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Alabama Crimson Tide

Tide DL signee says Bama was best decision he’s made

Alabama set out to sign an elite defensive line class in 2019 and it did just that last week, making it official with guys like Antonio Alfano and Justin Eboigbe.

The latter, a 4-star defensive end from Forest Park (Ga.), was pursued by many leading up the the Early Signing Period and kept Crimson Tide fans on the edge of their seat. Teams like Florida, Miami and Tennessee all coveted the Top100 defender, but it was the Vols that generated the most buzz outside of the Tide leading up to Eboigbe’s final decision.

“Message was we’re trying to build something,” Eboigbe said of Jeremy Pruitt and staff’s pitch at the Under Armour All-America check-in. “The same way how Alabama did when they had their recruiting class with Julio Jones and how it shaped Alabama. That’s what we’re trying to do in the 2019 class.”

Eboigbe fielded all the attention and took visits elsewhere despite his commitment to the Tide that he made last June, which ultimately he came to the conclusion that it was the right choice.

“It was more of a long-term decision,” he said. “If it was short and now, I would have took Tennessee and went there. Just thinking about all the possibilities past football, you know, thinking about getting into coaching, there’s no better coach to have played under than Coach (Nick) Saban. If he makes one phone call, it’s good enough for any job. It was just thinking past football and the opportunities I can have. It’s about going somewhere that you’ll be pushed everyday and going to the best team possible and playing for the best coach.

“Making that decision was probably the best decision I’ve made.”

The recruiting process was a complicated one for Eboigbe, the reigning Class 6A defensive player of the year in Georgia, considering the schools coming after him. 

“It was a hard decision,” he said. “Early in the recruiting process I thought I was going to UGA, then I committed to Alabama, then there were points where I thought I was going to Florida, then points where I was thinking about going to Tennessee, then some point thinking about going to Miami. A sigh of relief came when I signed. It took me all the way until Signing Day to think about what decision I wanted to make.”

Alabama could potentially lose three starters across its defensive line come next fall. It was that opportunity that really drew guys like Eboigbe to UA.

“One of the things that drew me to it is because I felt this is the best time since Nick Saban has gotten there for a D-lineman,” Eboigbe, who could earn a fifth star at Under Armour this week, said. “The fact that you got three guys starting right now that are going to the Draft, then you got other guys graduating, then you really don’t have consistent backups that when the rotation comes that they come in. There’s one guy there but there are two other positions. They’re talking to me about the position that Isaiah Buggs plays right now, that’s where they see me. I see myself fitting into that system.

“The notion that freshmen don’t play at Bama, that notion has been debunked.”

After the Under Armour All-America Game, Eboigbe will make his way to Tuscaloosa to begin his college career.

“Getting a head start and just really develop myself not as just a football player, but going in to be able to graduate early after my junior year,” Eboigbe said of what he’s looking forward to. “Being able to take part in the opportunities they provide outside of football, like the mentorships and the ways that they get you past the life of football. Being able to get in the weight room with Coach (Scott) Cochran, seeing the transformation he’s done with the players.”

A confident guy, Eboigbe does have one thing keeping him anxious, but also that serves as a motivation.

“Being the only person since Hines Ward in 25 years to go to a big DI school (from Forest Park), and not fail expectations that’s been heaped upon me,” he said.

At 6-foot-4.5, 263 pounds, Eboigbe is rated the No. 5 strong-side defensive end and the No. 75 overall player in the country, per the industry-generated 247Sports Composite Rankings.

247Sports’ Brian Dohn contributed to this report.

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