TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Mario Craver grew up dreaming of playing in the Iron Bowl. Now, the Pinson, Alabama, native will have the choice to suit up for either side of the rivalry during his college career.
Craver, a class of 2024 wide receiver, picked up an Alabama offer from Nick Saban during his visit to Tuscaloosa on Saturday. The childhood Alabama fan called the moment a “major move” in his recruitment, stating that the Crimson Tide is “definitely No. 1 for me right now.”
Saban is similarly high on the speedy receiver from Class 6A state champion Clay-Chalkville High School.
“He likes my speed and explosiveness and said I have great hands,” Craver said. “He said my only downside is my size, but he told me that he’s not worried about that because in these next two years he knows I’m going to grow and develop.”
Craver, 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, will have to bulk up before reaching the college level. However, he’s already putting up big numbers in high school. During his sophomore season last year, he recorded 46 receptions for 937 yards and 10 touchdowns while flashing elite speed and the ability to create separation in his routes.
While Craver said he’s focused on adding weight over the next two years, he’s encouraged to see the success of lighter wide receivers in Alabama’s offense. Former Alabama standout Jaylen Waddle (5-foot-10, 182 pounds) was selected No. 6 overall by the Miami Dolphins in last year’s NFL Draft, while rising sophomore JoJo Earle (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) will compete for the starting role at slot receiver this season.
“I definitely can see myself in that offense,” Craver said. “All those guys have speed, and we kind of have the same skill set. I’m just a little taller than some of those guys but play the same style. I can definitely see myself doing some damage.”
Along with Craver, Alabama also offered fellow Clay-Chalkville receiver Jaylen Mbakwe on Saturday. That was especially exciting for the pair of 2024 wideouts who have already discussed the possibility of playing together at the next level.
“We always wanted to play for the same college team, so that was big,” Craver said. “We were both very hyped. We know that if we were able to team up again in college, we’d be very elite. We could definitely do some damage in the SEC.”
Outside of receiving his offer, Craver said the highlight of his visit was touring Alabama’s recovery facility. He also came away with the Crimson Tide’s emphasis on life after football.
“I like the fact that they don’t only focus on winning,” Craver said. “They focus on getting your degree and your life after football. An average NFL career is like eight years, and you get there when you are 21 or 22. By the time you are 30, you need to know what you are going to do for the next 40 years. If possible, I want to get two degrees, but if not then definitely one.”
While Alabama leads the way for Craver, he also lists Auburn and Louisville among his top three schools at the moment. Over the next few weeks, he hopes to visit Georgia, LSU and Louisville.
Photos of Mario Craver
Clay-Chalkville's Mario Craver (4) turns up the field after a catch during the Class 6A football state championship at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Ala., on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.
Clay-Chalkville's Mario Craver (4) catches a pass for a two-point conversion during the Class 6A football state championship at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Ala., on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.
Clay-Chalkville's Mario Craver (4) turns up field after a catch during the Class 6A football state championship at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Ala., on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.
Clay-Chalkville's Mario Craver (4) celebrates his two-point conversion catch during the Class 6A football state championship at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Ala., on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.