Although it didn’t seem possible, the impossible happened in college football on Monday night: The Alabama Crimson Tide’s football program somehow got stronger. It came in the form of the nation’s top ranked linebacker Reuben Foster, who committed to the Crimson Tide. Foster, a five-star recruit on just about every repeatable website on the net selected Alabama over Auburn and Georgia.
Looking at Foster’s commitment in the big-picture, the simple truth is that at this point we shouldn’t be surprised when a top prospect commits to Alabama. The Crimson Tide are a factor with just about every major recruit in-state (Foster is from Georgia originally, but transferred to Alabama for his senior year of high school), and in recent years have taken things national, signing players like Landon Collins (Louisiana) from outside the state’s borders, and getting commitments from big-time national players in the 2013 class like Derrick Henry (Florida) and Cooper Bateman (Utah) as well.
At the same time, this commitment does surprise to a degree, simply because of the pomp and circumstance surrounding Foster’s recruitment.
By now most of you know Foster’s story, but for those who don’t, here’s the Reader’s Digest version: The 6’2 242 lb. linebacker was at one time committed to the Crimson Tide, before flipping to Auburn in the summer (and famously getting a tattoo to commemorate it). Of course after all that excitement, he later decommitted from the Tigers when Gene Chizik was fired.
Still, even after all that it was presumed by most that Foster would end up at Auburn, and possibly Georgia. Few expected him to commit to the Crimson Tide, and ironically, if you talked to enough people around recruiting circles over the last few weeks, many questioned if Alabama even was still interested in him, given all the drama he brings.
Apparently though, the risk outweighed the reward when the player is as talented as Foster.
Still, before we talk about his potential impact at Alabama next season, it only seems appropriate that we start with the losers in the Reuben Foster sweepstakes. The truth is both Georgia and Auburn needed Foster’s pledge for completely different reasons.
For Georgia, Mark Richt’s club will likely enter 2013 as one of the Top 10 teams in college football, but one that is buoyed by a strong offense led by Aaron Murray and running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall but has gaping holes on defense. With Alec Ogletree gone in the middle specifically, Foster would’ve filled an immediate need for Georgia at the inside linebacker position. There’s no guarantee he would’ve beaten out Amarlo Herrera for a started spot, but it’s hard to see a scenario where Foster wouldn’t have seen the field in some capacity.
As for Auburn, well, a commitment from Foster would’ve been even more meaningful, both in a literal sense and symbolically too.
In terms of the literal stuff, we all saw Auburn last season and don’t need to get into just how bad this defense was. At the same time, let’s just say that had Foster elected to play on the Plains, chances were pretty darn good that he would’ve taken on a large role immediately. Gus Malzah is inheriting a program which finished just 3-9 and winless in the SEC, meaning he doesn’t have time to get cute with things. Foster would’ve seen the field instantaneously in Auburn.
Speaking of which, Foster’s commitment would’ve probably meant even more to Auburn in the metaphorical sense than it did literally. Malzahn secured a commitment from five-star defensive end Carl Lawson over the weekend, and to get another from Foster would’ve proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Malzahn can go head-to-head with Nick Saban (not to mention Mark Richt and others) for the best players in the area and come out on top. Malzahn may still do that in time (the early returns are that he has already made a strong impression on the state’s sophomore and junior classes), but truthfully, this one has to sting. Foster’s commitment would’ve been a warning shot fired across the SEC. Instead, it’s just another top prospect headed across state to put play for the Crimson Tide.
Which brings to Alabama, and at this point, the Crimson Tide getting a commitment from Foster is a lot like a billionaire taking on an extra vacation home: They don’t need it, at this point they only want it to show off and make the neighbors feel bad about themselves. Safe to say that Saban has done that here.
The ironic thing is that at Alabama, playing time is hardly guaranteed to Foster (especially relative to the other schools which were competing for him). Trey DePriest and C.J. Moseley appear to be set in stone at the position, and even though Saban and Kirby Smart tend to use a lot of players in their schemes, immediate playing time is no guarantee in Tuscaloosa. Even on special teams- where a lot of elite freshmen cut their teeth- there are no guarantees Foster will hit the field.
Still, this is a coup for Alabama in its own way, as it’s one less player that will end up at a rival school, and one more that will play in Tuscaloosa. Assuming of course that Foster doesn’t do something crazy like decommit between now and Signing Day.
Assuming he doesn’t though, his commitment is a huge get for Alabama.
At the same time though, it seems like it hurt their opponents more than it actually helped the Crimson Tide.
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