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Alabama DB signee explains 11th-hour flip from Ohio State

Give departing Ohio State coach Urban Meyer an assist for Alabama landing defensive back Jordan Battle.

Battle committed to Ohio State in June 2018 and stayed firm throughout his senior season at powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.). Then, Meyer confirmed his retirement from the program on Dec. 4, the same day Alabama coach Nick Saban and two assistant coaches made an in-home visit to the 4-star defensive back from Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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About two weeks later — on the first day of college football’s early signing period, Dec. 19 — Battle flipped to Alabama and signed with the Crimson Tide.

“The big decision between those two schools was the coaching change, of course,” Battle said at the Under Armour All-Star Game check-in, later clarifying he likely would have signed with Ohio State had Meyer stayed.

Battle is ranked as the nation’s No. 77 overall prospect and No. 6 safety, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. He is one of 23 players who signed in December with Alabama.

The 54-year-old Meyer endured a three-game suspension to start the 2018 season after a report he misrepresented when he knew of domestic abuse allegations against former assistant coach Zach Smith. That sparked speculation Meyer would step down, but he said in an Oct. 29 news conference that he planned to return to Ohio State and coach the team in 2019.

But something clearly changed. Meyer — 82-9 at in seven seasons at Ohio State, including winning the 2014 national title — coaches his final game today when the Buckeyes meet Washington in the Rose Bowl, with kickoff set for 4 p.m.

Battle, a 6-foot-1, 187-pound safety who is rated a 4-star prospect, visited Alabama during the weekend of the Mississippi State game.

“I really liked it,” he said of his visit. “Everybody up there was great people. Coach Saban, of course, great people. Coach (Karl) Scott, the DB coach, was around me the whole time, and I was around Pat (Surtain), who I know real well.”

Battle never made a visit to Ohio State after Meyer’s announcement and Ohio State’s decision elevate Ryan Day to head coach.

How did Surtain — a freshman from Fort Lauderdale who earned a starting cornerback spot this season — influence his decision?

“Coming in, he wasn’t a starter right away,” Battle said. “He played a little bit against Louisville. The second game, you could see it building, the playing time going up and then by the fifth game of the season, he’s starting and he’s still starting now. Seeing him gradually increase his ability to play football and learn the scheme of Alabama’s defense — which is probably one of the hardest defenses to learn … seeing him be able to adapt to that and improve and watch him play was just a great thing.”

Battle said Alabama coaches compared him to Minkah Fitzpatrick, a 2015 signee who earned a starting spot as a freshman, became a two-time All-American, won the Chuck Bednarik and Jim Thorpe awards in 2017, and was No. 11 overall pick by the Miami Dolphins in last year’s NFL draft.

Battle termed the comparison to one of Alabama’s all-time great defensive backs “tough” and “hard.”

“It motivates me,” Battle said. “It makes me want to work much more harder than I already have. Knowing Minkah and watching Minkah play, that’s tough comparison to live up to.

“I’ve seen him a play a lot,” Battled added, saying he attend “a couple” of Dolphins games this season. “He’s just a great player. His play recognition, his agility, his speed, his acceleration, coverage skills, everything is just great about him. That’s why he’s in the NFL right now.”

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