Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings, a rundown of everything happening in Alabama Crimson Tide recruiting with Chris Kirschner. Today, we talk the latest with one of Alabama’s top linebacker targets.
JJ Peterson has a new leader
SUWANEE, Ga. — JJ Peterson sacked North Gwinnett quarterback John Urzua on the 46-yard line with 13 seconds left. It looked like Peterson’s sack was going to wrap up a state championship for Colquitt County of Moultrie, Ga.
— Chris Kirschner (@ChrisKirschner) December 16, 2017
Nope. Chaos ensued.
Colquitt County was fired up after Peterson’s sack, but there was still time on the clock for a miracle. Colquitt County was flagged back-to-back times for illegal substitution. Once it finally only had 11 players on the field, North Gwinnett attempted a Hail Mary pass, which came up short of the end zone, but Colquitt was flagged for a pass interference penalty. North Gwinnett lined up for a 38-yard field goal on an untimed down and made it to give the school its first state championship.
Peterson, a 4-star linebacker, told SEC Country after the game what happened after his sack and how his team collapsed.
“We just got too excited and had too many players on the field both times,” Peterson said. “It’s a minor step back for us. Last year, we didn’t even make it. It’s hard to just even make it here. Even though we didn’t win, we still made it. I’m happy. It’s family here. People can say we may not get along, but it’s just not true. We love each other. I mean, even our cheerleaders are crying. Everybody in our community cares for our team.”
The nation’s No. 2 outside linebacker now turns his attention to the next chapter of his life.
Alabama has been Peterson’s leader for almost all of 2017. He no longer considers the Crimson Tide on top because Alabama defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt left to take the Tennessee job.
There’s no coach in college football who Peterson is closer to than Pruitt. That’s mainly because of Rush Propst, Colquitt County’s coach, is close with Pruitt. Pruitt was Propst’s defensive coordinator at Hoover (Ala.) High School before being hired at Alabama.
Because Pruitt is no longer in Tuscaloosa, Peterson considers Tennessee, a school he hasn’t visited yet, his leader. Pruitt hired Georgia outside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer to be the Volunteers’ defensive coordinator. That also has an effect on Peterson because Sherrer was his primary recruiter at Georgia.
“I have a strong connection with Coach Pruitt and Coach Sherrer,” Peterson said. “I also have two former teammates there [Shawn Shamburger and Jay Blakely]. I know people there. Coach Pruitt leaving has changed the whole game for me.”
If Peterson doesn’t choose the Tide, it would be a major blow for Alabama because he has been projected to sign with the team for almost all of this year. He was one of the team’s top, if not the No. 1, linebacker target in this class.
Now, Alabama signing Peterson is very much in doubt.
RELATED: 2018 Alabama recruiting big board
Propst did say that Nick Saban was recruiting Peterson very well, too, so there could be some hope for Alabama.
“I’ll say this about Coach Saban, I’ve watched him talk to JJ Peterson a bunch, and he has done a great job recruiting him,” Propst said earlier this month.
Right now, Saban is the head coach that has talked to Peterson the most.”
Well, that head coach now becomes Jeremy Pruitt. Peterson said Alabama is now No. 2 on his list.
“They’re up there, but you know Tennessee has to be on top for me now,” Peterson said.
The Army All-American said Alabama can regain the lead for him in these final few weeks, but he needs to continue building a relationship with Saban for that to happen. He mentioned how he doesn’t have that person he can fully trust now at Alabama. Pruitt was the guy for him. Peterson said the only person he really knows at Alabama is freshman safety Xavier McKinney, who played at Roswell (Ga.) High School. The connections at Tennessee are stronger than that.
Even though Peterson has never visited Tennessee before, he’s not a guy who cares about locale and the “feel” of the campus. Relationships are what’s most important to him.
He doesn’t have any official visits set but said Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan and Tennessee are all in the running to receive one of his five visits. He’ll make his commitment on Signing Day.
Peterson doesn’t seem stressed out about his upcoming decision. He’s just looking forward to spending time with his baby daughter, Alexandria, before he leaves for school.
“I’m just chilling right now,” Peterson said. “I’m going to try to take all of my visits, but right now, I just want to buckle down with my daughter and spend as much time with her as I can before I leave. I know it’s going to be hard when I go to college.”
Emory Jones to Alabama seems unlikely
Emory Jones, a 4-star quarterback from Heard County High School (Franklin, Ga.), has been pegged to flip from Ohio State to Alabama for several months now. That doesn’t seem likely anymore.
A source close to the Alabama program told SEC Country on Sunday night that he believes the Crimson Tide are out of the running for Jones after taking official visits to Florida and Florida State this weekend. The Gators are now seen as the favorites to land Jones when he signs on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. ET.
Alabama was always going to have a tough time signing one of the nation’s best quarterback prospects because the depth chart in Tuscaloosa is young. Jalen Hurts is a sophomore and Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones are both freshmen. It’s not an appealing situation for a highly ranked quarterback because playing time doesn’t seem obtainable for a few years.
Jones has said to me on multiple occasions, however, that early playing time wasn’t important to him. He was planning on redshirting if he went to Ohio State or Alabama. But, after Florida moved on from 4-star quarterback Matt Corral, who flipped to Ole Miss, the opportunity to visit Gainesville presented itself for Jones. The Gators’ quarterback situation is atrocious and it’s very possible Jones could start as a freshman in Dan Mullen’s offense. He’s the perfect quarterback to run the offense Mullen runs.
My prediction is Jones ends up at Florida.
Two surprising commitments this past weekend
Out of nowhere, Brandon Kaho, a 4-star linebacker from Reno (Nev.) High School, flipped his commitment from BYU to Washington.
— ALEFOSIO (@Brandonkah0) December 17, 2017
Kaho was a major priority for Alabama, and I thought there was a good chance he would ultimately flip from the Cougars to the Tide. That’s not happening anymore. With Kaho off the board, I do expect current linebacker commits Quay Walker and Vernon Jackson to stick with Alabama. The Tide are also recruiting JJ Peterson, who we talked about above.
Another surprise was 3-star defensive tackle Billy Ferrell committing to Arkansas.
— Bj (@7_Bjferrell) December 17, 2017
The Tide just started recruiting Ferrell this month but they had already made him a priority. Alabama needs defensive tackles this year, and the team thought it had a chance to get Ferrell on board. He was expected to take an official visit to Alabama in January, but that’s likely not going to happen.
Jerome Ford to sign early
Jerome Ford, a 3-star running back from Armwood High School (Seffner, Fla.), committed to Alabama on Sunday. He didn’t announce if he was going to sign early or not. He told SEC Country on Sunday night that he will be signing this week. He will not enroll at Alabama until the summer, though.
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