The next high school graduating class will be the first full class whose members weren’t born when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occurred. Good for them that they didn’t have to live through that horrendous day. But it’s a reminder that even though the emotions are fresh in our minds, it took place almost 18 years ago.
It’s also worthwhile to remember just how young these teenagers are — even the ones who are proving to be prodigies in sports, music, technology or even rock climbing. (If you haven’t already, check out Selah Schneiter, the 10-year-old girl who just climbed Yosemite Park’s El Capitan peak.) The prodigy moniker certainly holds true for the best high school football recruits in the country.
One player who fits that description is Quandarrius Robinson, a linebacker from Jackson-Olin High School in Birmingham. Robinson is widely considered the best prospect in the state of Alabama for the Class of 2020.
So, it was a big deal last week when Robinson committed to play for the University of Alabama. But maybe not as big a deal as he or some overzealous fans made it out to be. Robinson, who was previously committed to Auburn, had this to say about his decision to play for the Tide and the fallout from him recruitment flip:
“That’s been the main thing: Stay off Twitter,” Robinson told Josh Bean of al.com. “Dealing with the fans, I mean, some of them have been immature about it and some have been mature. Some of them wish the best for me and some wish the worst. I’ve just been trying to stay level-headed and not worry about things they say, good or bad. The day I committed, I turned my phone off. I knew I was going to break the internet or at least get close to it. That’s just how it is with college football.”
But is that really how it should be? Of course, the answer is no.
The commitment of a high school football player in Alabama is not going to break the internet — that’s usually reserved for Taylor Swift dropping a new song — but there’s no reason for the overreaction of some fans.
Demouy Kennedy certainly understands that. Kennedy is a linebacker from Theodore who has committed to play for Alabama. Like Robinson, he was originally committed to Auburn but is now set to follow in the footsteps of former Theodore linebacker C.J. Mosley at Alabama. The comparisons between Kennedy and Mosley go beyond their school choices and the fact that Kennedy wears the No. 32 that Mosley made famous at Alabama. Both are long, lean athletes who can run and hit better than almost any linebacker in their class.
Beyond the fact that the top-two prospects in the state were originally discovered by Auburn coaches but eventually flipped to Alabama, there is a significant trend developing with local recruiting in this cycle.
Eight of Alabama’s 20 commitments so far this season are from in state. By comparison, only six of 27 signed last year were local players.
Kennedy’s signing is especially noteworthy because of the lack of Gulf Coast players signed by Alabama in recent years. In fact, when the Tide tees it up against Duke in nine weeks, only one player from Mobile or Baldwin County will be among their scholarship players. And that player, former St. Paul’s defensive back Jalyn Armour-Davis, has never played a snap due to injury as a freshman last season.
Robinson and Kennedy are the highest-profile recruits among the eight in-state players that also includes Calera lineman Jayson Jones, Hueytown running back Roydell Williams, Hewitt-Trussville defensive back Malachi Moore, Muscle Shoals linebacker Jackson Bratton, Hewitt-Trussville receiver Dazalin Worsham and Pickens County defensive lineman Jah-Marien Latham.
In addition to the eight commitments for Alabama, there are four in-state players committed to Auburn, including St. Paul’s defensive end Daniel Foster-Allen. Two of South Alabama’s top-ranked Sun Belt Conference Class of 13 players are also local: Faith Academy athlete Caullin Lacy and Spanish Fort defensive lineman Carlos Johnson.
There’s no way to know if any of these players will ever turn out to be as talented or prosperous as Mosley, who the New York Jets just made the richest inside linebacker in NFL history with a five-year, $85-million deal that included $51 million in guaranteed money.
But it is significant to see so many players from the state have a chance to make that dream happen, whether their decisions truly blow up the internet or not.
Randy Kennedy writes a weekly column for Lagniappe and is co-host of “Sports Drive” every weekday from 3-6 p.m. on WNSP 105.5 FM, the country’s first all-sports FM station. Follow him on Twitter: @Kennedy_Randy
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