Tide may forgo signing a quarterback

With Alabama limited for one more year in the number scholarships it can award, one of the key questions this season is "Will Alabama sign a quarterback in 2004?"

The Tide coaches began with the premise that they would not sign an athlete simply to be filling a slot. Both Head Coach Mike Shula and Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Dave Rader share professional backgrounds. It's no accident that both were star college quarterbacks, that both had at least a "cup of coffee" in the NFL, that both were assistants in pro football, and that both stand well over 6 feet, two inches tall.

When searching for a quarterback to direct their Tide offense, they're looking for a tall, pocket passer with at least a reasonably strong arm and quick release. And they're frankly extremely reluctant to back away from those criteria.

Alabama's quarterbacking brain trust, Dave Rader and Mike Shula, confer at practice.

The Tide was in on a few nationally rated quarterbacks early (principally Brian Brohm), but at this point the only signal caller with an offer from the Tide that is seriously considering signing is John Parker Wilson of Hoover High School in Birmingham.

Wilson grew up an Alabama fan, and though shorter than ideal the Tide coaches have offered him a scholarship. But the monkey wrench in Wilson's Crimson future is baseball. He's an excellent prep baseball player as well, and Wilson is so far holding out to play both sports in college. Mike Shula says "No."

The talk about Wilson being a Major League Baseball prospect is probably exaggerated somewhat, but no question he's talented. Wilson claims Tennessee has offered him a football scholarship as well, but it's unlikely the Vols (who are in on several national QB prospects) would bring him in as anything more than a talented insurance policy at the position.

Wilson also says that Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Clemson are willing to let him play both sports. The Tide coaches have not given up hope that he'll end up signing with Alabama. But with scholarships limited by probation, don't expect Bama's baseball prohibition to disappear.

Newly anointed "Mr. Football" for the state of Alabama, Chris Nickson, would probably commit to Alabama tomorrow, if offered. The Pike County marvel just finished leading his team to the state championship, and no one doubts that he's one of the toughest and most instinctive athletes in the state.

J.P. Wilson wants to play both football and baseball in college.

Nickson was offered a scholarship by former Tide coach Mike Price, but Shula and Rader (while initially honoring that offer) told Chris that they were recruiting him for defense only. Not surprisingly, Nickson (6-0, 198) is holding out for quarterback.

In a normal year with 25 scholarships to give, Alabama would probably sign Nickson and worry about his position later. But right now it appears that Nickson may be headed to a school like Georgia Tech or Vanderbilt. (He's in the running for school valedictorian.)

However, recruiting is a fluid and sometimes surprising enterprise. The Tide coaches are very much aware of Nickson's numerous positives, including stellar leadership and character traits. And with several key Bama recruits struggling with academics at this point, it wouldn't be a big surprise if Nickson eventually ended up a member of this year's class.

Out of Crisp County High School in Cordele, Georgia, Joe Joe Brown would love to get an offer from the Tide coaches. Seen as more of an athlete, who runs very well, Brown has been talking to Alabama for months. But so far he has not been offered.

Not surprisingly, Brown is "showing love" to the programs that have offered him a scholarship, listing Maryland, North Carolina State, South Carolina, and Wake Forest as his favorites.

A product of Coach Joey Jones and Mountain Brook's prolific passing system, Tribble Reese (6-3, 190, 4.7) has emerged as a sleeper prospect in the state. More than one prep fan has come away from a Mountain Brook game, proclaiming Reese as the best throwing QB in the state. Reese is an Alabama fan, but right now an offer from the Tide doesn't appear likely. Obviously the Tide coaches would love for him to walk on in the fall, but the possibility of offers from some ACC schools makes that unlikely.

Daphne's Patrick White (6-2, 180) is also being recruited heavily by Alabama, but the Tide coaches see him as an "athlete," slated for either wide receiver or defensive back, as opposed to his prep position of quarterback.

The key point to remember in regard to quarterbacks and this year's Alabama recruiting class is numbers. Offensive and defensive line numbers.

Chris Nickson was "nothing but a winner" in high school.

At this point it appears very possible that two or more key linemen will decide to opt for early entry into the NFL draft, and with the Tide still under NCAA sanctions that development could not have come at a worse time.

Normally a school like Alabama would sign at least one quarterback per year, regardless. But depending on how things play out with the several talented defensive linemen still undecided and considering Alabama, it's entirely possible the Tide coaches will decide to go without a quarterback in this year's class.

Wait and see.

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.

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