Chat with Alex Scarborough
Welcome to TideNation! On Thursday, reporter Alex Scarborough stops by to chat about the state of Alabama football.
Scarborough joined ESPN.com in 2012 after covering University of Alabama athletics and high school football for The Tuscaloosa News. He currently resides in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Send your questions now and join Scarborough Thursday at noon ET!
Alex Scarborough (12:02 PM)
Welcome to another chat about all things Alabama. Sorry for being a minute or so late. Blame the signing day hangover. I hope you are all doing well. Let's get right into it.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Who did Alabama Sign on the National Signing Day on Wednesday?
Alex Scarborough (12:05 PM)
In all, Alabama signed 25 players. There were also two preferred walk-ons in DB Jai Miller and QB Luke Del Rio. But the highlights: five-star ATH Derrick Henry, DEs Jonathan Allen and Tim Williams, LB Reuben Foster, QBs Cooper Bateman and Parker McLeod, RBs Tyren Jones, Alvin Kamara and Altee Tenpenny.
Alex Scarborough (12:08 PM)
The most intriguing prospects for me are Derrick Henry and TE/H O.J. Howard. Henry will start off at RB but at 6-foot-3, he's very tall for the position and might end up fitting better at H-back. Howard, for his part, is the pass-catching threat Alabama hasn't had since Saban arrived in 2007. He's extremely athletic and has good hands. He'll have a chance to contribute right away.
Will anything be coming out of the allegations from that SWATS company? Or is everyone chalking it up to a company trying to get press and sales for his company as I have?
Alex Scarborough (12:10 PM)
I wouldn't hold my breath. I don't expect any kind of discipline to be handed out by the NCAA. There may be an internal investigation to see just how far spread the company is within college football, but beyond that there's not much to be done other than educate players and hope they stay away from companies like that.
Ed (Tampa, FL)
Which incoming freshmen have a legitimate chance at seeing significant playing time next season? And who do you see having the biggest impact on the team?
Alex Scarborough (12:13 PM)
I mentioned O.J. Howard below and I feel he could find a way onto the field right away. He's too dynamic a weapon to keep on the sidelines. On offense, he might have the biggest impact. But keep an eye on RB Alvin Kamara. With Dee Hart's injury status unknown, Kamara is the only scat-back type of runner on the roster. If he can develop quickly and protect the quarterback, he could be an option on third down. On defense, watch out for Jack LB Jonathan Allen and one of the four DBs to emerge. Alabama needs help at cornerback and rushing the passer.
Who was our biggest miss yesterday?
Alex Scarborough (12:17 PM)
Not many guys I would call "misses." Alabama would have liked to have gotten DTs Eddie Vanderdoes and Jarran Reed. Nonetheless, UA got a good one in Dee Liner who could end up playing defensive end in Tuscaloosa.
Will all the current recruiting class meet grade requirements? And who if anyone will be red shirted
Alex Scarborough (12:18 PM)
Too early to tell, but I haven't heard anything about grades being an issue so that's a positive. The only redshirt as of now is OL Bradley Bozeman who is recovering from a torn ACL.
Roger (Ozark, AL)
What will the offensive line look like this coming year? And did we meet those needs this recruiting class?
Alex Scarborough (12:19 PM)
Signing the No. 1 OG in Grant Hill and OT options Leon Brown and Brandon Hill, Alabama set itself up fairly well. That said, I don't expect any of them to start right away. Here's my projected starting five: LT Cyrus Kouandjio, LG Anthony Steen, C Ryan Kelly, RG Arie Kouandjio, RT Austin Shepherd.
Shouldn't UA signed the sure thing in Jarran Reed in the morning rather than waited out for Eddie V?
Alex Scarborough (12:21 PM)
Ideally, of course. But Reed went elsewhere. I'm sure Alabama would have liked Antonio Conner, but he wanted to go to Ole Miss.
What do you make of Bama signing 4 RBs? Does this make it more likely that either Hart or Fowler may not return?
Alex Scarborough (12:22 PM)
I wrote about that today. From the way it sounded from Saban, I'm skeptical about whether Fowler or Hart will be 100 percent in time. Here's the link to today's story: http://insider.espn.go.com/colleges/alabama/football/story/_/id/8924246/nick-saban-think-alabama-crimson-tide-too-many-running-backs
Kelly Kemp (Dallas, TX)
Was there any JUCO players coming in?
Alex Scarborough (12:25 PM)
Only one: OT Leon Brown. Fellow tackle Brandon Hill was a 2012 signee who had to go to prep school first.
Duck (Key West)
Bama had a big day but so did the rest of the SEC, what do you think it means when Ole Miss can take recruits like that away from Bama, Fla. ect?
Alex Scarborough (12:28 PM)
Bottom line is Alabama was the No. 1 class in the country and not just according to ESPN. Ole Miss did pull off some major upsets, but the feeling around the big names they pulled was that they weren't coming to Alabama anyways. Losing out on Conner hurt some, but overall you're going to have years where there's a hot school. Alabama has done what most haven't been capable of: maintaining the high level of recruiting. Alabama is the only school to finish with a top three class every year since 2008.
Jordan (Haleyville, AL)
Is Parker McLeod really that good? I think there were more Qb's out there that was better than him that we couldve used a scholly on. But im not doubting him.
Alex Scarborough (12:30 PM)
QB is arguably the most difficult position to scout out of high school, so I'd say to hold off on making any assessments on McLeod until we've seen him face D-1 competition. That said, he needs to add some weight. I saw him yesterday and while he's tall, he's very thin.
Roll Tider (Athens, Alabama)
Have heard that ESPN reported that Ole Miss has offered Tunsil's brother (a junior WR) a scholarship. Is this somethng that you know about? Realize it's not cheating, but is something that Bama / UGA probably were unwilling to do considering the kid is not very good....
Alex Scarborough (12:32 PM)
It's my understanding that everyone has offered Laremy's brother. He's legit, from what I hear. If you're talking about package deals in general, Alabama usually stays away from those. Arguably the biggest flip in UA history was Keenan Allen who went to Cal because Alabama wouldn't accept the transfer or a relative.
UA very deep at RB and LB,shouldn't they recruit more OT and maybe a stud QB?
Alex Scarborough (12:34 PM)
They have three quarterbacks coming in, one that was the third-highest ranked passer in the country. Plus, Alec Morris will no longer have a redshirt so we'll see just what he's capable of. That's to say, no, I don't believe Alabama needed to sign another QB. Overall, I liked the layout of the class with skill guys and line help. Signing four RBs is curious, but you can never have too many guys in the backfield.
Roll Tider (Athens, Alabama)
My biggest area for concern is punt returning.....The Jones boys put the ball on the ground WAY too many times, or took high risk chances. Does Hart get his spot back, or do we see a new person step in this year?
Alex Scarborough (12:36 PM)
Too early to say on Hart given his injury history and recovery. I say it's Christion's to lose, but that doesn't mean I don't think he'll lose it. You could see a new face back there like Alvin Kamara or one of the other skill guys in the class, but it's unlikely that would happen early. You don't want to put anyone too green back to field punts that early. Also, I've got to say I still have faith in Cyrus Jones. He's too dynamic with the ball in his hands to not have a say on returns.
Darren (Muscle Shoals)
The goal with OJ Howard will be to get him matched up with a LB right? Use him like Gronk or Dallas Clark or something like that?
Alex Scarborough (12:37 PM)
Exactly. He's a matchup nightmare for defenses. If a defensive back covers him, they'll have trouble too, though. Howard is a big target. He'll add some weight but as far as height and leaping ability, he's got that.
Texas A & M the only real road block in '13? maybe LSU but they lose a lot to attrition
Alex Scarborough (12:39 PM)
TAMU is the most noticeable roadblock. And if I can hype my own story, there will be an article to that effect on TideNationESPN.com soon about how Alabama used the 2013 signing class in a reaction to offenses like the Aggies. But with that said, the entire schedule is difficult. Starting off the season against Va Tech and then TAMU is brutal, plus what it always a difficult SEC road. The good news is LSU has to come to Tuscaloosa, but then again the road team has won the last two games -- three if you count New Orleans as a home game for the Tigers.
Who's your best bet for McCarrons backup? Eventual replacement?
Alex Scarborough (12:40 PM)
After what I heard from Saban yesterday, I'd go with Bateman as the future. That said, I'm holding out judgement on Alec Morris and I believe he could be the No. 2 come opening day.
What do you think of Eddie Vanderdoes signing with ND and not Alabama? Do you think it had something to do with Alabama signing Dee Liner?
Alex Scarborough (12:41 PM)
No, because Dee Liner is likely to play DE. Vanderdoes is a West Coast kid who liked Notre Dame. I think he liked Alabama too, but he made the choice he thought was best for him. And after the way the Irish's D-line was hyped last year, who can blame him?
Florida's 2010 class was considered the "greatest of all time" with 4 of the ESPN Top 10 players. But to date that class hasn't won the SEC, or a BCS Bowl. So isn't it a little pre-mature to expect Ole Miss to win the SEC?
Alex Scarborough (12:42 PM)
Nail on the head there, Rett. Recruiting is one thing, and it's a big thing. But the biggest part of on-field success is development. Get all the five star athletes you want. It doesn't matter if they don't learn to play your system the right way. It's really that simple.
Scho (Decatur, AL)
If O.J. Howard is such an explosive weapon and could have an impact right away, which I agree, but why does he have an 87 grade by ESPN and only a 4 star?
Alex Scarborough (12:45 PM)
No prospect is perfect. The question for Howard is whether he's big enough to play with his hand on the ground in the SEC and how much space he can create in the passing game. My biggest concern is the level of competition he faced in high school while at a small private school. That said, I think he's got all the tools, but again, no prospect is perfect. It's why three-star guys turn into first-round picks. It's all about development once they get on campus.
Jordan (Haleyville, AL)
I listened to the pressers from Howard and Henry. Those are the two biggest gets IMO. They sound like very high character guys and wanting to work, and being roommates will only help them push each other. That being said, I believe both see the field early next season. You have to give Henry a shot at RB, hes the all time leading rusher in HS history. Thoughts?
Alex Scarborough (12:47 PM)
Absolutely. And that's where he'll start. If you're a coach, wouldn't you want a young guy to start with what he knows and then branch out? Of course you would. I think we see him at RB as a freshman and then like Jalston Fowler, eventually move out to other positions in addition to playing RB later down the road.
I have heard OJ Howard compared to T Gonz of Atlanta except Howard is way quicker?? This will be a weapon we are not used to if its true!
Alex Scarborough (12:48 PM)
Howard told reporters he wanted to play like Tony Gonzalez. I don't know where the comparison came from. I think he's more like a Jimmy Graham or an Aaron Hernandez. Gonzalez is an old-school tight end who blocks as well as linemen and uses his frame to create space in the passing game. Those skills come only with experience.
Zach Maynard (Kennan Allan's brother) would never have seen the field at Bama. So wasn't letting KA go a good decision?
Alex Scarborough (12:49 PM)
Yup. And if they had taken him, it would have set a dangerous precedent.
During media viewing periods...did you ever have a chance to gauge Adam Griffin's accuracy...distance, etc.?
Alex Scarborough (12:50 PM)
Yes, but no one watching practice is an expert on kicking, not even the coaching staff. That's why most of the work kickers do is during the off-season with personal coaches and clinics. That said, he did seem to nail the majority through the upright.
Re: RBs,the reality when they hit campus is Yeldon will be there 2 more yrs,there's 1 ball to go around,unless injury happen,someone will be unhappy
Alex Scarborough (12:51 PM)
Someone is always unhappy. I'll say this though: Alabama does an excellent job rotating backs and getting four or five guys carries. With so many blowout games every season, there's opportunity for guys like Kenyan Drake who are fourth or fifth on the depth chart to get meaningful snaps.
Roll Tider (Athens, Alabama)
Which DB recruit or walk-on hits the field 1st in serious duty (not mop up duty or special teams? Heck, same question for DL and LB ?
Alex Scarborough (12:53 PM)
After speaking to our recruiting writer at TideNation, I'm starting to believe Eddie Jackson might be capable of contributing right away in the secondary. Not as a starter, mind you, but in some role. Outside of him, the obvious choice is Maurice Smith, who was the highest rated DB Alabama signed. On the d-line, pay attention to Dee Liner who could become an option rushing the passer. And at LB, Jonathan Allen could do the same at Jack.
Do you believe that Cooper Bateman will be the QB for 2014 if everything goes as planned?
Alex Scarborough (12:54 PM)
He'd be my favorite to win the job as of today. But it's neck and neck with Alec Morris. I want to see some snaps with Bateman against an SEC defense before I say anything with certainty.
Scratches (D'ham, NC)
So when does Reuben Foster's tattoo come off?
Alex Scarborough (12:55 PM)
It doesn't. The more I'm around the Alabama-Auburn rivalry, the more I understand it's not something the players or coaches care about. It's driven by the fans and nothing else.
John (Ft. Lauderdale)
We've seen the importance of leaders on the defense...McLain in '09, Hightower/Barron in '11, then Mosely/Lester in '12. Who emerges from this class: Will it be someone like Johnathan Allen on the outside, or will Reuben Foster step up in the middle?
Alex Scarborough (12:56 PM)
You're asking me who they'll be down the road? Hmm, I think it very well could be Reuben. He's had his soap opera of a recruitment come to an end. But know this: He's not a bad kid. He does want to please everyone and he makes friends very easily. He was arguably the most in the know person when it came to recruiting this past class. He was friends with many of the players who signed at Alabama, Georgia and Auburn. I think he uses that personality and becomes a leader a few years down the road, tattoo and all.
Scratches (D'ham, NC)
I think Reuben Foster was a great pick-up, but do you think he might cause a little trouble on the team?
Alex Scarborough (12:57 PM)
I hope not and I haven't been given any reason to believe he will. With the structure Saban creates and the media attention finally off his back, I think Reuben could thrive and really change the way people perceive him.
David (Muscle Shoals, Alabama)
How effective do you think Dee Liner will be playing for Alabama?
Alex Scarborough (12:58 PM)
Very effective. He has the size and skill set Alabama likes. He's not one-dimensional. He's big enough to stop the run and quick enough to effect the passer.
Scratches (D'ham, NC)
Is 3 BCS trophies considered underachieving when you've claimed 5 #1 recruiting classes?
Alex Scarborough (12:59 PM)
No. Three BCS trophies is overachieving in every sense of the word. Winning three in four years simply doesn't happen.
I have yet to hear why the grades for ESPN prospects were inflated this year. Was there a formula change?
Alex Scarborough (1:00 PM)
How were they inflated? I believe ESPN had the fewest number of five-star recruits among the major recruiting sites. I had someone e-mail me this morning asking why I said Alabama had just one five-star in its class in yesterday's story. Well, it's because they did. Other sites might disagree, but I have full confidence in the job our scouts do.
Alex Scarborough (1:01 PM)
Hate to say it, but that's all the time we have today. Be sure to come back at the same time and place next week. And remember, you can go to TideNationESPN.com and find all the Alabama news you can stand. Jump on the message board and ask questions of either Greg or I and we'll get back to you right away. Cheers!