Alabama has a history of recruiting some of the top talent out of the state of Florida and getting those players to continue their football careers in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Crimson Tide’s 2020-21 team, which will compete for a national championship on Monday, is no different.
Top-ranked Alabama (12-0) has 15 scholarship players from the state of Florida on its current roster, and those 15 players will return to their home state this weekend for the College Football Playoff national title game against No. 3 Ohio State (7-0) in Miami Gardens, Fla.
“We’re all very excited to come back home and play in the national championship,” said cornerback Patrick Surtain II, a native of Plantation, Fla. “All our families are going to be there. They’re going to be excited. Repping the hometown is an exciting feeling, knowing how much tradition you’ve brought into the South Florida world. But it’s going to be an exciting moment, and we’re going to have fun out there. We’re just going to enjoy the moment.”
Surtain is one of four starters in the Crimson Tide’s secondary that hail from the Sunshine State, along with fellow corner Josh Jobe (Miami) and safeties Jordan Battle and Daniel Wright, who are both from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. In addition to the first-team defensive backfield, both of the teams’ starting offensive tackles and its starting quarterback call Florida home.
Six signees from Alabama’s 2021 recruiting class are from the state of Florida, including three of the Crimson Tide’s four wide receiver signees, and all six players are Top247 prospects.
“Coming from South Florida we all kind of have the same lingo,” Battle said. “We have such a great bond coming from out of the same area. I grew up playing with players like D. Wright, playing against Pat, playing against Josh Jobe. It’s just very fun to be playing against and competing for a national championship now coming from the same area.”
Battle said he grew up watching the Miami Dolphins play in Hard Rock Stadium, the site of this year’s CFP National Championship Game, so he’s somewhat familiar with the upcoming setting. But so is Alabama, which will be playing in its 11th postseason game in Miami.
The Crimson Tide has traveled to Miami on 10 previous occasions, holding a 6-4 mark in those postseason games. The 10 matchups include a 5-4 record in the Orange Bowl to go with UA’s win over Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7, 2013. Alabama’s most recent trip to Miami saw the Crimson Tide cruise past then-No. 4 Oklahoma by a 45-34 margin in the 2018 College Football Playoff semifinal at the Orange Bowl.
“It is really cool, just being from Florida and getting a chance to go back there, and then playing in Miami is a great city,” said quarterback Mac Jones, a native of Jacksonville, Fla. “But at the end of the day, it’s just another game, and we’ve got to go out there and play our game, and Ohio State is going to do the same. They’re going to play the game just like it’s any other game, and we’re just looking forward to that.”
Alabama will look to continue its recent success in Miami when it faces the Buckeyes on Jan. 11 (7 p.m. CT on ESPN) as it makes its return to the four-team playoff. Monday’s meeting will be the program’s 11th playoff game appearance, which is more than any college football team, and the Tide owns a 7-3 record in the postseason tournament since its inception in 2014.
The large contingent of Florida natives are thrilled to be wrapping up the season in their old stomping grounds and will look to help guide Alabama to its 18th national championship.
“To be honest, I love Florida. I think it’s the best state ever,” said offensive tackle Alex Leatherwood, a native of Pensacola, Fla. “I’m extremely grateful and happy to have the opportunity to play in the national championship, of course, but it also being at home in the crib is a great feeling. I’m super excited for it.”
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