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July 8, 2008

Alabama state rankings loaded on defense

Preseason State Rankings:

Five-star cornerback prospect Dre Kirkpatrick (Gadsden) leads another strong contingent in the Rivals.com Alabama Top 30 state rankings.

Kirkpatrick, who is 6 feet 2 and 180 pounds, is the nation's top-ranked defensive back and the No. 13 overall player in the Rivals100. He has 11 interceptions and 113 tackles over the previous two seasons.

"If there's one (cornerback) better than Dre, I want to see him," Gadsden City assistant coach Ali Smith said. "His hips, his speed, the way he changes direction are what stand out. He has unbelievable feet and very quick hands. Dre works hard and he hates to lose."

Linebacker Nico Johnson (Andalusia), defensive tackle D.J. Fluker (Foley), linebacker Tana Patrick (Stevenson North Jackson) and wide receiver Kendall Kelly (Gadsden) round out the top five, and each is a member of the Rivals100.

There are 19 defensive players in the Alabama top 30, including most of the top 15. Six defensive tackles are listed among the first dozen spots, with Fluker leading that position.

"The defensive tackle position is really deep, and so is the defensive side of the ball with 10 of the top 12 players," national recruiting analyst Barry Every said. "They also have quarterback AJ McCarron (Mobile St. Paul's), who is an Elite11 Selection. On the slightly negative side, there aren't any big-time playmakers like Julio Jones or Mark Barron."

The top-rated offensive prospect, Kelly, is No. 5 overall. Kelly (6-4/210) is a big, physical receiver who is tough to bring down in the open field.

McCarron, one of the nation's top passers, has thrown for 4,506 yards and 51 touchdown passes (only seven interceptions) over the past two seasons. He has committed to Alabama and is the nation's No. 6 pro-style quarterback.

"He's a good one," St. Paul's coach Mike Bates said. "There's no doubt about that. A.J can throw it, he can throw it on target and he can throw it on time. He's really matured."

Only two offensive line prospects made the list: guards John Sullen (Auburn) and Jeremy Simmons (Ashland Clay County).

Last year was amazingly deep in Alabama, as 83 state prospects signed with Division I-A teams.

Eight players in this year's top 30 are rated as four-star prospects, with all eight making the Rivals250. Six of the top 30 have committed to Auburn, and three have committed to Alabama.

MORE: Texas top 100 headlines new state rankings | NEW RELEASES: Ala. | Md. | Wis. | Iowa | Ore.



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