The highest-rated Alabama recruits at each position over the last decade
Alabama’s on-field dominance has been matched by its ability on the recruiting trail. With the nation’s top recruits flocking to Tuscaloosa, Nick Saban has been able to reload year after year.
The Crimson Tide have landed six straight No. 1 recruiting classes and are well on their way toward landing another one.
Players such as Julio Jones, Dee Milliner, Landon Collins and Derrick Henry have headlined the various recruiting classes before making their way to the NFL.
Taking a look back at Alabama’s run of top classes, we’ve decided to list the top recruit at each position over the past decade. This list will be based solely on a players’ recruiting ranking upon signing with the Crimson Tide, not his performance at Alabama. We will have a separate list for that later on.
Let’s get started.
Quarterback – Blake Barnett (2015): Barnett was the highest-rated quarterback prospect to sign with the Crimson Tide under Saban. His 5-star designation and grade of .9896 appeared to signal a bright future in Tuscaloosa.
After redshirting during his freshman season, Barnett was the team’s starter against USC in the 2016 opener. He was benched in favor of Jalen Hurts early in the game, however, and wound up leaving Alabama four games into the season.
Honorable mention: Phillip Sims (2010)
Running back – Trent Richardson (2009): Alabama won its first national championship under Saban in 2009, and Richardson had a sizable impact as a freshman. The 5-star prospect had a .9971 grade and was the nation’s sixth-ranked prospect.
Richardson ran for 749 yards and eight touchdowns as a freshman, including 109 yards and two scores in the national title game. He went on to have a record-setting season in 2011, when he ran for 1,679 yards, and finished his career with 3,130 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns.
Honorable mention: Derrick Henry (2013)
Wide receiver – Julio Jones (2008): One of the highest-rated prospects to ever sign with Alabama, Jones more than lived up to the hype. The first true gem for Saban, Jones was a 5-star prospect with a grade of .9992 and was the nation’s No. 1 receiver prospect.
Jones led the Crimson Tide in receiving each season he was on campus and set a then-school record with 1,133 receiving yards during his junior year. He finished his career with 2,653 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Honorable mention: Calvin Ridley (2015)
Tight end – O.J. Howard (2013): A rare 5-star tight end prospect, Howard has fulfilled his immense potential. Howard held a .9909 grade and was the nation’s top recruit at his position in 2013.
From the beginning, Howard was a big contributor for the Crimson Tide. Now, he’s one of the top tight ends in the country and part of Alabama’s potent passing attack. Howard (below) has 445 yards and 2 touchdowns this season.
Honorable mention: Hale Hentges (2015)
Offensive tackle – Cyrus Kouandjio (2011): Kouandjio is the highest-rated prospect to come to Alabama. A 5-star recruit, the offensive tackle had a .9993 grade and was the No. 2 prospect in the country. He initially announced he would attend Auburn on national signing day, but had second thoughts and chose Alabama instead.
Kouandjio helped the Crimson Tide develop a fearsome ground attack and was a consensus All-American in 2013.
Honorable mention: Cam Robinson (2014)
Offensive guard – Lester Cotton (2015): One of the rare 4-star prospects on this list, Cotton is Alabama’s top recruit at guard. The No. 4 guard prospect in 2015, Cotton had a .9732 grade.
Now in his sophomore season, Cotton has been part of a rotating offensive line. He has been both a starter and a reserve and played both guard and tackle.
Honorable mention: Grant Hill (2013)
Center – JC Hassenauer (2014): The nation’s top center prospect in 2014, Hassenauer was another great offensive line signee for Alabama. With a grade of .9263 and a 4-star designation, Hassenauer leads the list of center recruits.
Hassenauer’s career hasn’t lived up to his recruiting hype, however, and he’s been a reserve for the Crimson Tide.
Honorable mention: Ryan Kelly (2011)
Defensive end – Da’Shawn Hand (2014): A 5-star prospect, Hand had a .9978 grade and was the No. 1 strong-side end recruit in his class. Due to the Tide’s incredible depth along the defensive line, Hand has had to fight for his playing time. While on the field, however, he has shown an ability to rush the passer and should contribute more next season.
Honorable mention: Xzavier Dickson (2011)
Defensive tackle – Da’Ron Payne (2015): Alabama has collected a slew of top recruits over the past few years, and Payne is a prime example. A 5-star defensive tackle, Payne had a grade of .9870. Despite the high grade, Payne was still just the seventh-rated defensive tackle prospect in his class.
As a freshman, Payne earned playing time on one of the top defensive fronts Alabama has had in the past decade. He has continued to develop during his sophomore season.
Honorable mention: Dee Liner (2013)
Outside linebacker – Jonathan Allen (2013): Another 5-star defender, Allen had a .9920 grade and was the No. 3 recruit at his position. Allen developed into one of college football’s premier defenders. With 20.5 sacks over the past two seasons, Allen clearly has fulfilled his potential.
Honorable mention: Rashaan Evans (2014)
Inside linebacker – Reuben Foster (2013): Alabama struck gold in 2013 and found its two defensive leaders in the same class. Foster was the Crimson Tide’s highest-rated prospect in 2013 and had a grade of .9958.
Alongside Allen, Foster has been a contributor on some of the best defenses in Alabama history. Recently named the SEC Championship Game MVP, Foster leads the team with 94 tackles.
Honorable mention: Ben Davis (2016)
Cornerback – Tony Brown (2014): Cornerback has been a position of strength for the Crimson Tide under Saban, and Brown (above) was the top recruit. A 5-star corner, Brown was the No. 2 prospect at his position and had a grade of .9951.
Brown was a solid contributor during his first two seasons with the Crimson Tide, but served a four-game suspension to start his junior year. A fearless tackler when on the field, Brown can be an intimidating presence in the secondary.
Honorable mention: Marlon Humphrey (2014)
Safety – Landon Collins (2012): Collins was the crown jewel of Alabama’s 2012 class. The 5-star safety was the No. 2 prospect at his position, and the seventh overall recruit in the country. Collins had a grade of .9970 coming out of high school.
As a freshman, Collins contributed in a limited capacity on defense but was a staple on special teams. He emerged as one of the top defenders in the SEC during his sophomore and junior seasons, and was named a unanimous All-American in 2014.
Honorable mention: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (2011)
Punter – Jay Williams (2010): Many teams prefer to go with walk-on options at punter and kicker, but Williams was a member of Alabama’s Class of 2010. A 3-star, Williams was the top punter prospect and had a grade of .8899.
Unfortunately, Williams never made an appearance for the Crimson Tide during his career.
Honorable mention: Corey Smith (2008)
Kicker – Adam Griffith (2012): Griffith was the No. 1 kicker for the 2012 class and a 3-star prospect. The lowest-rated member of his recruiting class, Griffith had a .8635 grade.
He has been the team’s primary kicker each of the past three seasons and has made 73 percent of his field goal attempts this season.
Honorable mention: Cade Foster (2010)
*All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports Composite, unless otherwise noted.*
William McFadden covers the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama for Saturday Down South. For insight on these two SEC powerhouses, follow him on Twitter @willmcfadden.