Tide searching for one more back

With Shaud Williams graduated and Ray Hudson a rising senior, Alabama needs to replenish its talent pool at tailback.

Combo-athlete Aaron Johns (5-10, 185, 4.5) has already committed to sign with the Tide. First recruited by Mike Price to play slotback receiver, Johns turned in one of those "unconscious" senior seasons, basically tearing it up at tailback this past year for Thomasville. Johns could project at slotback, scatback or defensive back in college, but the Bama coaches are recruiting him for tailback.

Aaron Johns could be a special player, but he must qualify.

The problem is that Johns has ground to make up academically. But according to sources close to the situation, he has made progress recently and still has a chance to qualify.

Without certain knowledge that Johns will be available this fall, the Tide coaches would like to sign another running back.

Tuscaloosa's own Markus Manson (6-0, 190, 4.37) still tops their wish list at the position, despite being publicly committed to Florida. An extremely gifted athlete who just happens to play tailback, Manson's situation isn't as simple as it might appear. He obviously has friends and family in and around Tuscaloosa, but sometimes that can motivate a teenager to get away from home as much as anything else.

A friend of last year's in-state offensive star Chad Jackson, Manson has clearly been flattered by the attention shown him by the Gator staff. But he can read a depth chart, and Florida is loaded with young talent at tailback. Some sources close to the Hillcrest program are still predicting that Manson will eventually end up at Alabama, and the Tide coaches continue to recruit him.

Of course the truth is that there are plenty of talented running backs in the South, and the latest name to be connected with Alabama is Brandon Jackson of Horn Lake, Mississippi. A good-sized runner with good speed, Jackson (6-1, 205, 4.43) was born in Detroit and grew up a Michigan fan. But the Wolverines have apparently not offered, though Michigan State is showing strong interest.

Jackson claims a 400-pound bench press, which is impressive for a high school back. He is scheduled to take an official visit to Alabama on January 23. Jackson's academic status is uncertain.

Markus Manson remains a top Tide target.

Benoit, Mississippi's Lavarus Giles (6-1, 205) had been set to take his official visit to Alabama last week, but a bad bout of flu caused him to postpone. He had a good season at tailback, but he's seen as more of an athlete than pure running back. Giles is among the top 100- and 200-meter track men in the Magnolia State, so his speed is not in question.

With his height and speed, Giles could obviously contribute at receiver if running back didn't work out. Grades are a question.

Were it not for a few points on the SAT, Dennis Void (6-0, 212) might very well already be committed to Alabama. He has graduated from high school and spent one semester at a prep school to work on becoming qualified. Void took an official visit to Alabama earlier this month and really liked the campus and coaches. He says he's waiting on a passing score on the SAT to validate a firm scholarship offer from the Tide.

Like many recruits, Void's gaudy 40-yard dash times are exaggerated. But he's seen as a tough, hard-nosed runner that would be a valuable addition to any team.

Lavarus Giles is being brought in for an official visit.

Blue-chip tailback Darius Walker (5-11, 195, 4.45) has been remotely linked to the Tide, but the Georgia back no longer lists Bama in his Top 5.

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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