for granted until they win games or blow them. With two long-time starters graduating (Leigh Tiffin and P.J. Fitzgerald), the Tide signed bulky replacements. Kicker Cade Foster was a middle linebacker at 215 pounds and punter Jay Williams weighs in at 220. Both have power and good chances at competing for starting jobs by fall.
It’s been a mixed bag so far.
• Best surprise: There wasn’t really many either way, this Signing Day. Nobody defected last minute, yet nobody jumped aboard without warning. By most standards, it was an uneventful day that was over by midmorning when the final fax arrived.
Nothing to add here.
• Biggest miss: No, there wasn’t a surprise Wednesday, but the Tide lost five-star defensive back Keenan Allen to Cal earlier in the week. It also whiffed on an attempt to lure Auburn commitment Shon Coleman away from the Tigers. Finally, offensive lineman James Stone reached for the Tennessee hat instead of the Alabama live on ESPNU on Wednesday to end all intrigue for the day.
Allen turned into a quality receiver at Cal. Coleman was diagnosed with cancer not long after signing day and is still recovering two years later. Stone started 8 games as freshman and 9 as a sophomore for the Vols.
• Look ahead: It was not a third-straight No. 1 class for Alabama while it addressed most of the major issues facing a team that lost so many defensive starters but had considerable depth. A few of the bigger names could make spring and summer practices interesting for veterans who were assumed heirs to starting jobs. It’s just January, though. Too much could still happen before September.
The names I failed to mention turned into the two top performers. DeQuan Menzie was a 2-year starter at cornerback coming out of junior college and linebacker C.J. Mosley was a major part of the defense when he was healthy. Opps. Other than that, most of this signing class still has something to prove next fall. Stay tuned.
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