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 an in-state defensive tackle.
Jalen Cunningham waiting on more good news
These next few weeks could impact the rest of Jalen Cunningham’s life.
Cunningham, a 3-star defensive tackle from St. Clair County High School (Odenville, Ala.), was told by the Alabama coaching staff that, depending on how he performs these next two weeks, he could possibly receive a committable offer.
That’s important because if he does, he’ll be a Crimson Tide commit soon after.
“Everybody knows I probably will,” Cunningham said when asked if he’d commit if given the green light. “It’s more than likely that I will. That’s my team. Alabama has been my favorite team my entire life. They’re my favorite coaching staff. It would be a great opportunity for me and I know they would build me for the future.”
Cunningham practiced for the first time with his team this season on Tuesday after being cleared by his doctor. Cunningham had surgery for a turf toe injury he sustained at Nick Saban’s Football Camp in July.
The 6-foot-6, 345-pound prospect tore every ligament and dislocated his left big toe during warm-up drills. Cunningham was wearing cleats he had worn since his freshman year, and they didn’t have the best traction.
The nation’s No. 31 defensive tackle said the recovery process wasn’t strenuous, thanks to the help of his doctor, who he’s dedicating his game to this weekend.
“I was so excited to hear that I was clear and my doctor was excited for me,” Cunningham said. “I just thanked him for everything he did for me. This first game on Friday will be for him because he helped me out so much.”
Cunningham knows how important this game is for his chances at earning a committable offer from his dream school. He said he’s in daily contact with Alabama defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, who may possibly attend Cunningham’s game this Friday.
Alabama needs several interior linemen this recruiting class, and Cunningham is one of several nose tackles the team is tracking along with FSU defensive tackle commit Robert Cooper and Mississippi prospect Jeffery Johnson.
The in-state prospect knows the possibility exists that he’ll never get the news he wants from Alabama, but he has his mind set on wearing the Crimson Tide uniform in 2018.
“I’m trying my hardest not to think about that because I’ll love Alabama until death,” Cunningham said. “The way they are talking about how they want me because they have zero nose tackles committed.”
When SEC Country visited Cunningham at his school, it was clear that Alabama was the school he wanted to attend. He has an Alabama logo on his car, a Crimson Tide-themed key lanyard and told us everything on his wall at home is related to the team.
What has the coaching staff told him about his chances at earning the offer?
“The only thing they said they need to see before I can make a decision is how I bounce back from this injury,” Cunningham said. “They said they are going to watch these first two games for me. After that, if they like what they see, I’m on track to make a commitment.”
Before his turf toe injury, Cunningham’s weight was a concern to the coaching staff. He weighed 362 pounds when SEC Country was at his school in April. The one thing I could say about Cunningham’s weight was that he was well put together. It was not at all a sloppy 360-plus pounds he was carrying around. I’ve seen players who weigh much less than him and look terrible carrying their weight. Cunningham isn’t one of those guys.
He’s been on a strict diet now for more than two months. He does miss his favorite food, though, which is macaroni and cheese.
“For breakfast I eat a piece of wheat toast, two cups of frozen fruit and I drink a protein shake,” Cunningham said. “For lunch I eat half of a salad with no meat on it. For dinner I eat a whole salad with meat. It’s been good.
“I’m comfortable at the weight I’m at. I’ve been playing at 360 since my freshman year, so I’m good playing at 345. I want to continue getting smaller, though. I want to be around 320 or 315.”
Cunningham was one of the numerous recruits who attended Alabama’s season opener against Florida State this past weekend. He sat with Alabama commitments Cameron Latu and 2019 prospect Pierce Quick, along with 4-star wide receiver Justyn Ross and 2019 5-star center Clay Webb.
What made this visit special for Cunningham was the fact that it was the first time he’s been to a game on a higher level than high school.
“This was my first-ever college game and first time ever being inside an NFL stadium,” he said. “It was great. The only thing I didn’t like was there were so many people there. I don’t like being around all of those people.”
There’s no doubt that Cunningham has dreamed about playing for Alabama, so if he does get the news he’s been waiting on for years now, he’s not sure how he would react.
“I would have no words to even speak,” Cunningham said. “It would just be a mind-blowing thing for me to think about. Everything in my room is Alabama. It would be crazy. I got everything Alabama-related.”
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