One visitor to watch

With 21 names currently on Bama's official visit list this weekend, and more likely to be added before Friday, it's easy to overlook a given athlete. But fans might want to pay close attention to the name Lavarus Giles.

Still uncommitted, the Benoit, Mississippi native could very well end up a part of the Tide's already impressive 2004 signing class.

Having only played two full seasons of high school football, Lavarus Giles (6-1, 205, 4.45) is something of an enigma to many fans. He competed mainly at tailback for Ray Brooks High School, which explains why many recruiting pundits assume he's a fall-back recruit for Alabama if they can't sway Markus Manson from Florida.

But while it's true that the Tide coaches think Giles has very good potential at tailback--and that they're looking for one more tailback-type to sign this year--Giles's potential value in college shouldn't be limited to one position.

A sprint champion in high school, Giles won the 100-meter dash state championship as a junior and placed second in the 200-. With those credentials, his reported 4.45 clocking in the 40-yard dash could well be legitimate.

On the football field Giles rushed for 1,500 yards and 30 touchdowns as a senior. Scouts report he also has good hands, indicating he could even play some wide receiver if needed.

Besides Alabama, Giles is also considering Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Southern Miss. He tripped to Starkville last weekend, and after the visit he told Andrew Bone of "It was nice. I had a good time. I liked the type of people I was around. We toured the campus and facilities. We ate a lot."

Kind words. Polite words. But hardly words that indicate Giles is about to commit to be a Bulldog.

The truth is that Alabama has been recruiting Giles very hard for some time. An excellent athlete but raw as a football player, Giles is definitely an intriguing prospect. He's relative tall and extremely fast.

Giles squints up into the bright sun before taking his turn at the vertical jump.

It's important to remember that Giles attended a football mini-camp in Tuscaloosa last summer, so the Tide staff knows exactly what Giles has to offer physically.

This past season he also saw action at linebacker. And Giles is believed to have college potential at safety. In part, it's that athletic versatility that has Bama interested.

Not surprisingly, Giles came away from Starkville impressed with Sylvester Croom, the new Bulldog head coach. But when Bone asked if his visit made him inclined to commit to Mississippi State, Giles indicated otherwise.

"I'm still going to wait until my other visits," Giles said in that interview with Bone. "I'm going to Alabama next weekend."

RECRUITING NOTES: Make no mistake, the Tide coaches would still dearly love to somehow sway Markus Manson away from the Gators. But Giles' combination of size, raw talent and versatility would provide Alabama flexibility at several positions.

Alabama is allowed to bring in 19 new scholarshipped players this fall. The Tide is expected to sign as many as 25 or 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.

Read all of the recent recruiting stories on Alabama recruits from

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