Newcomers report: Offense

Checking in to pick up room assignments and the early schedule was unfortunately (from the athlete's point of view) not the only item on the newcomers' agenda. Assembled writers from around the state were also on hand to photograph and query the incoming athletes. On offense nine players reported Sunday, but that number doesn't include quarterback Brodie Croyle and offensive tackle Atlas Herrion who enrolled last January and went through spring drills.

BRANDON BROOKS: 5-4, 152, KR/WR, Birmingham, Shades Valley HS. Brooks reported early a few weeks back in order to get a jump on conditioning. One of the more interesting signees in this year's class, Brooks' diminutive size have many wondering what position he can play in college. But his overwhelming speed (he could have a future as a track athlete as well) and outstanding quickness certainly indicate he should be able to help on kick returns. Brooks was an early commitment garnered by the previous coaching staff.

Shades Valley all-purpose back Brandon Brooks starred as a kick returner and wide receiver. As a senior, Brooks he returned kicks and played wide receiver, running back and cornerback as his team went 8-5 on the season. He had 108 carries for 725 yards and 10 touchdowns and caught 13 passes for 325 yards and five touchdowns. He returned six punts for 121 yards and a touchdown. On defense, he had 52 tackles and six interceptions. Over the past two seasons Brooks returned 7 punts for TD's and averaged 21.5 yards per return. Defensively, he had 52 tackles and 6 interceptions. He recently defended his state indoor 55-meter championship with a 6.43 clocking. He won the state championship this year in the indoor 55-meters with a time of 6.51. Last spring, he finished fourth in the state in the 100 meters with a 10.8.

DONALD CLARKE: 6-6, 260, TE, Boca Raton, FL. Fort Scott Community College. Clarke also enrolled early, actually having been on campus for both summer terms. He reports that the extra work has paid off, and he's eager to get started with the "real thing" when the veterans report later this week. With the graduation of Shawn Draper and injury to Terry Jones, signing a tight end capable of stepping in immediately and helping was critical. And Clarke should solve that problem. Expect the versatile athlete and excellent blocker to get immediate playing time in the Tide offense, especially as a second tight end.

Clarke played his high school football at Spanish River in Boca Raton, Florida and then was a All-Conference pick while playing for Fort Scott Community College. He is best known for his blocking and receiving abilities. Clarke He was a first team All-County pick as a prep senior. He is very strong, benching 340. Clarke chose the Tide over Oregon State, Miss. State, Kansas, Missouri, and Colorado.

J.B. CLOSNER: 6-4, 290, OG/OL, San Antonio, Texas, Clark High School. The big lineman has also been on campus for the last few weeks, working out with the squad. He and fellow guard Justin Smiley have been enduring wind sprints under the blistering Alabama sun together. Expected to get an early look at offensive guard for Alabama, Closner is the classic line prospect preferred by Coach Fran and Coach Helduser: athletic, mobile and mean. Another recruit that only considered the Tide after Franchione was hired as head coach, Closner loves the current coaching staff and liked the campus instantly when he took his official visit. Along with Herrion and the other athletes expected to sign with Alabama today, Closner will help close out a very good offensive line group for the Tide.

JB should be instant help for the Tide's offensive line. He earned All-District and All-City honors as a junior and senior and also participated in track. He also played defensive tackle in high school, making 98 tackles with 12 QB sacks. He was also a Texas Top-100 player. JB He benches 350 and squats 475. He chose the Tide over Texas A&M, Baylor, Vanderbilt, and Texas Tech.

MARQUEZ DUPREE: 6-0, 215, TB, Philadelphia, MS, Philadelphia High School. Marquez (pronounced 'Mar-qwez') drove over this afternoon with his famous father, Marcus Dupree. Son is glad to be in Tuscaloosa, and Dad was careful to mention that he would have signed with Alabama (rather than Oklahoma) back when he was recruited except that he knew Coach Bryant was about to retire. Dupree is a talented athlete capable of playing more than one position, and when he committed to Alabama there was talk that he may wind up in the secondary. But Derek Farmer's commitment to Texas A&M likely ensures that Dupree will begin his college career at tailback. Interestingly, though his famous father wound up signing with Oklahoma, the "original" Marcus Dupree always admired Alabama, so the son's signing carries with it a bit of poetic justice.

Dupree, the son of former Oklahoma star Marcus Dupree, rushed for 1,305 yards and 17 touchdowns. He played one snap on defense and turned that play into a 77-yard interception return for a TD. He was a three-time All-State pick and earned High School All-America honors in 1999 and 2000. Philadelphia finished the season at 10-2. As a junior, despite missing half the season with a knee injury, Dupree still rushed for 890 yards and 13 scores. He once scored 6 touchdowns in one game. As a baseball player, Marquez earned MVP honors as a sophomore and junior and set the school record for most home runs in a season. He also participated in track, turning in a 10.3 time in the 100-meter dash. Marquez chose Bama over Miss. State, Southern Miss, Oklahoma and Ole Miss.

VON EWING: 6-5, 297, OT/OL, Troy, Henderson High School. Ewing also arrived a few weeks back, and the big athlete has been getting to know Tide Strength and Conditioning Coach Ben Pollard 'up close and personal' ever since. Perhaps more than any other recruit, the musical chair game played by many coaches during the off season wound up hurting Ewing. An early commitment to Alabama, he ended up changing to Georgia when DuBose was fired. But then Donning got the ax as well, leaving Ewing to strongly consider several schools before finally coming back to his original choice. His name added to Herrion's, Sanders' and Closner's helped cap off a fine offensive line class.

Playing for coach Hugh Fountain at Henderson High School, Ewing played tackle and was the most dominant offensive lineman in the state. He gave up just one sack in his last 21 games. Ewing was a first team All-State selection; was the 5A "Lineman of the Year"; was selected by The Dothan Eagle and The Troy Messenger as Player of the Year and was on The Mobile Press Register and The Birmingham News "Super 12" squad. He could be a guard or tackle on the college level. Ewing was also a SuperPrep All-America pick. Ewing chose the Tide over LSU, Miami, UK, Michigan, UT, & UGA.

CLINT JOHNSTON: 6-4, 235, TE, Wetumpka, Wetumpka High School. Once again Coach Franchione had good things to say about this soon-to-be fan favorite, noting that after committing himself, Johnston had worked hard to help recruit other athletes to Alabama last winter. Johnston actually wound up benefiting from the coaching change at Alabama. The previous staff didn't recruit the Tide legacy, causing Johnston to commit early on the Southern Miss. But when Coach Fran offered him a scholarship, the muscular tight end jumped at the prospect of signing with Alabama. Commenting to some that he would have signed with the Tide no matter what its NCAA prospects, Johnston took several trips to Tuscaloosa at his own expense to help host other recruits during the various official visit weekends.

Johnston, who is the son of former UA player Johnny Johnston, a linebacker at UA in the 1960s, was primarily a blocker in Wetumpka's ground-oriented attack. He earned All-State honors in 1999 and 2000; was an Elmore All-County and All-Metro selection.He finished with 9 catches for 270 yards, but four of those receptions were touchdowns. On defense, he had 77 tackles, 9 sacks, caused 2 fumbles and had one fumble recovery. Johnston was the second player to commit to Alabama coach Dennis Franchione. He chose the Tide over LSU, Southern Miss and Vanderbilt.

MIKE MCLAUGHLIN: 6-1, 190, PK, Gautier, MS, Gautier High School. McLaughlin said today that he hopes to earn a role on this year's squad, but with senior Neal Thomas set for his last year, McLaughlin would have no problem redshirting and learning to kick on the collegiate level. Considered by many recruiting services to be the top place-kicking prospect in the nation, McLaughlin should solidify Alabama's kicking game for years to come. Plus, his big leg could get him on the field early for kickoffs as a true freshman.

McLaughlin earned All-American honors as a placekicker for Gautier High School. his senior season, McLaughlin hit 12 of 16 field goal attempts, including five of over 40 yards. His longest field goal was a 49-yarder. He also nailed 39 of 40 PATs. He scored 234 career points in high school, third highest nationally for a kicker. He was named 1st team USA Today All-American PK. McLauglin chose the Tide over Miss. State, LSU, Notre Dame, Georgia, South Carolina and Tulane.

SPENCER PENNINGTON: 6-4, 215, QB, Fayette, Fayette County High School. Pennington was too humble to mention it himself, but since arriving on campus a few weeks back the excellent athlete has impressed Tide strength coaches and his teammates with his talent and work ethic. A multi-sport star in both baseball and football, Pennington's arrival on campus is good news to Coach Jim Wells' baseball squad also. The previous staff didn't really recruit Pennington, and as a result he had committed to the Mississippi State Bulldogs. But Coach Franchione recognized immediately that Alabama needed to shore up the quarterback position, and Pennington switched to his childhood favorite. Brodie Croyle has gotten most of the early publicity, but many note that Pennington may be more physically ready for college play right now.

Spencer Pennington led his Fayette County team to the Class 4A state championship game. Pennington, who passed for 2,433 yards and 20 TDs last season, is also an excellent baseball prospect. Pennington was named to The Tuscaloosa News Super 11 team. He led Fayette County with a .430 batting average and 57 RBI as a prep junior. He had 15 home runs in 112 at bats. He also led his American Legion team (Post 208 in Tuscaloosa) to a 24-10 record while hitting 11 home runs. In football he threw for over 1600 yards and 21 touchdowns as a junior, while suffering just 7 interceptions. He threw for over 2300 yards as a sophomore. Pennington's brother, Jeremy, played offensive line at Alabama from 1993-96. Spencer chose the Tide over Mississippi State, Tennessee, LSU and Ole Miss.

MARK SANDERS: 6-7, 305, OL, Ashville, Ashville High School. While not rated the top O-Line prospect in the state (that honor belonged to Ewing), Sanders is the type linemen Coach Franchione and line coach Jim Bob Helduser love--tough and not afraid of hard work. His height makes pundits think of offensive tackle, but Sanders could help anywhere along the line. Expect him to redshirt his first year to get stronger, but he should provide early depth for Alabama on offense.

Mark graded out at 88 percent for the season as a junior and he earned All-State honors as an offensive tackle for the Ashville Bulldogs. He's considered one the state's top OL prospects. He was selected All-County, All-Area and All-State as a junior and senior. As a senior, he was chosen CBS Super Prep All-America. He is a good athlete, hard worker, great pass blocker, and has intimidating physical size. His brother Matt was a freshman punter for Bama this year. Mark chose the Tide over LSU, UT, and South Carolina.

SHAUD WILLIAMS: 5-9 1/2, TB, Andrews, Texas. The Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 1999, Shaud Williams made the decision to transfer from Texas Tech after its new head coach changed the focus of the Red Raider offense. Williams was well known to the Tide coaching staff, which originally recruited him to TCU out of high school. A quick, elusive back, Williams' production fell during his sophomore year as Texas Tech opted to concentrate on a passing attack. But the Andrews, Texas native still ranked second on the squad in rushing, with 223 yards on 55 attempts for a 4.1 yards per carry average. Williams also caught 48 passes for 299 yards as a receiver out of the backfield. Good enough to be drafted by the Atlanta Braves, Williams is a versatile athlete, having competed for the Red Raider baseball team.

According to Williams, there were no hard feelings between himself and the Texas Tech coaches. But he knew the decision had to be made for him to have a chance to showcase his running ability. Noted for his speed, Williams should help solve Alabama's current lack of speed at the tailback position. NCAA rules mandate that he sit out this season after transferring, but Coach Franchione wanted Williams to report as soon as possible to begin practicing with the team. He'll have two years of eligibility left at Alabama beginning with the 2002 season.

NOTE: Quentin Bowens did not report today. He reportedly is still enrolled in junior college (Shelton State) and still lacks a class to graduate. At this point, it's uncertain whether or not he can enroll in time to be eligible this season.

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