2 elite players in 2019 class explain why Alabama is team to beat in their recruitments

Alabama football-Alabama recruiting-Christian Harris-noa pola gates

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 two of the nation’s top players who have Alabama on top of their recruitment. 

Alabama inside linebacker target has Tide on top 

Christian Harris, a 4-star athlete from University Lab High School (Baton Rouge, La.), visited Tuscaloosa for the first time this past weekend and left with Alabama on top in his recruitment. Harris made the trip to Tuscaloosa for the team’s junior day event with his mother. There’s a good chance that if his father made the trip with them, Harris would be committed to Alabama by now.

“My mom wants me to wait for my dad to get back in town,” Harris told SEC Country. “He comes back Friday. We’ll see where it goes from there. My dad wanted to talk to me about what makes me so interested in the school.

“I fell in love with Alabama. I was telling my mom that they care a lot about academics. They help the players out a lot with all of the tutoring you get. With football, they literally have everything that I would want in a school.”

Harris is being recruited as an inside linebacker and is one of the team’s top targets at the position in the 2019 class. Inside linebacker is one of the team’s priorities in the 2019 class after not signing any in the 2018 class. Harris is considered one of the team’s must-get targets.

The team’s success at sending linebackers to the NFL is a big reason why Harris fell in love with Alabama.

“I was talking to Coach Tosh [Lupoi] and he told me that in the past nine seasons, 14 linebackers have been drafted,” Harris said. “He kept listing all of the stats. I also think that Nick Saban is one of the most powerful people in the world. Having him as a head coach would really set you up for the rest of your life. They care a lot about your life after football and how successful you’re going to be.”

The life-after-football aspect sometimes gets lost in the shuffle when you talk about Alabama. A lot of times, football is the only thing that is mentioned about the school. Harris has dreams outside of football that include practicing sports medicine after his playing days are over.

Saban spent a lot of his recruiting pitch to Harris and his mother talking about this aspect of the school.

“When my mom and I sat down with Nick Saban, he was just telling us about how successful they’ve been and how they really care about you as a person,” Harris said. “It’s not all about football. The academic part, I know I keep bringing it up, but it really caught my attention. They make sure you stay on top of everything.”

Harris said Alabama has a giant lead for him right now. Texas and Texas A&M are tied for second with Missouri and Mississippi State also in the mix. Most notably missing from the schools he’s considering is LSU.

University Lab, Harris’ high school, plays its football within earshot of Tiger Stadium. You could see the stadium from University Lab’s field. It’s interesting that LSU hasn’t offered the nation’s No. 16 athlete.

LSU was Harris’ favorite school growing up. What if the Tigers ended up offering him in the near future? Would it affect the Tide’s chances with him?

“Right now, I’m pretty stuck on Alabama,” Harris said. “Having an LSU offer is really everyone’s dream if you’re a high school player from Baton Rouge. Having an offer from your hometown school is a pretty big accomplishment. It would mean a lot to me.”

Harris wouldn’t be the first University Lab graduate to play for Alabama. Dylan Moses played for U-Lab before transferring to IMG Academy for his senior season. Moses and Harris were close with each other when the former lived in Baton Rouge.

“Dylan Moses and I grew up in the same football league and we ran track together,” Harris said. “He went to my high school, too. We were pretty good friends when he was here. I haven’t really talked to him much since he left. Him being at Alabama, we all knew how good he was, but they have made him so much better. I saw it when he started a couple of games at the end of the season.”

We’ll see what Harris does when his father gets back to Baton Rouge and the family discusses Alabama more in-depth. He may be the next to commit to the Tide.

Tua Tagovailoa helps recruit feel at home

Noa Pola-Gates visited Tuscaloosa for the first time this past weekend for junior day. By the time he got to the Birmingham airport to board his flight to Arizona, Alabama was his leader.

Pola-Gates, a 4-star defensive back from Williams-Field High School (Gilbert, Ariz.), told SEC Country that one of the main reasons the Crimson Tide are the team to beat right now is because he felt at home at Alabama. That’s the main thing he’s looking for when he makes his decision.

How did Alabama end up feeling like home to Pola-Gates? The time he spent with freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa helped the Tide gain an edge over Arizona State, Penn State, Oregon, Southern California and Washington.

“Tua made me feel like I was at home,” Pola-Gates said. “He just made me feel comfortable. I got to hang out with him all night. Tua is probably the most humble and happiest man you could meet. It kind of seems like he doesn’t realize that he just won Alabama a championship.”

And hanging out with Tagovailoa wasn’t the best part of Pola-Gates’ two-day stay in Alabama. The best part of his trip happened before he boarded the plane in Birmingham. He and his mother visited the Civil Rights Institute.

Pola-Gates and his mother spent more than an hour there and it shaped the young man’s view on his life and the life of African-Americans in the 1950s and 1960s.

“I got to learn more about my background that I didn’t know about,” Pola-Gates said reflecting on his time at the Civil Rights Institute. “I saw how segregated people were back then and how they progressed and made their situation better. It was important for me to go.”

The 6-foot-2, 180-pound prospect is listed as a safety on scouting sites, but Alabama is recruiting him as a corner. The Tide signed five cornerbacks in the 2018 class, but at least one of those prospects will likely make the switch to safety.

Alabama needed to sign that many defensive backs in the 2018 class because the team is replacing six key contributors in the secondary. And while some recruits may be turned off by a team taking that many players in one position group, Pola-Gates doesn’t mind it at all.

“To be honest, it really doesn’t matter to me because I’m going to have to compete at whichever school I go to,” Pola-Gates said. “You might as well compete with the best of the best.

“I kind of thought of Alabama as the top dogs and that everyone hated them if you weren’t a fan of them. I do think they live up to that. They are the top dogs and they get down to business.”

Pola-Gates doesn’t have a decision date locked in. He said he wants to finish high school and continue the process of recruiting. Alabama will get him back on campus for an official visit. Right now, he’s planning to return to Tuscaloosa for the A-Day game on April 21. He’s not sure if that will be an unofficial or official visit.

When he does return to campus, Pola-Gates hopes to continue to build his relationship with the coaching staff.

“I really love [defensive backs] Coach [Karl] Scott,” he said. “He stood out to me as soon as I got there. I also really like [defensive coordinator] Coach [Tosh] Lupoi and [special teams coordinator] Coach [Jeff] Banks.

“Coach Scott is a very fun and outgoing guy. He’s intense when it comes to football, though. Coach Banks recruits my area, so he knows me well. He’s very outgoing as well and I love talking to him. Every time he saw me, he made his way over to me to talk to me.”

Miss a previous edition? Find every post of SEC Country’s daily Roll Tide-ings recruiting notebook right here.

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