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 the nation’s top defensive backs.
The latest on top safety target Jaylen McCollough
POWDER SPRINGS, Ga. — Hillgrove High School is less than 100 miles from the University of Georgia, but Jaylen McCollough, a 4-star safety, has visited Alabama more than the in-state school.
McCollough is a top target for both schools, but the nation’s No. 4 safety estimates that he’s been to Tuscaloosa seven or eight times in the last few years.
“I camped there about two or three times my freshman year and have kept going back there for visits,” McCollough told SEC Country. “Honestly, I’ve really lost count on how many times I’ve been there. The environment and atmosphere is great. I love the coaches. It feels like home. Every time I’m there, it just feels like home.”
Those last two sentences in his quote are important to note because it’s the first thing he mentioned when talking about how he’s going to pick the school of his choice. His future college needs to feel like home.
There have been considerable coaching changes at Alabama in the last few months. Gone are defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt and defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley, two coaches with whom McCollough had good relationships. But their departures didn’t hurt the Tide’s chances at landing one of their top targets in the 2019 class because his primary recruiter, offensive line coach Brent Key, remains on staff.
“It affected it a little bit, but I’m not committing to a coach,” McCollough said. “I’m committing to a school. I had a great relationship with Coach Ansley. It played a little bit of a factor on where I stood with them but not too much.”
Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina seem to be the top schools in the mix for McCollough. He has a top 7 that consists of those schools plus Florida State, Tennessee and Ohio State.
McCollough’s versatility makes him an intriguing prospect. Some schools, such as South Carolina and Michigan State, are recruiting him at running back, while Alabama and Georgia like him in the secondary. The Bulldogs have shown some interest in him at running back but prefer him as a defensive back. McCollough doesn’t have a preference on which position he plays in college, but he’s leaning toward defense.
Hillgrove coach Phillip Ironside thinks he’d have success on either side of the ball.
“He can do a lot of things and that’s the most advantageous part about him,” Ironside said. “I’m an offensive guy, so I like him at running back just because I can utilize him so much. But he’s such a security blanket defensively. ”
McCollough, who strictly played running back his first year at Hillgrove, became a hot recruit after Ironside moved him to defensive back after his freshman season. He performed at DB in several camps and that’s when the offers started coming. Ironside said in all of the years he’s been at Hillgrove, McCollough is one of the few to play varsity as a freshman.
There have been several standout players to come through the school over the last few years, such as New York Giants tight end Evan Ingram and former Alabama running back and current Miami Dolphins standout Kenyan Drake. Former North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb is projected to be a top-5 pick in the upcoming NFL draft. Drake and McCollough, though, have received the most recruiting attention in Ironside’s tenure.
“Recruiting is a funny business,” Ironside said. “We’ve had some really good ones come through here where there was zero fanfare. They’re saying [Bradley] Chubb is going to be the third pick, and no one came here to talk to me about Bradley Chubb. No one was excited about him going to N.C. State. Now he’s going to be a top pick. Evan Ingram — the same thing. There was no fanfare. He’s now with the Giants. Kenyan was different. There was a lot of coverage on him because he had an Alabama offer his junior year.”
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound McCollough keeps in touch with those guys. Chubb came to Hillgrove the day after his performance at the NFL combine last month. Ingram was at the school a few days ago and McCollough keeps in touch with Drake.
He listens to every word those guys have to say about what it takes to get to their level.
“I’m following in some big footsteps, but I’m going to continue to play my game and listen to the coaches,” McCollough said. “I just need to do everything they say. That’s how the guys before me got there [to the NFL], and that’s how I plan on getting there.
“They told me that it takes a lot of hard work and a lot of listening to the coaches. I look at those guys as my big brothers.”
He doesn’t talk much recruiting with them. He’s not planning on making a commitment until the fall. As of now, he believes Alabama and Georgia will get official visits. Auburn and South Carolina will likely get visits, too.
Georgia will be a factor for McCollough because he’s very close with 5-star defensive end commit Nolan Smith and 5-star linebacker Owen Pappoe, who likely will commit to the Bulldogs on May 5. He also said a lot of his friends go to UGA and they’re recruiting him, too.
But there’s a reason why McCollough hasn’t visited Athens more than Tuscaloosa. His coach believes Alabama is the pinnacle of college football.
“Alabama doesn’t go after everybody,” Ironside said. “If you get an Alabama offer, what else is there? That covers all the bases and you’re pretty much set.”
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