It's no secret to anyone that the Tide enters this recruiting season in desperate need of big men up front. Dennis Alexander is graduating, Justin Smiley is leaning toward forgoing his final season of college ball in favor of the NFL, and Wesley Britt faces a difficult rehabilitation process on his broken left leg. Plus, the 2003 Alabama squad frankly wasn't particularly deep on the offensive line to begin with.
The Tide is looking to sign five or six outstanding athletes, and if commitments hold up they're already a long ways toward that ambitious goal.
Cody Davis of Hillcrest High School in Tuscaloosa--all 6-7, 270 pounds of him--is firmly committed. And Clarke County's B.J. Stabler (6-4 ½, 291) was one of the Tide's first commitments. Together Davis and Stabler are considered the top two offensive tackle prospects in the state.
Add in Justin Britt, who is a legitimate candidate for best Alabama prep lineman on both offense and defense, and Bama's 2004 O-Line class has an all-star look. Britt (6-4 ½, 265) could project at either defensive tackle or offensive guard, but he says he wants to start off blocking beside his brother, Wesley.
Those first three athletes are very impressive, but following the trio things get a bit more complicated.
Evergreen's Drew Davis (6-6, 270) holds what might appear to be a surprising scholarship offer, except Davis has acknowledged that he may end up a "grayshirt," signing in February but not actually reporting until January of the following year and counting against the 2005 numbers. It's possible that qualifying among the other Tide recruits will play out so as to allow Davis to report next fall, but not guaranteed. In fact, given the uncertainties of recruiting it wouldn't be wrong to term his chances as "good."
But the Tide coaches are being honest with Davis, and right now he's a 6-6 insurance policy. Davis has offers from smaller schools, and Mississippi State has shown recent interest. He'll have to weigh the worth of those offers against his preference for his home-state school.
Count Davis, and Bama's offensive line number is up to four, with one (or two) slots still remaining.
Numerous athletes remain possibilities, but right now Luverne's Chester Adams (6-6, 315) and/or Montgomery's Antoine Caldwell (6-2 ½, 265) appear the most likely candidates. Adams is a huge player with explosive strength who also moves remarkably well for a man his size. Caldwell is more of an athletic project, seen as needing at least a year in the weight room to bulk up big enough for SEC line play. But the Lee High School star is very smart, and Bama's coaches like his long-term potential.
Interestingly, in-state rival Auburn is Bama's principal competition for both Caldwell and Adams. If both athletes end up committing to Bama, then expect the Tide to make room.
Were Davis, Adams and Caldwell to all commit tomorrow, there frankly might not be space for any more "Big Uglies," but other prominent names are still being recruited heavily by the Tide.
Tallahassee, Florida teammates at Lincoln High School, Danny Muy (6-3, 275) and Calvin Darity (6-3 ½, 260) have both considered Alabama for months. Darity is one that may be just too good an athlete to pass up. For his part, Muy (who has taken several unofficial visits to Tuscaloosa) for months now has talked like a prospect without an unconditional offer from Alabama.
In the "longshot but you'd have to consider them if available" category, South Carolina's Corey Lambert (6-7, 306) and Kentucky's Micah Jones (6-5, 325) have flirted long-distance with Alabama. But both blue-chippers will likely end up elsewhere.
Had Wesley Britt's injury been career-threatening, then junior-college lineman Cody Brown (6-3, 330) might have moved to the top of Bama's list.
For any young athlete still not convinced about the importance of academics in high school, consider Eric Phillips. The Wenonah lineman may be as talented physically as any line prospect in the state. But unfortunately, Phillips (6-5, 250, 4.8) has long been viewed as an academic risk, unlikely to qualify. It's possible that Alabama will sign him and then place Phillips at a junior college, but that's not certain.
RECRUITING NOTES: 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.
Read all of the recent recruiting stories on Alabama recruits from TheInsiders.com.