Early signees to have marquee impact as freshmen for Tide in 2019
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Alabama’s coaching staff snatched the title of “elite recruiters” away from Georgia on Wednesday, as the Crimson Tide stands with the No. 1 signing class for 2019.
Of its 23 added student-athletes, twenty came from the ESPN 300 – including Pierce Quick, a four-star offensive lineman from Hewitt-Trussville High School. He was the highest ranked of the signees, standing at No. 4 overall.
RELATED: Alabama may have elite kicker in Will Reichard
While it looks to sign three to four more names and end the class at 27 commits, listed below are five players that can make an impact next season.
Antonio Alfano, Defensive lineman
Former Tide defensive backs Minkah Fitzpatrick and Anthony Averett opened the door for New Jersey natives to pursue a collegiate career at Alabama. Alfano, the product of Colonial (N.J.) High School, is one of the top-rated defensive ends in the 2019 recruiting cycle.
The 6-foot-4, 285-pounder is one of three five-stars in this class, coming in at No. 87 on the ESPN 300 recruiting network.
He collected 76 tackles, including 28 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, 10 quarterback pressures and six forced fumbles in 2018.
When he was not on defense, Alfano was one of the Patriots’ top offensive linemen – blocking for 2,575 rushing yards in 10 games.
With the Tide losing both Isaiah Buggs and Quinnen Williams to the National Football League after this season, Alfano can potentially start at defensive end and provide Craig Kuligowksi with a teachable force on the outside. He was the first player to send in his letter of intent.
Evan Neal, Offensive lineman
Alabama signed five offensive linemen in the class; however, Evan Neal is the most physically imposing of the group.
The 6-foot-7, 360-pounder from IMG Academy is the prototypical offensive tackle (left tackle) for a Nick Saban offense.
A five-star from Florida, Neal was tabbed as the No. 36 overall prospect via ESPN – following Alex Leatherwood (Florida native) from the 2017 class at No. 33.
Barrett Jones (2011) and Jonah Williams are the lone two players that were under the 6’6” requirement and still started at left tackle. Neal’s wingspan makes him a force to be reckoned with and after destroying some of the best projected pass rushers in the 2019 cycle at different competitions, it will be exciting to see how he develops under Brent Key in Tuscaloosa.
Trey Sanders, Running back
He is already speaking with confidence in terms of wanting to win the Heisman Trophy as a freshman; nevertheless, the success of Trey Sanders will depend on whether Josh Jacobs will return to Alabama for his senior year. The former three-star projects as a third-round value for next year’s NFL Draft, but could improve his stock with a strong College Football Playoff.
Should he decide to leave, Sanders joins a star-studded backfield with Najee Harris, Brian Robinson and Jerome Ford.
Listed at 6-feet and 214 pounds, Sanders has a mixture of Ezekiel Elliot, Kenyan Drake and Alvin Kamara in him as an overall player.
He has the physicality of Elliot in running between the tackles, but his speed in space and has as a receiver resembles Kamara and Drake. Sanders will look to join a host of other backs before him that made a contribution as a freshman – including 2009 Heisman winner, Mark Ingram.
Shane Lee, Linebacker
Like Fitzpatrick and Averett, Cyrus Jones created an opportunity for young athletes from Baltimore, Md., to come to Alabama.
Trevon Diggs came as an exceptional athlete in 2016 and Eyabi Anoma arrived last season.
Shane Lee, a four-star recruit, hails from St. Frances Academy; the same program that produced Anoma. He is one of the top inside linebacker prospects nationally and with the Tide losing Mack Wilson after next season, Lee may push to get some early playing time.
The 6-foot, 243-pounder is at ideal size to captain the Alabama defensive front.
Will Reichard, Kicker
As serviceable as Joseph Bulovas has been this year, Tide fans are extremely excited for what Will Reichard can do coming in. Nick Saban mentioned on Wednesday that the coaching staff went after the three-star as means to “improve the team.” A product of Hoover (Ala.) High School, Reichard was listed at the No. 1 kicker per ESPN, Rivals and 247Sports Composite.
To pair with him being regarded as the top kicking/punting prospect from the Kohl’s Kicking Camp, Reichard made 27 of 31 (87.1 percent) of field goals in his career – including a few coming from excess of 50 yards.
He made all 109 of his extra points and recorded a touchback on 186 of his 188 career kickoffs. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder has gone on record to refer to himself as the one “who will fix all of Alabama’s kicking woes.”
In speaking with Justin Smith of Touchdown Alabama Magazine, Reichard said he wants to enroll in January and quickly into spring practice and the workout program. He has his sights on winning the starting job and giving the program its first elite kicker sine Jeremy Shelley.
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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.