Can Alabama add to the No. 1 recruiting class? James Smith leads the most goals remaining

With Nick Saban turning 71 next week, his 2023 recruiting class is at the top it’s been for nearly an entire season. That wasn’t the case this spring, when his dustup over the NIL spilled over into a public feud with Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, but things changed quickly.

With the initial signing period on Dec. 21, Alabama has 23 verbal commitments. The class consists of five five-star players, 14 four-stars and four three-stars in the 247Sports Composite. The Crimson Tide aren’t done either. As always in recruiting, things are fluid, but here are a few targets to keep an eye on as the signing period approaches.

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James Smith, DL

  • 6-foot-3, 310 pounds
  • Five star
  • Overall rank: 16, position: 2
  • Carver High School (Montgomery, Ala.)

It’s a great year for in-state talent with 22 four- or five-star prospects. This home state group is led by Smith, who holds state MVP honors.

Alabama always wanted Smith, even as it pursued five-star defensive end Peter Woods from Thompson High School. When Woods shockingly chose Clemson, pressure mounted on defensive line coach Freddie Roach to cut Smith.

The current class has commitments from three defensive linemen, including Jordan Renaud, Hunter Osborn and Edric Hill. Defensive line is always a position of need, and many players at the position are being considered as Alabama looks to close out the class.

Qua Russaw, Edge

  • 6-foot-2, 230 pounds
  • Five star
  • Overall rank: 30, position: 5
  • Carver (Montgomery, Ala.)

How often does the same high school team have multiple five-star prospects? Thompson High School also recently accomplished this, but it’s still particularly notable in the state of Alabama.

Russaw and Smith have been linked as a package, meaning that where one goes, the other is sure to go as well. We’ll see if that’s the case. Alabama has long favored both, and no school has been as effective at showcasing the cornerback position in the recent past as the Crimson Tide with players like Will Anderson Jr. and Dallas Turner.

Should Alabama land both Smith and Russaw, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which they don’t end up with the No. 1 class, barring some kind of turnaround.

Rueben Bain, DL

  • 6-foot-2, 250 pounds
  • Four star
  • Overall rank: 90, position: 10
  • Miami Central (Fla.)

The top 100 prospect from Miami has competition in the Yellowhammer State with Alabama and Auburn for his services. Miami, Oklahoma and Florida State are also there.

He had an impressive high school career at Miami High where he compiled 41 sacks per MaxPreps. Bain, a relatively undersized defensive lineman, makes his mark with speed and high motor.

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Jordan Hall, DL

  • 6-foot-4, 300 pounds
  • Four star
  • Overall rank: 119, position: 18
  • Westside (Jacksonville, Florida)

Another line of defense. Get a picture?

Hall looks the part of a Power 5 football player. He has tremendous size and carries well. He’s doing something right because all the big boys are after him, including Alabama, Ohio State, Georgia and Florida schools.

He has long arms with a measured wingspan of 84 inches and a quick first step. Did I mention he already looks the part? He’s just shy of 6-foot-5.

Georgia has a lot of strength in his recruiting — even recently he wore Georgia gloves in the game. But it’s never wise to count out Saban and Alabama.

Arion Carter, LB

  • 6-foot-1, 210 pounds
  • Four star
  • Overall rank: 316, position: 24
  • Smyrna (Tenn.)

He’s probably the hottest name on the Crimson Tide’s recruiting board in recent memory. His recruitment has taken off and it seems only a matter of time before he decommits from Memphis, where he committed in July.

His recruitment entered orbit with offers from Alabama, Ohio State and Michigan, among others. He recently canceled a trip to Tennessee from visiting Alabama. The Crimson Tide seems to have all the momentum at this point, but you can’t discount Ohio State when it gets involved with a player. But Alabama is in a good position.

Carter is a speedy player with impressive senior film, which is why his offer list has exploded over the past six weeks.

Multiple classes of 2023 notes

• One of Alabama’s big targets for this recruiting cycle came Thursday when Cormani McClain decided on Miami over Florida and Alabama. The Crimson Tide are in a good position defensively with three five-star commits in Caleb Downs, Jahlil Hurley and Tony Mitchell. Two of those are safeties, so if Alabama wants another corner in the class, one to keep an eye on is Desmond Ricks, who recently reclassified to 2023. The five stars from IMG Academy have interest from all over.

• Another player to watch is Keon Keeley. After decommitting from Notre Dame, Alabama was the favorite to land him. Things have gone quiet on that front, and it’s hard to see where the Crimson Tide currently stand behind his talent. He is the seventh player overall. He’s also an edge rusher, which one would think would be good for Alabama given the recent history at the position. But Ohio State is going after him big time. It’s hard to say where his recruitment stands at this point.

Alabama 2023 verbal commitments

Player Pos stars Rank School

Caleb Downs

WITH

5

10

Mill Creek (GA)

Jahlil Hurley

CB

5

27

Florence (AL)

Judge Haynes

RB

5

31

Buford (GA)

Richard Young

RB

5

32

Lehigh Senior (FL)

Tony Mitchell

WITH

5

35

Thompson (AL)

Jalen Hale

WR

4

50

Longview (TX)

Jordan Renaud

DL

4

65

Tyler Legacy (TX)

Eli Holstein

QB

4

69

Zachary (LA)

Wilkin Formby

O.T

4

71

Northridge (AL)

Yhonzae Pierre

Fringe

4

75

Eufaula (AL)

Dylan Lonergan

QB

4

84

Brookwood (GA)

Hunter Osborne

DL

4

131

Hewitt-Trussville (AL)

You Lockwood

TE

4

156

Independence (TN)

Malik Benson

WR

4

1 (juco)

Hutchinson CC (KS)

Edric Hill

DL

4

161

North Kansas City (MO)

Olaus Alinen

O.T

4

176

Loomis Chaffee (CT)

Miles McVay

O.T

4

193

East St. Louis (IL)

Justin Jefferson

LB

4

2 (juco)

Pearl River CC (MS)

Cole Adams

WR

4

290

Owasso (OK)

RyQuez McElderry

OL

3

423

Anniston (AL)

Brayson Hubbard

ATH

3

427

Ocean Springs (MS)

Raymond Pulido

OL

3

440

Apple Valley (CA)

Conor Talty

TO

3

1719

St. Rita (IL)

(Nick Saban Photo: Marvin Gentry/USA Today)

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