Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings, a rundown of everything happening in Alabama Crimson Tide recruiting with Chris Kirschner. In this edition, we talk the latest with Alabama’s newest commitment.
ATLANTA — Georgia was the school new Alabama outside linebacker commit Kevin Harris wanted to attend. Harris was set to announce his decision to commit to the Bulldogs in a video with our UGA site DawgNation during his sophomore year.
Harris, a 4-star prospect from Grayson High School (Loganville, Ga.), had a verbal offer from UGA at the time, but it wasn’t overtly expressed to him and his family that he needed to camp in order for the coaching staff to accept his commitment. While some may view that as a “dirty” tactic, almost every, if not all, major FBS school does this. Alabama has sent out more than 100 verbal offers to 2019 prospects, so, obviously, not all of them could commit if they wanted to.
Harris didn’t have much varsity film at the time, so Georgia wanted to evaluate him in person before deciding on taking him. At the time, the defensive coordinator was Kevin Sherrer and the defensive line coach was Tracy Rocker, who no longer are with the team.
Harris couldn’t make it to UGA’s camp because he was invited to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., to attend a camp run by legendary linebacker Ray Lewis. He was already en route before being told that the staff needed to see him in camp in order to accept his commitment.
There were no UGA summer camp sessions to attend after the Ray Lewis camp, so Harris was out of luck and couldn’t commit to UGA because he didn’t travel to Athens for an evaluation. After Harris’ impressive junior season, UGA tried getting back into the picture, but the Bulldogs’ chances with Harris were finished.
Harris, who committed to Alabama on Tuesday, hopes he gets the opportunity to play against the Bulldogs.
“I want to beat them badly,” Harris told SEC Country. “They are going to feel me, for sure. I have a bone to pick with Georgia. I feel at peace with Alabama now, though. I really do. Alabama is getting a hard worker who is dedicated to learning the game, improving and just a team player. I want to be a coach on that field. I want to do what it takes to win.”
DawgNation recruiting reporter Jeff Sentell backed up the camp confusion and made a point to mention that the Bulldogs did have commitments from 5-star outside linebacker Nolan Smith and 4-star outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari at the time Harris wanted to choose the Dogs.
“Kevin Harris could have ended up at Georgia,” Sentell said. “There was a time early last season when he wanted to commit to the Bulldogs but never did. Did he try? Was it accepted? I was told by a series of sources there was some confusion on Georgia’s end about wanting him to camp first.
“The Bulldogs are flush at his position now, but maybe they weren’t so at the time he wanted to commit. At that time, UGA had a 5-star commit in junior Nolan Smith and a 2018 All-American pledge in Azeez Ojulari at his position.”
Georgia ended up signing 5-star outside linebackers Adam Anderson and Brenton Cox in the 2018 class to go with Ojulari. Anderson and Cox were major Tide targets until they signed with UGA. Alabama signed 5-star Jack linebacker Eyabi Anoma and 4-star Jack LBs Jordan Davis and Cameron Latu in the 2018 class.
There’s definitely an alternate scenario where the Tide land Anderson and Cox to go with Anoma, Davis and Latu, and that would completely change Alabama’s and Georgia’s recruiting strategy in the 2019 class.
“If the Tide had signed Adam Anderson and Brenton Cox in the last cycle like the Bulldogs did, then I don’t think they would have accepted the Harris commitment at this time,” Sentell said. “What if they had been able to flip [Nolan] Smith? Alabama missed on those guys and it leads to a real cause-and-effect cycle. The Tide now needed a special talent like Harris at that position in 2019.
“In the end, Harris told me after his decision on Tuesday that everything worked out in the end. Recruiting is like that a lot of times. A lot more than fans might think.”
But because Georgia passed on Harris, it turned him into the player he is now. Harris is rated as the nation’s No. 6 weakside defensive end in the 2019 class and has been a top target for the Tide.
Grayson coach Christian Hunnicut told SEC Country about the time Harris broke his cast after tearing his UCL in his right thumb last year because he wouldn’t stop working out. That cast needed to be replaced two or three times, according to his father, Kevin Harris Sr.
His son felt like he had something to prove after UGA turned him away.
“It motivated him. It was sort of discouraging for him,” Kevin Harris Sr. said. “He used that as his motivation to have a phenomenal year. He hasn’t stopped working. Football season is year-round for him. It costs mom and dad a lot of money, gas and time, but it’s worth the investment.”
In the end, the Harris situation worked out for all parties involved.
Kevin Harris committed to Miami before choosing Alabama
It wasn’t until Sunday when Kevin Harris knew Alabama was the school for him. He told Miami defensive line coach Jess Simpson that he was going to pick the Hurricanes early last week, but he changed his mind.
Harris said he just rethought everything and came to the conclusion that Alabama was the better option. His father said the biggest reason for the change of heart was because of Nick Saban.
“I think the biggest thing for him that he approached me with is having the chance to play for Coach Saban,” Kevin Harris Sr. said. “Having the chance to play for one of the coaches who is going to go down as one of the greatest of all time. I feel like he felt like he would have missed out on a good opportunity.
“Miami was great. They have a great coaching staff in Coach [Mark] Richt, Coach [Jess] Simpson and Coach [Manny] Diaz. We had a good time there. At the end of the day, it boiled down to him having the opportunity to play under Coach Saban.”
Harris Sr., a division fire chief in Georgia, made his son call Simpson after he decided that Miami was no longer the school he was going to pick. He also gave the LSU coaching staff a call, too, to notify the Tigers that they weren’t going to be chosen.
“I felt like he had to do that because as a young man, once you make your decision, you have to be man enough to tell people where you are. Don’t play games,” Harris Sr. said.
Besides having the chance to play for Saban, the other main reason why the 6-foot-4, 217-pound prospect chose the Tide was because of the team’s 1st and Ten alumni program that helps players find jobs and internships. The family was impressed by how much support players get off the field.
There have been several changes in Harris’ recruitment over the last year with him wanting to go to Georgia, to LSU having a lead, to him silently committing to Miami, to now choosing Alabama.
Harris doesn’t see more changes happening before he signs in December and enrolls next summer.
“Honestly, I have no idea what could change now,” Harris said. “I just pray to God that everything stays the same and hopefully by December, I will be signed to Alabama.”