Normally a school is allowed to sign 25 athletes each year and have a total of 85 on scholarship at any given time. Due to NCAA sanctions, the Tide is limited to no more than 80 this year and next (2004). Bama's 2004 signing class can include only 19 athletes. In 2005, Alabama's numbers will go back to normal.
Ideally, the number of scholarshipped athletes in each of five classes (senior, junior, sophomore, redshirt freshmen and true freshmen) would be roughly equal. The Tide has a senior-laden squad this year--good for the upcoming season but potentially bad for 2004, when Bama's scholarship total could dip below 75 (not including grants given to walk-ons). That situation will improve in 2005, when the Tide will again be able to sign a full contingent of freshmen. But obviously those players will be inexperienced.
As it now stands, Alabama has 20 senior athletes on scholarship. Listed in order by jersey number, they include Antonio Carter, Dre Fulgham, Derrick Pope, Cornelius Wortham, Roberto McBride, Charles Jones, Shaud Williams, David Scott, Lance Taylor, Leslie Williams, Nick Ridings, Matt Lomax, Dennis Alexander, Atlas Herrion, Zach Fletcher, Brandon Greer, Triandos Luke, Nautyn McKay-Loescher, Donald Clarke and Anthony Bryant.
It's theoretically possible that a few of this year's seniors could sit out this season and return next season. In fact, Atlas Herrion did precisely that last year. However, there has been no talk that any of the current fourth-year seniors (Fulgham, Pope, Wortham, Luke, or McKay-Loescher) would consider that.
NOTE that Anthony Bryant is listed among the seniors, because by NCAA rule that's what he is. However, as a partial qualifier if he graduates before the start of fall term in 2004, then he could regain his fourth season of eligibility and play one more year. Reports are that he is on track academically to accomplish that goal.
Fourteen scholarshipped athletes comprise a talented but relative small junior class. They include Thurman Ward, Anthony Madison, Carlos Andrews, Ray Hudson, Chris James, Evan Mathis, Todd Bates, Wesley Britt, Justin Smiley, Danny Martz, Tarry Givens, David Cavan, Ahmad Childress and Antwan Odom.
As a partial qualifier, Madison's situation is identical to Bryant's. He too is on track to graduate in time to earn back his fourth year, at which point he'd be listed with the next group. But for now he's a junior. Also, there have been conflicting reports about whether or not Carlos Andrews was granted a medical exemption and allowed to count 2001 as a redshirt year. Our understanding is that he was, so we list him as a junior, with another season to play.
It's theoretically possible that linebacker Brooks Daniels could reenter school and play his final season in 2004. Since he's not currently enrolled, Daniels does not count against Alabama's numbers this season. And as a returning player, he would not affect the initial counter total for next year. If Daniels chose that course, it would obviously help next year's numbers, but whether or not Daniels returns to Alabama or goes straight to the NFL at this point is anyone's guess.
The Tide's sophomore class (players with three seasons of eligibility remaining) totals 16. It includes Brandon Brooks, Freddie Roach, Mike McLaughlin, Brodie Croyle, Spencer Pennington, Charlie Peprah, Greg McLain, Demeco Ryans, Roman Harper, Juke King, Mark Anderson, Taylor Britt, Von Ewing, Mark Sanders, J.B. Closner and Clint Johnston.
Alabama has 10 so-called redshirt freshmen (players with four years of eligibility remaining, but who were enrolled in college last season). That group includes Brandon Avalos, Marc Guillon, Nic Luke, Ramzee Robinson, Kenneth Darby, Juwan Garth, Marcus McKnight, Kyle Tatum, Chris Harris and Jeremy Clark.
Guillon played in two games last season at Miami, but was subsequently allowed to count the year as a medical redshirt due to a shoulder injury. He'll sit out this season after transferring. Beginning in 2004, he'll have three seasons of eligibility left.
The Tide brought in 17 athletes on scholarship this fall directly from high school. The true freshmen include Tyrone Prothro, Matt Caddell, D.J. Chambers, Eric Johnson, Tim Castille, Le'Ron McClain, Eric Gray, Demarcus Waldrop, Terrence Jones, Earnest Nance, Chris Capps, Justin Moon, Travis West, Will Roach, Wallace Gilberry, Keith Saunders and Dominic Lee.
Of the Tide's current 77 scholarshipped players, only 74 were placed on scholarship when they first arrived on campus. As the starting tight end, David Cavan is definitely as talented as anyone else, but he began his career as a walk-on. Nick Ridings was awarded a scholarship in 2001. Lance Taylor was given a scholarship last spring.
Potentially, Bama's already small junior class could shrink even more by next season. Several star linemen, including Odom, Smiley, Childress and Britt would be possibilities for early entry into the NFL draft. In fact, though they are understandably silent on the subject right now, at least two are probably leaning that way.
If players do leave early for the pros, it would only exacerbate Bama's numbers problem next year. Since the Tide's initial counters will again be limited in 2004, there would be no way to replace those losses on the roster.
Alabama is allowed to place walk-ons on scholarship, and it's expected that three athletes will be awarded grants this fall, bringing the total up to the allowable 80 total. One will likely be granted to Brian Bostick, the winner of the placekicking job. As punter, Bo Freelend would be another likely candidate. Josh Smith, Nathan Cox, Jonathan Brunson and Matt Miller would also be considered. All other things being equal, senior walk-ons usually get the nod.
Even with 80 on scholarship this fall, Alabama could still sign mid-term athletes in December. Several current Tide players are set to graduate in December, which would open up slots on the 80 list for winter term. However, those scholarships would have to be listed against the initial counter total for 2004.
Also, none of this discussion can account for attrition. It's common each year for a few athletes to drop off the roster, due to illness, injury, academics or other reasons.