Denzel Devall signed to play with the University of Alabama this coming fall, even though he's from Louisiana and much closer to LSU geographically. But his heart is closer to Alabama.
"It's always been the relationship that I had with all the coaches and basically everyone at Alabama," Devall said. "I just didn't feel comfortable with the coaches down at LSU. I just didn't feel like that was the place for me. You know how you get a certain vibe whenever you step on a certain campus? That vibe just wasn't for me. When I stepped on Alabama's campus, it was like 'Man, this is where I need to be.'"
Assistant coach Mike Groh is in charge of recruiting for the regional area that covers Bastrop High School in Bastrop, La.,, where Devall will soon graduate with a 3.9 GPA. The initial connection he made with Groh was part of what drew him to Alabama.
"Coach Groh, he's like my big brother and I'm like his little brother," Devall said. "We talk a lot. We joke around, and we have fun, but when it's all said and done he's a coach. We all got certain jobs to do. Coach (Nick) Saban, I just like the whole vibe whenever I'm around Coach Saban. It's just a great atmosphere. It's just something you want to be a part of."
Another big reason Devall wanted to come to Alabama is the strong tradition of linebackers who have been able to go on to the pro level.
"You look at Rolando [McClain], you look at Dont'a [Hightower], you've got Nico [Johnson]. It's just so many elite linebackers that came through there," the 6-foot-2 recruit said. "What got me was when I came up and was looking at their All-Americans and I saw one of my favorite players, Derrick Thomas. That got me. I just want to carry on the tradition and be the best that I can be."
One of Devall's greatest strengths is his versatility. He played defensive end in his freshman year, but moved to inside linebacker while playing defensive tackle and outside linebacker at other times in high school.
"I'm a pass rusher at heart," Devall said. "I love pass rushing, but I can stuff the run in the middle, at the end, or outside or anywhere."
When asked about his impressive GPA, Devall credited his mom.
"I just really try to stay on top of my work," Devall said. "My mom is a firm believer of getting my grades, so to keep my mom happy, I try to keep my grades up."
The young defensive stalwart stays out of trouble with one simple activity.
"My fun would have to be going out bowling," he said. "I like bowling occasionally and just having fun at a friend's house or something like that."
Devall's intelligence shows up on the football field, too.
"I pick up defensive schemes real fast," he said. "I'm able to adapt that to the way I play. I look at that as my biggest asset."
The touted recruit is now hard at work so that he'll be ready to compete this fall.
"After basketball season at the beginning of February, I started working out and getting stronger and getting my body back right," Devall said. "I started running and stuff. I ran a 4.5 [40 yard dash] at the beginning of March. I got clocked by one of my coaches. I'm doing pretty good, keeping up my speed, trying to get faster, get my footwork together. It's all coming along."
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