- Craig Haubert, ESPN Staff Writer
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The state of Alabama has produced some elite talent in recent years, with prospects like offensive tackle Andre Smith in the 2006 class, wide receiver Julio Jones in 2008 and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick in 2009. This year, the state does not have that elite five-star prospect, but overall there is good talent available.
There are 10 four-star prospects in the 2011 class as well as a pretty good pool of three- and high two-star talent. There is not one real position of strength within the state, but two interior offensive lineman do rank among the top five prospects in Alabama. Overall, the positions with the best quality depth this year are defensive end and wide receiver; the WR group is led by two four-star prospects, Marvin Shinn (Prichard, Ala./Vigor) and Danny Woodson Jr. (Mobile, Ala./LeFlore Magnet).
C Reese Dismukes (Spanish Fort, Ala./Spanish Fort)
Quality centers, especially ones with experience, can be hard to find at the high school level. Overall, the center position has produced fewer than 10 ESPNU 150 prospects over the past five years, but three have come from Alabama, including Dismukes, the state's top prospect this year. (He joins Ryan Pugh, who signed with Auburn in 2007, and Ben Jones, who signed with Georgia in 2008. Both players were named to the Rimmington Trophy watch list this year, which is the award handed to the most outstanding center at the FBS level.) Dismukes, an Auburn commit, could end up being the best of the trio. The Under Armour All-American combines good athleticism for the position and for his size (6-foot-3, 275 pounds) along with good technique and an aggressive and physical style of play. Alabama is becoming the capital of center prospects, and despite a high bar set by the pair that came before him, Dismukes could end up raising it.
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OLB Vinnie Sunseri (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Northridge)
Sunseri will get discounted by some because of his lack of ideal size (5-11, 202 pounds), but he overcomes that deficiency with strengths in other areas of the game, and he will develop into a productive college player. He is a good athlete, a coach's son and, quite simply, a good football player. His father, Sal, is the linebackers coach at Alabama, and his brother, Tino, is a quarterback at Pittsburgh, so it's not surprising that Vinnie shows great instincts and a feel for the game. He is not the biggest kid, but he plays fast and physical and can play bigger than his measurables. He will need to prove he can consistently take on and defeat bigger blockers, but Sunseri can play the game and get to the ball. He will get lost in an Alabama class with a lot of good talent, but keep an eye on him because he could develop into an undersized but heady and very productive college linebacker .
Taking up residence
Here are the colleges that are doing the best with Alabama prospects this year.
The Tigers, who are as creative and active as any program on the recruiting trail, have been busy in-state and have eight prospects from Alabama in their class. Three are four-star prospects, including Dismukes, who is the No. 1 player in Alabama this year. Cornerback Jonathan Rose (Leeds, Ala./Leeds) is Auburn's highest-rated defensive prospect from the state. He needs to develop but is a good, tough athlete who can run. The Tigers also landed a pair of promising in-state defensive line prospects, Jabrian Niles (Mobile, Ala./Davidson) and Keymiya Harrell (Plantersville, Ala./Dallas County).
With a rich history, a fresh national championship trophy in the display case and a ton of exposure, the Crimson Tide are as tough as ever on the recruiting trail. They have done the majority of their damage out of state -- 13 of the Tide's 18 commits are from outside of Alabama -- but have landed some good in-state talent, as well, specifically at wide receiver. Three of Bama's five in-state commits are receiver prospects; Shinn and Woodson Jr. rank among the top 25 receivers in the Class of 2011 and Daryl Collins (Gadsden, Ala./Gadsden) is a high three-star prospect.
It is no surprise to see Alabama and Auburn doing well, but it was a bit of a shock to see how active the Golden Eagles have been in Alabama. Nearly half of Southern Miss' commits hail from the state, including three of its top four prospects. While these players aren't among the top 15 in the state, Southern Miss landed some quality prospects. Their top-rated prospect, wide receiver Darien Thomas (Theodore, Ala./Theodore), is a deceptively quick and athletic big receiver.
Craig Haubert is the recruiting coordinator for ESPN Recruiting and has more than a decade of coaching experience.