Top Cornerback Prospect Has Ties to Alabama

The defensive secondary has been a source of concern through the first six games of the 2001 season. The defense gave up huge amounts of yardage on many of the critical plays in the three losses. Former Alabama cornerbacks Fernando Bryant and Deshea Townsend made significant contributions during their freshman seasons. Both started as true freshman and both took their game to the NFL after stellar college careers. While it is rare, it could happen again if the right prospect can be found.

It is always unlikely that a true freshman will earn a starting position during his first season of college football. Still, the possibility exists and any cornerback signed by Alabama will likely get a long look before a decision is made about whether to redshirt him or not.

A. J. Davis, a 5-foot-11, 170-pounder from Northern Durham High School in Durham, North Carolina, has been offered a scholarship as a cornerback by the Crimson Tide staff. Davis is similar to Bryant in that he is also a cornerback on the prep level. Prep cornerbacks with Division 1-A talent don't get tested often but Davis has managed two interceptions through seven games. He has also accounted for 31 tackles, one blocked kick, and one fumble recovered. On offense, Davis has caught 20 passes for 341 yards and seven touchdowns. So, the obvious question is whether Davis sees himself as a cornerback or a wide receiver.

"I see myself as a cornerback," said Davis. "I may get the opportunity to play both but I am a cornerback first."

As to whether or not he can play as a freshman, Davis can see a potential role for himself at Alabama.

"I saw a couple of their games and I think I could make a contribution," said Davis. "Coach (Carl) Torbush likes to press with his corners. I think my strength is playing man to man and I can adjust real quick."

Coach Gary Merrill is the head coach at Northern Durham High School and sees attributes that could lead to success on the college level for Davis.

"A. J. has excellent athletic ability," said Merrill. "He has good quickness combined with good speed. A. J. has good play-making ability on defense, offense, and special teams in the return game. He is the only two-way player on our team."

Alabama fans have been down the recruiting trail with previous North Carolina prospects and may be somewhat skeptical about landing a top prospect on every program‘s recruiting board. However, the recruitment of Davis could be different because of three factors.

The first is a prior relationship with assistant coach Les Koenning and his family, In particular, his son Les, who happens to be the same age as Davis and a longtime friend.

"I use to spend the night at their house when Coach Koenning was coaching at Duke," said Davis. "His son, Les, and I ran track together when we were younger. Even now, I talk to Les all the time."

Another factor is the time that assistant coaches Carl Torbush and Ron Case spent at the University of North Carolina. Prospects get to know the coaches at most instate programs before their senior seasons.

"I know Coach Torbush and Coach Case from North Carolina," said Davis. "They have known about me for awhile now."

All of the prior relationships with the Crimson Tide staff have given Alabama a spot usually reserved for an instate program. Davis thinks he may feel closer to home among people he knows.

"Alabama will be like a home away from home if I decide to go there because I know so many people," said Davis.

The final factor which could be beneficial to Alabama is an option that has been a factor for athletes at other programs in the past. With Harvey Glance coaching the track program, Davis will be given the opportunity to compete in both sports. Davis competes in the high jump (6'9"), long jump (25'2"), triple jump (49'10"), and 100-meters sprint (10.58 seconds) on the prep level.

"I am being recruited for track at Alabama, too," said Davis. "I have already been told that I can compete in both sports."

So, where is Davis at this point in the process?

"I have narrowed it down from where I first started but I am still open among the schools I am considering," Davis said. "Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida State, North Carolina State, and North Carolina are my top five. I have already visited Notre Dame and I have a visit set to Alabama for January 11th."

And where does Alabama stand?

"I like Alabama because it is a football factory with good tradition," said Davis. "I believe I could achieve my goals there if I make that decision."

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