Everything to know about Alabama football’s 2023 early signing period

It’s about that time for pen to be put to paper. After years of phone calls, visits and speculation, the early signing period is here. What will the future of Alabama football look like after the 2023 recruiting class comes together? Here’s the AL.com primer:

Where the class stands

Alabama has three five-star and 20 four-star prospects among its 24 total pledges. Some have already made it to Tuscaloosa for Sugar Bowl practices. Ten of the commits are offensive players, 13 play defense and there’s one kicker. Even though some big additions are still on the table (more on that below), the Crimson Tide are in a great spot regardless of what happens on Wednesday.

Nick Saban’s group is ranked No. 1 in the 247Sports Composite, reclaiming the lead spot after looking up at Texas A&M a year ago. 247 grades classes based on its internal rankings — each player has a numerical value based on their placement on the board — and Alabama has a comfortable lead ahead of No. 2 Georgia in both the average recruit rating (94.21 to 93.60) and overall total (313.55 to 301.56).

Buford’s Justice Haynes caps the scoring with a long touchdown run during the Thompson vs. Buford high-school football season opener in Milton, Ga. Friday, Aug 19, 2022. (Vasha Hunt | preps.al.com)Vasa Hunt

How we got here

Despite not reaching the College Football Playoff for the second time since 2019, and losing last year’s championship, Alabama coaches haven’t lost their connection with high schoolers. Look no further than Georgia, where the state’s top two recruits — safety Caleb Downs and running back Justice Haynes — chose the Tide over the Bulldogs. The Tide also dipped into the Peach State for one of its two quarterbacks: dual-sport athlete Dylan Lonergan. Lonergan and Louisiana thrower Eli Holstein will help fill the place of Bryce Young next fall, along with former blue-chips Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson.

Alabama addressed its needs in the secondary and offensive line early on in the cycle. Saban and his assistants stayed home for cornerback Jahlil Hurley (Florence) and safety Tony Mitchell (Thompson), boosting a maligned unit. It also found a potential steal in Mississippi Mr. Football Brayson Hubbard, who’s set to transition to safety after star-making years under center. For the trenches, first-year position coach Eric Wolford did what he was hired to do by bringing in Wilkin Formby (Northridge), Olaus Alinen (Conn.), Miles McVay (Ill.) and Ryqueze McElderry (Anniston). (While the Tide didn’t lose many recruits, it did lose four-star lineman Raymond Pulido to Arizona this week.)

As the football season continued, the one area Alabama lacked was its defensive line recruits, especially after two local players spurned the Tide for Clemson (Peter Woods) and Florida (Kelby Collins). The situation was rectified, however, when the Tide secured the best edge available: five-star Keon Keeley. With risers Yhonzae Pierre and Jordan Renaud also in the fold, Saban has compiled one of the best groupings of pass rushers in the country.

2022 HS Football - St.  Paul's at Carver-Montgomery

Carver-Montgomery’s Jaquavious Russaw runs the ball at the St. Paul’s at Carver-Montgomery high school football playoff game at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., Friday, Nov. 4, 2022. (Vasha Hunt | preps.al.com)Vasa Hunt

Players to watch

Kadyn Proctor

247Sports Composite Rank: Five-star, No. 5 overall, No. 1 OT

Status: Committed to Iowa

A signing day headline waiting to be written, Proctor would be one of Alabama’s biggest flips in recent memory, giving Wolford and Saban a 6-foot-7, 330-pound centerpiece to 2023. After committing to his home-state Hawkeyes in June, Proctor visited Tuscaloosa over the weekend. Both 247 and On3 predict Proctor to choose the Tide.

James Smith

Rank: Five-star, No. 18 overall, No. 2 DL

Status: Uncommitted

Despite a brief stint at IMG (Fla.) Academy last fall, Smith represents one-half of an Iron Bowl recruiting battle to track this week. He’s an offensive coordinator headache at 6-foot-3, 310-pounds with an athleticism that led to GW Carver-Montgomery giving Smith some handoffs this fall. He visited Auburn last weekend.

MORE Recruiting: Alabama and Auburn create Iron Bowl battle for pair of local 5-stars

Qua Russaw

Rank: Five-star, No. 22 overall, No. 3 edges

Status: Uncommitted

With Smith in Florida last year, Russaw took his rightful place as one of the state’s best talents. He’s recorded 37.5 sacks across his last three campaigns with Carver. Listed at 6-foot-2, 230 pounds, Russaw can make a day-one impact in Tuscaloosa. He’s set to commit to the same program as Smith. Both are forecasted to Alabama.

Desmond Ricks

Rank: Five-star, No. 23 overall, No. 2 CB

Status: Reclassified to 2023, uncommitted

It’s not often that a game-changing prospect enters the fold so late into a cycle, but that’s what the IMG star did when he moved up his college timeline. It’s been a dash for programs to get Ricks on campus and it seems to be a three-team race down the stretch between the Tide, Florida and LSU. He’s been to each school in December and the Virginia native has a Crystal Ball prediction tying him to LSU.

Tony Mitchell

Rank: Four-star, No. 54 overall, No. 5 safety

Status: Committed to Alabama since June 26

No one knows what the 6-foot-2, 180-pound four-time Thompson state champion has in store for Wednesday. He has been connected to Alabama, Auburn and Texas A&M. The Aggies earned the final visit this weekend. But in interviews, Mitchell has stayed true to his pledge. Injuries nearly derailed his senior year, but Mitchell would fit in well at Alabama’s STAR position.

Nick Alvarez is a reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @nick_a_alvarez or email him at NAlvarez@al.com

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