Plans set for big weekend

Over the weekend Tide receiver commitment Will Oakley announced that he was moving his official visit date up to this weekend. The news came as no surprise, as Bama's coaches are clearly preparing for a huge group of athletes, coinciding with the Alabama/Auburn basketball game.

As close followers of recruiting know, there is nothing so changeable as a list of official visitors for any given weekend. Just last Friday the news leaked that blue-chip defensive tackle Demonte Bolden was taking a surprise visit to the Alabama campus, and this week probably won't be any different.

But as of 9:15 am (CT), the following players are scheduled to travel to Tuscaloosa this weekend for official visits:

The current list stands at 20 athletes, but it would surprise no one if the final visit total approaches 25 or beyond. That will be especially true if some currently committed players that have already visited decide to make their own way to Tuscaloosa for an unofficial visit to be a part of the fun.

Chester Adams in action (photo by Mickey Welsh, courtesy of the Montgomery Advertiser)

Britt, Carter, Castille, Caldwell, Davidson, Johns, Knight, McDaniel, Stabler, Stover, Walker, Wilson, Holifield, Dawson and Oakley are all committed to sign with Alabama.

On the other hand, Adams, Brown, Gandy, Jones and Mainard all remain key recruiting targets for the Tide this year. Bama's class is filling up very quickly, but there is room for one more stellar O-Lineman (Adams?), at least two more defensive linemen (Jones and Mainard?) and at least one more receiver (Brown?). As for Steve Gandy, he'd probably be simply too talented to pass up.

The one name not currently on the list that should be watched for is Markus Manson. Still listed as a "soft verbal" to Florida, the Hillcrest High School star is slated to visit Gainesville this weekend for his official visit. But the Tide coaches are pushing hard for him to switch dates and instead visit the Alabama campus. Whether or not he makes that switch could turn out to be an indicator of his college destination.

Some pundits are touting Chester Adams as the most talented all-around offensive line prospect in the state. That may or may not be entirely true, but he's very good. And so far the Tide is holding a spot for the big Luverne lineman.

Steve Gandy is an athlete in the mold of Brooks Daniels: fast enough for safety but with a love of contact that makes him ideal at weakside linebacker. Bama really doesn't have a great need for linebackers this year, but they'd love to "steal" him form the Mississippi schools.

The Tide coaches have liked Keith Brown since they first scouted him. The Mississippi native played his senior season in Florida and impressed there as well. He's a combination of track speed and football talent that should project well in college.

Jeremy Jones is an intriguing story. Injuries and a relative lack of experience on the football field kept down the recruiting press, but he's the real thing athletically, capable of playing on either side of the ball.

Will Markus Manson stick to his schedule and visit Florida this weekend?

Keith (K.T.) Mainard has talked about Alabama for weeks, though a recent official visit to South Carolina turned his head somewhat. Like Brandon Fanney who committed this past week, Mainard is capable of playing either end or defensive tackle, making him more attractive to college recruiters.

The weekend will likely be a celebration for the committed athletes in attendance. But even more importantly, there will be a "whole lot of ‘cruiting going on" with the other targeted players.

RECRUITING NOTES: First, the visit list for this weekend almost certain will change between now and Friday afternoon--probably more than once. As we learn of changes, we'll pass them along to you.

Alabama is allowed to bring in 19 new scholarshipped players this fall. The Tide is expected to sign as many as 24 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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