Four recruiting battles that shaped Alabama, Ohio State football championship game rosters

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

Alabama football and Ohio State consistently recruiting at the top of the sport has meant the two crossing paths somewhat frequently when vying for the nation’s top prospects. As they get ready to meet in Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship game, it is a certainty that both sides feature players who could have easily been on the other side of the game.

Here are four recruiting battles between the Crimson Tide and the Buckeyes that shaped the makeup of both rosters.

Alabama safety Jordan Battle 

In the summer before his senior season, Jordan Battle was collecting big offers left and right: LSU and Clemson came along as the summer visit and camp period began. Battle committed to Ohio State a week after a visit in June, but he still took an official visit to Oklahoma and an unofficial visit to nearby Miami, coming out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Fort Lauderdale.

The final official visit Battle took as an Ohio State commit was to Alabama, arriving on campus for a 24-0 Crimson Tide win over Mississippi State on Nov. 10, 2018. UA closed the deal with Battle in an in-home visit over the winter as he flipped on signing day to UA.

Battle went on to be a significant part of UA’s secondary as a freshman and an every-down player this season. He enters the national championship game third on the team and tackles and tied for fourth with four pass breakups.

Ohio State tight end Jeremy Ruckert 

Ohio State Buckeyes tight end Jeremy Ruckert (88) celebrates scoring a touchdown behind Clemson Tigers defensive end Justin Mascoll (7) during the second quarter of the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021.

Jeremy Ruckert’s recruitment exploded in the summer before his junior season. Some offers came in the spring from the likes of Boston College, Syracuse and others, but that summer saw offers from Wisconsin, Mississippi State, Florida, Florida State, Tennessee and others come his way. Alabama and Ohio State joined that list on back-to-back days.

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Ruckert did visit UA once unofficially, doing so on a tour of southeastern schools, but the Buckeyes put the full-on blitz on Ruckert, sending several members of its staff to see him, including then-coach Urban Meyer.

The effort was rewarded: five of Ruckert’s 12 catches have gone for touchdowns this season, two of them in the semifinal win over Clemson last week.

UA saw the tight end position as one of need in that class. It signed Michael Parker that year and transitioned outside linebacker Cameron Latu from that class into a tight end. Still, the need was not met, opening the door for UA to pursue and secure Jahleel Billingsley. He’s proven to be crucial in UA’s effort to replace Jaylen Waddle, amassing 15 catches for 247 yards and three touchdowns all in the last six games.

Ohio State wide receiver Garrett Wilson

Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Garrett Wilson (5) catches a deep pass behind Clemson Tigers cornerback Derion Kendrick (1) during the first quarter of the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans on Friday, Jan. 1, 2021.

Garrett Wilson is another example of Ohio State putting the visit blitz on a prospect who collected all of the big offers late in the process. Alabama was one of those late offers, but by March 2018 things were leaning toward the Buckeyes before his commitment on April 29.

Reading the tea leaves, Alabama went elsewhere for its lone receiver in the 2019 class: John Metchie III. Alabama offered Metchie on April 2, 2018, and secured his commitment the following July.

Both have proven valuable in their destinations. Wilson is Ohio State’s leader in receiving yards and Metchie is second to DeVonta Smith.

Alabama safety DeMarcco Hellams 

Notre Dame running back Kyren Williams (23) is tackled by Alabama defensive back DeMarcco Hellams (29) and others after a short gain in the first half of the Rose Bowl NCAA college football game in Arlington, Texas, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

On Dec. 11, 2017, Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson visited DeMarcco Hellams and extended a scholarship offer. It was all Alabama from there.

The Crimson Tide followed with its own offer in February 2018, an unofficial visit in March, an official visit in June and his commitment later that month.

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Hellams has become one of UA’s better options at both deep safety and its money defensive back position. Playing deep safety in the semifinal against Notre Dame, Hellams contributed a team-high 12 tackles and one sack.

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson