Physically, Markus Manson is the total package. He stands a legitimate 6-0 tall, maybe slightly taller, and has the frame to easily bulk up to the 210-pound range. But it's the "4.37" next to his name that stands out.
In recruiting 40-yard dash times are notoriously inflated, but Manson is clearly at least a 4.4 athlete, which is blazing fast for a running back.
Prior to this season there were questions about Manson's toughness. In high school it's all-too-easy for a fast runner to simply outrun the defense to the edge, then turn up-field to sprint for a touchdown. But as he demonstrated in a recent game versus Wenonah High School, this year Manson is used as much inside the tackles as out.
And he's responded to the challenge.
Not surprising for a player with his speed, Manson is quick to the hole. But he's also maturing as a runner, learning to follow his blockers. When things get clogged up on the inside, he will put his head down, which speaks to his developing toughness.
But defenses crowd the inside of the line of scrimmage against him at their peril. Manson is always looking to use his speed, bouncing to the outside for a big gainer.
Longtime observers of Hillcrest High School football have watched Manson mature over the years. As a senior he's definitely much tougher than he used to be. Of course he still doesn't much like contact, but in a running back that's not necessarily a bad thing.
Tide fans will remember that Shaun Alexander wasn't exactly a bruising runner. But so long as a back is willing to put his head down when necessary (which Manson is), then an aversion to too much contact can actually work as a positive motivator.
Besides Manson, Hillcrest has numerous Division 1A prospects this year. Alabama has also offered teammates Cody Davis (offensive tackle) and Travis Robinson (cornerback), and the Tide continues to take a long look at Kris Guyton (middle linebacker). Titus Brown (linebacker), Kendrick Davis (cornerback), JeBron Manson (linebacker/fullback and Markus' cousin) and Jake Wingo (safety and the son of former Tide player and coach Rich Wingo) are also considered strong prospects to sign scholarships.
Given that much talent, it's easy to suggest that Hillcrest should be a dominant team this year. But despite winning on a fairly regular basis, the Patriots really aren't.
Manson, for one, has probably not been properly utilized. Not enough effort is given to getting him the ball "in space," whether on swing passes or screens. Too often Hillcrest just hands Manson the ball and says "go get your yards."
This season Manson's touches have included a lot of carries up the gut, but relatively few toss sweeps or similar offensive quick hitters that would more effectively showcase his speed.
But college recruiting is all about potential, and clearly the fleet tailback has tons of that. Manson has been offered by most of the schools in the South, including not a few outside the region.
There was a strong rumor recently that he had privately committed to the Gators. Of course at one time or another the past several months he's also been supposedly leaning to Auburn, Georgia and then Alabama. He subsequently denied the recent rumor, but he clearly continues to vacillate back and forth between several schools.
It's not that Manson doesn't like home-town Alabama, but as one person close to his recruitment observed, sometimes athletes that grew up close to Tuscaloosa take the Tide's tradition for granted and let themselves become enamored of the recruiting process.
Manson is a smart person with solid character. But it's not uncommon for a teenager to enjoy the extra attention that goes along with recruiting.
RECRUITING NOTES: Manson is on top of Alabama's list for running backs, but he's not the only athlete the Tide is recruiting at the position.
Given that Alabama probably leads for teammates Davis, Robinson and Guyton, Manson could very well end up enjoying the recruiting process, taking all his visits; and then sign with the Tide. But that outcome is definitely not guaranteed.
Read all of the recent recruiting stories on Alabama recruits from TheInsiders.com.