Tide Has First Two Commitments

Alabama's football coaching staff has now received two commitments for the 2004 signing year. This will be Bama's final year of restricted scholarship additions under NCAA sanctions. Alabama will be allowed to sign 19. (In the event there are not 18 new signees among those reporting in August, Alabama could add early graduates in December to count against the 2003 signing class.)

The first two commitments are Aaron Johns, a running back and slotback from Thomasville, and Titus Ryan, a 2002 Alabama signee from Tuscaloosa County who is now at East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi. Here is an in-depth look:

Aaron Johns, 5-10, 182, has been clocked at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash. Last season he had at least three disadvantages: Sharing running back duties with two teammates; playing with a hand that was fractured in two places; incredibly bad penalty luck. Indeed, Johns had final statistics of only 500 yards and nine touchdowns rushing. However, penalties wiped out over 600 yards in rushing yardage and several touchdown runs.

Alabama has had good luck recruiting in Thomasville recently. Two years ago the Tide got an early commitment from cornerback Anthony Madison, now competing for a starting job at Bama. And last year Chris Felder (who would transfer with his uncle, Coach Shannon Felder, to Wilcox Central in Camden) committed to Bama and will enter The University in August.

Thomasville Coach Jack Hankins said, "Aaron is a hard worker. He has great hips. He is more electrigying and physically stronger than either Anthony Madison or Chris Felder."

Johns was all-district last season for his play at cornerback. He turned in 55 tackles and had two interceptions.

He bench presses 260, squats 405, and power cleans 270. He said he is a "C" student who made 15 on his first try on the ACT and he is expected to qualify academically.

His coach said Johns picked Alabama over Georgia Tech, Louisville, and Southern Miss. His coach said his school list was growing daily.

Titus Ryan was recognized as the fastest player in the state when he was at Tuscaloosa County High School. Ryan, 6-2, 200, has been timed at 4.31 seconds in the 40-yard dash. He has a relatively limited history as a football player, but has been a star athlete in track and field for some time.

Ryan is performing well on the field and in the classroom at East Central Community College in Mississippi, but it is too early to say if he might be able to complete graduation requirements in time to be an early signee next December.

Titus did not begin playing football until his junior year in high school. As a junior, operating almost completely on natural ability, he rushed for over 1,500 yards and 16 touchdowns. With a year of coaching from Coach Robert Higginbotham, he became a more reliable running back with good instincts. He rushed for 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns in his final season at Tuscaloosa County. He also developed into an excellent pass-catcher out of the backfield.

At East Central, he began his junior college football career as a wide receiver. However, injuries in the backfield forced a move back to tailback for the final six games of the season. Even though he played with a soft cast on his hand, he had 102 carries for 570 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and six touchdowns. He finished second in the state in rushing and was third in the league in scoring with 48 points. (His teammate, Ramon Williams of Brookwood in Tuscaloosa County, was the state's leading rusher.)

Ryan was the only freshman who made the junior college all-state team.

He will return to wide receiver this fall and that is expected to be his position at Alabama.

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