Miami and Florida’s revamped coaching staffs lead push for top Alabama targets

Alabama football signed seven recruits from Florida in 2021. It added five more last year. Of the 14 recruits in the 2023 class so far, however, zero hail from the Sunshine state. When the state’s two powerhouse programs made two splash hires in two-former Alabama assistants — Billy Napier to Florida and Mario Cristobal to Miami — some theorized if new regimes may influence a few recruits.

“The novelty (of Cristobal’s hire) may (impact) a couple of kids at first,” Larry Blustein, a staple of Florida recruiting told in December, “But if Alabama wants a kid, they’ll get him.”

That will be tested in the coming months. Cormani McClain, 247Sports consensus rankings’ No. 4 overall prospect and top cornerback is down to a final three of Alabama, Florida and Miami. Malik Bryant, a four-star linebacker, has the same trio (and Maryland) contending for his pledge.

Both had been highly coveted by the Crimson Tide and have made strong impressions. Yet 247 had Crystal Ball predictions tying McClain to the Gators and Bryant to the Hurricanes. Napier and Cristobal have already clashed this summer, most notably in the case of four-star Jaden Rashada. The California quarterback was tied to Florida, and after a $9.5 million NIL controversy, picked Miami to much fanfare.

McClain was last in Tuscaloosa on June 18 and plans to take an official visit the weekend Texas A&M comes to town on Sept. 7. Saban hasn’t been the only coach continually pursuing McClain. The 6-foot-1, 165-pounder set a school record with 10 interceptions last fall, breaking a Lake Gibson record of nine, which McClain set as a sophomore.

His athleticism and versatility have made McClain one of the top prospects in the nation. With the attention, though, have come a handful of predictions. 247Sports’ Josh Newberg predicted McClain to Alabama in February but then flipped to Napier’s favor in March. On3′s Chad Simmons did the reverse, siding with Alabama last week.

Alabama cornerbacks Coach Travaris Robinson is trying to bring in a third five-star defensive back to the Tide’s 2023 group. (Photo by Kent Gidley)Crimson Tide Photos / UA Athletics

Alabama has unsurprisingly already added three defensive backs to the 2023 class, including two five-stars: Thompson’s Tony Mitchell and Florence’s Jahlil Hurley. That McClain still appears as a priority speaks to his skillset and the Crimson Tide’s belief that they can land him.

Wide receivers coach Holmon Wiggins and cornerbacks coach Travaris Robinson are McClain’s primary recruiters. Robinson was key in the pursuits of Mitchell and Hurley.

In Bryant’s case, the Jones High star was set to announce his commitment on Saturday. But he postponed, canceling a post-decision party that morning. Bryant, primarily recruited by running backs coach Robert Gillespie, was visited by Gillespie and Nick Saban in January. He then took two trips to Tuscaloosa.

The delay, however, appears to give an edge to Bryant’s in-state options. Miami had been the favorites entering the weekend after recent recruiting wins in Raul Aguirre and Francis Mauigoa, two Alabama targets themselves. The Crimson Tide still has other avenues, particularly in-state, but a historic class may be slipping out of reach.

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Nick Alvarez is a reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @nick_a_alvarez or email him at [email protected].

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