As fans and experts alike try to predict outcomes of the 2022 recruiting cycle, and names to be added for Alabama, the Crimson Tide coaching staff has also had its attention on the next year and will host some of the nation's best prospects from each class this weekend for its home matchup with Southern Miss.
Jayden Wayne will be among those in town on a visit. A 2023 defensive lineman out of Lincoln High in Tacoma, Washington, he camped at Alabama this summer and spent time with some of its coaches, including Nick Saban.
But Wayne eyed this weekend as a chance for a better look on life at the Capstone, too.
"I'm just excited to meet with all the coaches again and be able to bring my mom and dad this time," Wayne said. "And I want to check out the campus and gameday environment there, and I want to talk with all the coaches and the players, too."
Prior to this weekend and dating back to summer months, Wayne already has visited some of the best college football programs around the country that have consistently signed some of the best recruiting classes in the sport.
Georgia, Florida, Oregon and Clemson, among other schools, hosted the defensive lineman at camp a few months ago, to show the fast-paced competition of pursuing a top-rated player who had more than 18 months before a decision is final.
SEC West rival Texas A&M is expected to be on his agenda of visits soon, also.
For Alabama in its recruitment of Wayne, meanwhile, defensive line coach Freddie Roach, outside linebackers coach Sal Sunseri and wide receivers coach Holmon Wiggins are the Tide staffers who contact him most.
"I've been hearing from coach Roach and coach Wiggins every week, so it's been pretty good," Wayne said. "They're super cool. They kind of see me as an outside linebacker like Will Anderson [Jr.]."
As do some of the Crimson Tide's main competitors, though, at least in comparing him to players already at their respective schools. Oregon coaches, for example, told Wayne they project him similarly to edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, a junior edge rusher similar to Anderson Jr. who's a projected top-five pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
The variance is in the scheme and what he'd be asked to do, he said, referring to stylistic differences program-to-program. But there are other factors, too, which is what makes on-campus visits a special occasion during the fall season. You get to watch first-hand the things you've wondered prior to arriving.
"To be able to continue and build relationships with coaches and schools, that's important, and so is watching them play," Wayne said. "I'm watching my position, the atmosphere and the defensive schemes they're using. It's a lot to consider."
Alabama, with all things considered, is "definitely" among the leaders for Wayne, too, as like most every program, the Crimson Tide thinks of his position(s) as a premium in today's college football.
So, to elaborate on the indication of more than one position one line above, when the junior prospect first sat down with Saban in his office, he said the Alabama coach alluded to his versatility at 6-foot-6, 245 pounds as a significant asset once it's time for college.
"He said I can play both ways. In high school, I play wide receiver and tight end on offense, but at [Alabama] camp I only worked out on defense." Wayne said.
As for a decision timeline, no less one that could extend as far as 16 months, the Lincoln High standout is taking his time and still figuring some things out. But he's planning more visits, like to aforementioned Texas A&M and return trips to Georgia, Florida and Oregon.
This weekend, though, Wayne mainly wants to spend time with Saban. That's what he's most looking forward to, and that's something that's only occurred once, in the coach's office, in his ongoing recruiting process.
SI All-American scouting report:
"Wayne is one of the top two-way prospects nationally in the class of 2023. He boasts an ideal trench frame in the 6'6", 245-pound range with length and room to fill out as needed, relative to the position projection. Working primarily as a pass rusher at the prep level, Wayne can attack with leverage and bend off the edge, with good instincts and hands at the point of attack. He works as a tight end on offense with a big stride, range and ball skills.
"The Tacoma (Washington) Lincoln prospect likely has a higher ceiling on defense as an exterior pass rusher, but the offensive work is intriguing. He fits the classic mold of the tight end by frame, and lines up in-line with success, but also features the athleticism to play in space and even line up split out like a wide receiver. There is some versatility in his defensive game as well, working from both a three and four-point stance, as well as from a standup position while playing the edge. Wayne has the potential to move inside and work the interior of the defensive line with more size and experience, too.
"The most intriguing element of Wayne's game, at its current stage, is his closing ability and short-area explosiveness. Whether coming down the line on a run away from his side or barreling down on the passer in the pocket, the junior turns heads in the final moments of the play. He is strong downhill and has a knack for beating bigger blockers to the point of contact, so overall anchor and hand technique are areas available for improvement going forward. Still, Wayne projects as a premiere defensive line prospect with a national recruitment ahead in his class."