Academics complicate DL recruiting

Alabama has actually made a very good beginning in terms of committing talented recruits. But as every dedicated Tide fan will quickly point out, the class lacks defensive linemen.

If you assume that Justin Britt (6-4.5, 255, 4.8) begins on the offensive side of the ball, so far not a single defensive lineman has committed to sign with Alabama. Of course given that Britt was rated by many as the top defensive tackle in the state this year, the pushing the panic button is probably a bit premature. But there's no question that the Tide coaches need to finish strong.

Many recruiting pundits rate Jeramie Holifield as the top defensive end prospect in the state.

The problem isn't a lack of prospects. Despite the recent "defections" of David Brown and Kyle Morgan to Georgia Tech and UCLA respectively, numerous talented linemen remain extremely interested in Alabama. But it's a matter of priorities.

From the coaches' point of view, who should rate first, second, third, fourth, etc.?

Unfortunately, it's not a mere matter of deciding who has the most long-term athletic potential and putting him at the top of your list. With NCAA sanctions still biting, Alabama simply must add 19 qualified athletes next fall to its roster. Five- and four-star commitments look good to the recruiting gurus, but they do a school no good if the players end up competing in junior college.

So for the Tide coaches, it's not just a question of who rates the highest? But they also must factor in the likelihood that a given recruit will qualify. And as happens every recruiting year, a disproportionate number of borderline academic cases play on the defensive line.

What is it about prep D-Linemen that makes them prone to skip class and not take their assignments seriously? No one really knows, but it's definitely a problem for Bama this year.

The principal names have been out there for awhile. In no particular order, the defensive linemen still being actively recruited by Alabama include:

  • DE Jeramie Holifield, 6-5, 250, 4.6, Hoover High School, Hoover
  • DE/DT Lorenzo Washington, 6-5, 275, 4.75, Grayson High School, Loganville, Georgia
  • DL Kevin Hamilton, 6-3, 255, 4.88, Prattville High School, Prattville
  • DE Brandon Fanney, 6-5, 260, Morristown High School West, Morristown, Tennessee
  • DE/DT K.T. Mainord, 6-4, 265, Grundy County High School, Coalmont, Tennessee
  • TE/DE Walter Fisher, 6-4, 245, 4.8, Hillsboro High School, Nashville, Tennessee
  • MLB/DT Curtis Dawson, 6-1, 255, 4.75, Hoover High School, Hoover
  • DE Micah Howeth, 6-2.5, 240,4.8, W.T. White High School, Dallas Texas
  • DT Chris Turner, 6-3.5, 287, 4.8, Northwest Mississippi Community College
  • DE Jacquez McKissic, 6-7, 250, Opelika High School, Opelika
  • DE/DT Fred Bledsoe, 6-4.5, 288, 4.79, Central High School, Little Rock, Arkansas
  • DT Demonte Bolden, 6-5, 315, 4.9, Tyner High School, Chattanooga, Tennessee

Brandon Fanney attended Alabama's mini-camp last summer, giving the Tide coaches a chance to scout him in person.

Of course Dawson and Fisher played middle linebacker and tight end respectively in high school, and they will each be given first crack at that position should they sign with the Tide. But most recruiting pundits project both for the defensive line.

By any measure, that's an extremely talented group of athletes. And essentially Alabama would be willing to put all the names in a hat, pick out four or five at random and be happy.

But it obviously isn't that easy.

At this point Bolden and probably Bledsoe are longshots for the Tide, though Bama is in better shape with Bledsoe than most fans realize. In Bolden's case, it almost certainly won't make a difference, as the five-star lineman appears headed to junior college.

And unfortunately, that's also believed to be the case with both Holifield and Hamilton, two extremely athletic lineman that have had Bama at the top of their list for months. At this point qualifying for the two is not impossible, but realistic assessments say it's unlikely.

Dallas' Micah Howeth also likes Alabama a lot. But the D-End prospect is also "iffy" grade-wise.

A committed and qualified Curtis Dawson would go a long way toward solidifying this year's Tide recruiting class.

One reason McKissic's name has re-emerged is that the tall lineman reportedly has decent grades, obviously a huge concern for Bama's coaches this year.

Washington remains an Alabama/Georgia battle, with the in-state school holding a solid edge. But no one is giving up on Washington yet, least of all the Tide coaches. Bama Defensive Ends Coach Paul Randolph is giving this one his best shot, but the lure of a winning BCS-quality program less than an hour's drive from his house may be too strong for Washington to turn down.

Fanney has the height and frame to develop into a big-time defensive end, and supposedly his grades are okay. His high school coach is the brother of Alabama's Sparky Woods, which guarantees Fanney will listen. At this point he likes the Tide, but Virginia and Virginia Tech are both very much in the picture.

Big and broad, Mainord likely projects as a tackle in college. He's being recruited heavily by Colorado, but he also likes the Tide and South Carolina. Geography usually ends up a factor in recruiting, so it could come down to a battle between the SEC's youngest coach (Mike Shula) and oldest (Lou Holtz).

Nashville's Walter Fisher has set an official visit to Alabama, so obviously he's seriously interested. At this point he lists Colorado and Tennessee along with the Tide.

Though he's set on taking several official visits, most pundits list Curtis Dawson as a strong lean to Alabama. Grade problems have been mentioned with him as well, but he can qualify if he takes care of business the rest of this year.

JUCO lineman Chris Turner

Originally signed by Florida State, Chris Turner is coveted by several schools, mainly because the JUCO star could step in and help immediately. He claims offers from a host of programs, including LSU, Nebraska, Tennessee and Florida State. But given its need for immediate defensive line help, the Tide has a solid chance.

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.

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