How Alabama assembled the nastiest front seven in college football
Alabama had one of the most dominant front sevens in recent college football history this past season — a direct result of outstanding recruiting and subsequent player development.
Here are some bullet points on this monstrosity that the Alabama staff put together.
1. The Class of 2013 was very, very good to the Crimson Tide. Nearly half of the defensive front seven two-deep (for the national title game, a 45-40 win against Clemson) — six players were signed in that class.
2. In the 14-member two-deep there were five five-stars, eight four-stars and a three-star.
3. The only three-star — starting nose tackle Darren Lake — had a rating below four stars as a recruit. Lake was the only member of the 2011 recruiting cycle in the two-deep.
4. The state of Alabama has never had a shortage of talented linebackers and that is backed up when you look at the Tide’s linebacker two-deep. Five of the eight players are from the Yellowhammer State.
5. The entire two-deep front seven hails from southern states: Alabama had half of the 14 (7) while Georgia and Louisiana had two each along with one each from Texas, North Carolina and Virginia. Those states either are within the SEC’s geographic recruiting footprint or annually produce great defensive line talent like Virginia and North Carolina. Every member of the Tide’s two-deep on the defensive front hailed from below the Mason-Dixon Line.
Here’s how it broke down….
Please note that because Dillon Lee was the backup at MIKE and the starter at WILL, we included JACK linebacker Tim Williams, a significant contributor, instead of the third-team MIKE.
A’Shawn Robinson: In the Class of 2013, Robinson, from Fort Worth (Texas) Arlington Heights was rated as an 0.9834 (five star) according to 247Sports Composite ratings. He was the No. 34 overall prospect nationally in that class and many analysts (myself included) actually projected his best long-term position as offensive tackle.
Jonathan Allen: Allen from Stone Bridge High in Ashburn, Va., rated a 0.9920 (five star) in the Class of 2013. He was the nation’s No. 17 overall prospect and projected as a weak-side defensive end in that class.
Darren Lake: Lake, from Sumter County School in York, Ala., rated 0.8693 (three star) during the 2012 recruiting cycle. The 6-foot-4, 320-pounder ranked as the nation’s No. 42 defensive tackle prospect in that class.
Daron Payne: Payne was a true freshman this past season and in the Class of 2015 he rated 0.9870 (five star) by the recruiting industry out of Shades Valley in Birmingham, Ala. Payne was ranked No. 7 nationally at defensive tackle, which was a loaded position in that cycle.
Jarran Reed: Reed, who is from Goldsboro, N.C., (smack dab in the middle of “D-Line Heaven), rated 0.8998 (four stars) by the recruiting industry out of East Mississippi Junior College in the 2014 cycle. Reed was committed to both North Carolina and Ole Miss at various points in the process.
Dalvin Tomlinson: Tomlinson was a three-sport standout (track and wrestling) at Henry County High in McDonough, Ga., and rated 0.9163 (four stars) by the recruiting industry in the 2013 cycle. He was one of the final members of Alabama’s 2013 recruiting class, which ranked No. 1 nationally and was one of the best defensive line classes ever signed.
Denzel Devall: Devall earned a 0.9387 rating (four stars) during the 2012 recruiting cycle out of Bastrop (La.) High and was the sixth-ranked inside linebacker prospect nationally in that class.
Ryan Anderson: An in-state product from Daphne (Ala.) High, Anderson rated 0.9618 (four stars) in the 2013 recruiting cycle. Ha was a standout at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star game his senior year and was ranked as the No. 6 outside linebacker nationally in the class.
Tim Williams: Yet another member of the Class of 2013, Williams rated 0.9613 (four stars). The Under Armour All-American was the second-ranked weakside defensive end in the class. Williams is from University Lab High in Baton Rouge, La.
Dillon Lee: Coming out of Buford (Ga.) High in the 2012 recruiting cycle, Lee was ranked as the No. 9 outside linebacker prospect nationally in the class with a composite rating of 0.9518 (four stars).
Rashaan Evans: Evans played at Auburn (Ala.) High and was ranked as the No. 1 outside linebacker prospect in the 2014 recruiting cycle. He rated 0.9918 numerically, which equates to five stars.
Reggie Ragland: Coming out of Bob Jones High in Madison, Ala., in the Class of 2012, Ragland was ranked as the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect in the country. Numerically, Ragland rated 0.9790 (high four star).
Reuben Foster: Like Ragland, Foster also ranked No. 1 at inside linebacker nationally but in the 2013 class. Originally from LaGrange, Ga., Foster spent his senior year at Auburn (Ala.) High. Numerically, Ragland earned a 0.9958 rating (five stars).
Shaun Dion Hamilton: Hamilton was a member of the Class of 2014 and was rated 0.9173 (four stars) coming out of Carver High in Montgomery, Ala. Hamilton was the ninth-ranked inside linebacker prospect nationally.