Intriguing DT prospect to visit

With the Tide determined to bring in a talented group of defensive linemen, capable of playing early, Bama's recent interest in JUCO defensive tackle Chris Herring is intriguing.

At this point, it's not certain that Herring (6-1, 300) has received a firm, unconditional scholarship offer from Alabama. But he's traveling to Tuscaloosa this weekend for an official visit, which confirms strong mutual interest.

Herring's choices at this point in the recruiting process appear to be Texas Tech, where he visited in October, Tennessee and Alabama.

"Tennessee is recruiting me the hardest right now," Chris Herring told in an interview Monday night. Herring has an official visit date set with the Vols for January 16th.

However, the Tide is clearly in the mix. Along with teammates Chris Turner (defensive end) and Terrence Smith (linebacker), Herring will visit Alabama's campus this weekend for an official visit.

"Sparky Woods is recruiting me for Alabama," Herring said. "And I'm not going to set any more official visits."

Herring attended South Panola High School in Batesville, Mississippi, where he was rated a four-star recruit. He signed with Ole Miss, but only stayed there one full semester before transferring to Northwest the following spring.

"I signed with Ole Miss and transferred after the fall semester," Herring said. He went on to say that he'd "rather not say" his specific reasons for leaving Oxford.

Herring's continued interest in the Rebels remains a question. His coach at Northwest indicates that Ole Miss may still be a possibility, but Herring said otherwise Monday night.

"I'm not considering Ole Miss," Herring said yesterday.

A dangerous middle linebacker in high school, Herring has "grown" into the role of a defensive tackle.

"I played middle linebacker in high school," the now 300-pounder said. "I'm playing defensive tackle (in junior college), and I'm being recruited as a defensive tackle."

Despite adjusting this past season to playing with his hand in the dirt, Herring still made an impact. "I had 89 tackles, 12 sacks, 32 quarterback pressures, 24 tackles for a loss, four fumble recoveries and three forced fumbles," Herring said in relating his stats.

Herring and teammate Terrence Smith were both selected All-Region XXIII following the season. Both were also named first team MACJC All-State.

There is also a question about how quickly Herring could sign with another division 1A school. He was eligible out of high school, which means that the NCAA Clearinghouse should not be a factor. There should not be any reason why he could not transfer immediately back to Ole Miss, except that he told us Monday that wasn't in his plans.

A dominant linebacker in high school, Chris Herring now projects as a defensive tackle. (photo courtesy of Northwest Mississippi CC)

The SEC does have a rule that requires a junior college athlete to be enrolled for three consecutive semesters before signing with a league school. If that rule applies in Herring's case (and it may not, since he was eligible out of high school), then he could not enroll at an SEC school other than Ole Miss until the summer of 2004. But again, there are unanswered questions in this regard.

Herring would have to count his fall semester at Ole Miss as a redshirt year, so beginning with the fall of '04 he'd have three years left to play three seasons of football.

At this point Herring is clearly looking for what will be his best option next season. "I'll make my decision in late January or early February," he said.

RECRUITING NOTES: Schools are limited in the number of official visits they can extend, so by definition the Tide is obviously interested in Herring.

Also, major schools like Alabama do not sign junior college players unless they believe the athlete can contribute right away. Herring was rated a four-star prospect by network coming out of high school. Of course since then he's added almost 50 pounds and changed positions.

Alabama is allowed to bring in 19 new scholarshipped players this fall. The Tide is expected to sign as many as 22 players in February, anticipating that several will not become qualified. It's also possible that one or more players may be asked to delay entry into The University until the following January, counting against 2005 scholarship numbers, depending on how qualifying issues play out.

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