Nick Saban doesn’t travel across the country for just anyone. During a trip to California earlier this week, the Alabama head coach made that clear to one of the nation’s top receivers in the 2023 class.
Saban and Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien stopped by Folsom High School on Wednesday where they briefly spoke with four-star wide receiver Rico Flores Jr., who included the Crimson Tide in his top 10 last month.
“It wasn't a very long conversation because I was on my way to class, but with Saban, it was like how ‘We don’t travel to ‘Cali if we’re not interested in you,’ and he was like ‘We gotta get you back to Bama for spring practice,’” Flores said. “Then with O’Brien, he wants to talk with my mom this weekend, and he asked me where do I wanna play position-wise. He said ‘I know I can put you anywhere, but where do you wanna play? I said at heart, I love receiver, but I’ll play anywhere I’m needed.”
Flores, 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, is rated as the 152 overall player and No. 22 receiver in the 2023 class, according to the 247Sports Composite. Over three varsity seasons at Folsom High School, he’s averaged 16.6 yards per reception, totaling 2,142 yards and 25 touchdowns through the air. That includes a junior campaign that saw him pull in 81 receptions for 1,157 yards and 11 touchdowns over 15 games.
Flores made the cross-country trip to Tuscaloosa, Ala., to take in Alabama’s 20-14 victory over LSU last season. The four-star receiver said he was blown away by the atmosphere inside Bryant-Denny Stadium and the overall feel of the campus. He’s also impressed with Alabama’s ability to develop NFL talent at the receiver position as the Tide has produced four first-round wideouts over the past two drafts and is projected to have another in Jameson Williams this year.
“The culture there, I loved it. Maybe I might go [back] in the spring,” Flores said. “I like that they’re very serious in developing their players so they’re ready for the NFL.”
Flores plays at the same high school as former Alabama offensive lineman Jonah Williams. In recent years, the Crimson Tide has begun to pull more players from California, including Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young and former Doak Walker Award winner Najee Harris. Alabama also added former Tennessee linebacker Henry To’o To’o, a Sacramento, Calif., native last year and brought in LSU transfer cornerback Eli Ricks, a Rancho Cucamonga, Calif native, this offseason.
Flores believes the insurgence of West Coast talent is due to players looking to prove themselves at the highest level.
“Us Cali kids know that’s a big stage,” Flores said. “Especially with them being in the SEC, that has a big factor to do with it. I think I can have success there as well.”
Despite Alabama’s growing West Coast influence, Flores does not have a connection with anyone on the Crimson Tide’s current roster. However, he has been able to form a nice relationship with wide receivers coach Holmon Wiggins, who hails for Los Angeles.
“I try to talk with him every other week or so,” Flores said. “I like him because he’s from L.A., so he knows how growing up in Cali is, and I feel like I can relate with him a lot. He likes how I can catch the ball in tuff situations, my routes and my ability to track the ball.”
Flores has yet to map out his upcoming visits but said the Crimson Tide is firmly in contention for his commitment at the moment. Other schools in his top 10 include Georgia, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon, Pittsburgh, Southern California, Texas and UCLA.