If Alabama is known for anything around college football, it is great defense. Goal-line stands. Stoning teams on first and second down. Not giving ground.
It appears the Crimson Tide has defended their interests in Roswell four-star safety Xavier McKinney after a successful visit last weekend. That’s important, because there might have been a window for McKinney.
His last trip to Tuscaloosa was rushed and wasn’t what he expected as a commitment. That was for the LSU game last season. His mother even felt it could’ve been better.
There was also a lapse in communication in Alabama’s coaching transition on defense. UGA was a contender given his ties to new coach Kirby Smart and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. Tucker coached the defensive backs for Alabama last year.
UGA also had success flipping Alabama commitments (Jake Fromm, Tyler Simmons, preferred walk-on Mitchell Wasson) from the state of Georgia the last few months because of those relationships. But McKinney told SEC Country’s Chris Kirschner his recent visit reinforced his commitment to Alabama last weekend.
“Oh yes, it did,” McKinney said. “I needed this trip. It was good for me to take. It was good for me to know that they still want me there, tremendously, as well as my family.”
He visited Alabama and established a good relationship with new defensive backs coach Derrick Ansley. The nation’s No. 11 safety prospect shadowed Ansley in practice during position groups, sat in meetings and had great communication with the staff.
The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder made it clear how impressed he was with how efficient and organized everything was. His new impression of where he stands with the Tide is a very good one. That’s important because he wasn’t sure he was a priority for a time prior to that trip. He even labeled his interpretation of the staff’s feelings as “iffy.”
It was evident he had a lot of fun, but McKinney also said UGA is one of his top schools. McKinney also told SEC Country that Smart reached out to him shortly after that trip.
“Coach Smart wants me to come back up there, which I will,” said McKinney, who visited UGA on Feb. 18. “I don’t know when, but it will probably be in a couple of weeks. He just wanted to let me know that they are on spring break right now, so he wants me to come there for one of their practices after they start back up. I’ll probably do that.”
He was asked what it would take for Georgia to get his commitment and he didn’t really like that question. The Roswell defender feels people automatically assume too much. His decision will be his own choice and should not be expected to mirror another prospect’s path.
It was an answer that Alabama coach Nick Saban would approve of.
“I know some people think I’m going to de-commit and flip to Georgia,” McKinney said. “They think because Kirby left, I’m just going to flip. Me, personally, I fell in love with Alabama and not just a coach. That’s something that more prospects need to consider. A lot of guys that may have flipped to Georgia from Alabama may have just been committed to a coach. I don’t think that’s a good idea to just commit to a coach. As we’ve seen, there have been a lot of coaching changes. You should commit to the school and not any coach.”
Yet that call from Smart after that trip to Alabama makes sure he knows how big of a recruiting priority he is to UGA.
“Big for sure,” McKinney said. I talked to (Smart) about it the first time I visited Georgia. Obviously, I am a big priority to him and I was when he was at Alabama. I know where I stand with him and I know how much he wants me to be with him.”
Yet Saban made sure McKinney knew Alabama’s message on his trip, too.
“We talked about playing time and how many freshmen get the chance to play,” McKinney said. “He talked about how that pretty much every guy he recruited in the past few years has won a national championship. He wants my mom to come up, which she will eventually.”
McKinney also made sure to share his impressions of that Alabama visit with his mother.
“She had question marks for a little while because of that visit we took,” he said. “She wasn’t happy with it. I told her about how this visit went this past time about how great they treated me and how they really let me know they still want me. I really want my family to like Alabama, too, and once I told her about that, she said she’ll definitely have to go back there. I think once she goes back, Alabama will definitely be one of her top schools.”
SEC Country staff writer Chris Kirschner contributed to this report.
Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.