National Signing Day 2022: Alabama lands pair of top-50 defenders in Qua Russaw, James Smith

A pair of high school teammates who rank as top-50 players in the 2023 recruiting class announced their commitments to Alabama on Wednesday during the first day of the early signing period as Qua Russaw and James Smith picked the Crimson Tide over numerous options. Russaw is regarded as the No. 7 edge rusher in the Class of 2023, according to 247Sports, while Smith is regarded as the No. 4 defensive lineman in the class.

Both players starred at Carver High School in Montgomery, Alabama, for a team that finished 9-2 this season. Smith is rated as the No. 2 prospect in the state while Russaw is not far behind at No. 4. Both are considered four-star prospects by 247Sports, and their commitments should help solidify Alabama’s efforts to reclaim the top spot in the team recruiting rankings.

Texas A&M edged Alabama for No. 1 in the 247Sports team rankings last season, which led to some noteworthy criticism of the Aggies’ recruiting tactics from Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban. But Alabama entered Wednesday with the nation’s No. 1-ranked class, and the commitments of Russaw and Smith will only help the Crimson Tide’s standing before the recruiting cycle is finalized after traditional signing day on Feb. 1.

Scouting report on Smith

Smith is considered the No. 33 overall player in the class by 247Sports, and is regarded as a five-star prospect in the 247Sports Composite. At 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds, he is a space-eater up front who also visited the likes of Auburn, Florida and Georgia during his recruitment.

The Under Armour All-American drew a comparison to Devonte Wyatt of the Green Bay Packers from 247Sports Midlands Region Recruiting Analyst Gabe Brooks. Here is more from Brooks’ scouting report on Smith:

“Wears bulk quite well. Could even add more weight if desired, but will arrive at a high-major program ready to give snaps. Athletic context lacks any of the desired perspective beyond functional, on-field evidence. Passes the eyeball test on tape and live. Experienced at myriad LOS spots, from the edge to the interior and all points therein. Shows startling two-point edge athleticism for his size. Juice translates to perimeter pursuit range. Capable of chase-down athleticism from the back side. Also flashes uncommon redirecting twitch edge to edge. Launches out of stops — while maintaining body control — to redirect with purpose and efficiency. Shows some pass-rush nuance with swim and rip moves. Explosive burst at the snap gets him on top of blockers in a hurry. Knows how to get skinny and knife into gaps. Quick, slippery penetrator who’s at his best when asked to get up the field.”

Scouting report on Russaw

Russaw is regarded as the No. 48 overall prospect in the class by 247Sports and also has a fifth star in the 247Sports Composite. The 6-foot-2, 230 pounder should be a potent pass rusher in college. Like Smith, he is an Under Armour All-American who visited other SEC powers before landing on the Crimson Tide.

He ran the 100-meter dash at 11.65 seconds while competing in track this past spring. Here is the scouting report on Russaw from 247Sports National Recruiting Analyst Cooper Petagna

“Appears to possess ideal size at 6-foot-2 and 230-pounds, has the ability to add additional weight to his frame. Displays good athletic ability on defense and special teams. Will see the majority of his snaps in a pass-rushing edge role while playing a decent amount of snaps as an off-ball box linebacker. Quick twitch explosive off the line of scrimmage. Compensates for lack of length on the edge with play strength and ability to play with power. Demonstrates heavy hands at the point of attack. Shows the ability to generate consistent pass-rush with initial quickness, play strength, and motor. Plays with excellent range and closing speed off the ball, displaying a violence at the point of attack. Instinctive three-down linebacker that has ability to play on or off ball at the next level and can add pass-rushing value on passing downs. Plays with outstanding effort and will add immediate special teams value at the next level. Projects to a high level Power-Five multi-year starter at the collegiate level.”

Impact on Alabama 

Alabama’s recruiting class was already in excellent shape, but landing the Russaw-Smith duo helps the Crimson Tide from an in-state perspective. With the high school teammates from Montgomery on board, Alabama now has eight in-state players committed to its 2023 class. Seven of them are rated as four-star prospects or better.¬†

When considering Georgia has a commitment from the state’s No. 1 prospect, cornerback AJ Harris, and that Clemson has commitments from three of the state’s top six prospects, the Crimson Tide needed to close strong with this year’s in-state crop. Landing Russaw and Smith accomplishes that.

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