Every other week, TideNation’s writers will answer a handful of questions that address a pressing topic regarding the Alabama football program. And with every Roundtable, we’ll see out the opinions of a guest. This week’s contributor is WolverineNation recruiting writer Tom Van Haaren.
Question: Alabama and Michigan kick off the 2012 season in Dallas on Saturday. What would a win do for recruiting?
Greg Ostendorf: Alabama has become accustomed to not just playing in national spotlight games early in the season, but winning those games. That has paid dividends on the recruiting trail. It also doesn’t hurt to have won two national championships in the last three seasons. However, Michigan’s 2013 class is currently ranked higher than Alabama’s, so a win over the Wolverines on Saturday, especially if it’s in convincing fashion, could slow down the momentum for Brady Hoke and remind recruits of the SEC’s dominance during the last decade.
Tom Van Haaren: A win for Michigan would obviously be a big deal on a few different levels. For one, it would mean that Hoke and his staff have the program at an elite level mainly with guys that they didn't recruit. From a recruiting standpoint, Michigan already has the No. 2 ranked class in the country, but if you delve deeper into the numbers the Wolverines haven't yet had much success in California and Texas under Hoke. Offers have gone out to prospects in those states, but they haven't chosen Michigan. A win against Alabama in Texas could help change that going forward.
Q: There are a number of top 2014 recruits with interest in both Alabama and Michigan planning to attend the game on Saturday? Who is the biggest potential target?
Ostendorf: Since Nick Saban arrived at Alabama, he has had some success recruiting in the Lone Star State but not quite to the level he’s had in the past. Saturday’s game provides an opportunity to give the nation’s top 2014 recruits from Texas a first-hand look at the Crimson Tide. The biggest name planning to attend for Alabama is cornerback Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen). Brown camped at UA in June where he earned a scholarship, and he now has the Tide among his top schools. Alabama is also hoping to impress offensive lineman Demetrius Knox (Fort Worth, Texas/All Saints Episcopal), who was close to committing to Texas earlier this month but decided to hold off.
Van Haaren: It's interesting to me that the majority of the prospects that will be on hand are 2014 defensive backs. They're all defensive backs ranging from 6-foot to 6-2 as well, and that coincides with what both Michigan and Alabama are looking for. For Michigan it's probably Nick Watkins (Dallas/Bishop Dunne) and Edward Paris (Arlington, Texas/Timberview). Both are big defensive backs, which is what defensive coordinator Greg Mattison is looking for going forward. Michigan landed Gareon Conley (Massilon, Ohio/Washington), who is 6-1, and Channing Stribling (Matthews, N.C./Butler), who is 6-2, and that will be the norm going forward.
Ostendorf: Quarterback was a priority for Alabama in the 2013 class, and it became even more apparent when backup signal caller Phillip Sims transferred to Virginia at the end of spring practice. When new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier arrived in Tuscaloosa, he targeted Cooper Bateman (Salt Lake City/Cottonwood) early on, and his efforts paid off. Bateman has a chance to come in and be the No. 2 guy behind AJ McCarron next year. He’s also developed a strong relationship with tight end commitment O.J. Howard.
Van Haaren: Since Michigan will be switching to a pro-style offense it was a huge deal. They can tell offensive recruits that they'll be making the switch and that they already have the quarterback to do that. On top of that, Shane Morris (Warren, Mich./De La Salle), or The Senator, happens to be a recruiting monster. He has been at seemingly every camp this summer sporting Michigan gear and recruiting every player he can for the Wolverines. Morris has already become a leader for his recruiting class and has been a big part of Michigan's success.
Q: Michigan and Alabama went head to head with a few recruits in the 2013 class, and Michigan has a chance to land a higher-ranked class than Alabama for the first time since ESPN started ranking classes. Is this going to be a trend going forward?
Ostendorf: Michigan has proven it can recruit among the nation’s elite programs this year, but it’s not quite to the level of Alabama just yet. I don’t think anybody expected Hoke to recruit the way he has this early, but if he keeps it up at this rate, the Wolverines could get back to being an annual national title contender. The fact of the matter is the top talent still comes from the Southeast. Michigan may have to start pulling one or two top recruits from that region before they surpass the Tide in recruiting.
Van Haaren: If Michigan has another successful year this year, then I think there's a good chance you will hear Michigan and Alabama on the same top lists for top recruits going forward. It might also be a product of Alabama recruiting Midwest players, but the fact Michigan beat out Alabama for some top guys including Kyle Bosch (Wheaton, Ill./St. Francis) and Henry Poggi (Baltimore/Gilman), it says a lot about the recruiting prowess of the Wolverines' staff.