Crimson blood runs thick

After being offered a scholarship, Jake Wingo took an official visit to Clemson last weekend to check out what the Tigers had to offer. But just days after returning home to Tuscaloosa, Wingo announced he would join the Crimson Tide.

A hard-hitting safety for Hillcrest High School, Jake Wingo (6-0, 200, 4.6) faced the same problem scores of other prep athletes must deal with. Judged too short and a step slow for major-college football, he simply didn't enjoy the scholarship offers that his work ethic and on-the-field performance deserved.

Wingo turned in 85 tackles this season from his strong safety position.

Of course no one argues his bloodlines. Father Rich Wingo was an excellent linebacker at Alabama from 1976-1978, competing for some of Paul Bryant's most talented squads. Later Rich Wingo served the Tide as strength coach from ‘87-'89.

With those deep family ties to Alabama, it's probably no surprise that Jake would turn down Clemson's firm scholarship offer in favor of a chance to compete for the Tide.

"I committed to Alabama on Sunday night," Wingo told Andrew Bone of in a recent interview. "Alabama is where my heart is and I have always wanted to play there."

Wingo's family can certainly afford to pay his tuition to in-town Alabama. And of course the Bryant Scholarship, available to the children of all former players and staffers of the legendary Tide coach, would also be an option. At this point it does not appear likely that Wingo would fit into Alabama's scholarship plans for 2004. The Tide already has 23 players committed for 19 spots, and that total is expected to go up. But in any case, he would certainly be given every opportunity to earn a scholarship after arriving on campus.

Several Tide recruits are being talked to about possibly "grayshirting," that is delaying entry into The University until January of 2005, at which point they would count against Alabama's '05 numbers. But Wingo says he plans to enroll this fall.

Jake Wingo attended this summer's Alabama mini-camp where the Tide coaches got a chance to scout him in person.

"(The Tide coaches) have talked to me about redshirting and that's what I will probably do," he said.

Only a teenager, Wingo could well have an inch or two of growth left in his body, in which case he could follow in his father's linebacker footsteps. But most scouts project him as a potentially very good special teams player.

Rodney Orr of talked with Wingo's high school coach about his ability. "Anytime there was a big lick passed Jake would be there," Coach Bart Harper told Orr. "He's a hitter, no doubt about that."

"The coaches want me to try out at linebacker," Wingo told Bone in yesterday's interview.

Wingo said during yesterday's conversation that qualifying should not be a problem. He already has a 17 score on the ACT "in the bank," and his high school classes are going well.

Wingo is tentatively scheduled to take an official visit to Alabama on January 30, though that date could be moved up. Besides that, he's done with recruiting.

"No more official visits," Wingo said.

Besides Wingo, Alabama also has commitments from Hillcrest teammates Cody Davis (offensive guard) and Travis Robinson (cornerback). The Tide continues to actively recruit Hillcrest tailback Markus Manson. At this point it's unlikely that Alabama will have room for Patriot linebacker Kris Guyton.

RECRUITING NOTES: Alabama is allowed to bring in 19 new scholarshipped players this fall. The Tide is expected to sign as many as 25-26 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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