Recruiting Diary, 19th-20th

At first glance some fans might assume that not much of substance came out of Bama's just-concluded official visit weekend. After all, so far there have been no new commitments. But just beneath the apparently calm surface there is action aplenty.

First, we need to note that one of Alabama's most important "recruits" for next season has been ruled eligible by the NCAA. Damien Jones, a swift athlete who spent the past five years playing Minor League Baseball in the Atlanta Braves farm system, should start classes tomorrow and will be available for spring drills.

At Vigor High School in Mobile, Jones played quarterback, but that was mostly just to get the ball in his hands as often as possible. At Alabama he is expected to get a look at receiver and maybe even defense. Like current Tide walk-on Scoop McDowell did with the San Francisco Giants, Jones held the record for the Braves organization for the fastest time from home plate to first base. He's obviously talented enough to help. The problem now is finding where Jones will best fit into Bama's team puzzle, then working the years of football rust out of his system.

D.J. Hall liked Bama but wants to take his all his visits. Will there be room later?

Conceivably Jones could provide immediate help at receiver, which of course is a definite "need" position for the Tide.

With Jones, McDowell and quarterback Mike Machen, Alabama now has three former Minor League players on the squad as walk-ons, stellar athletes that do not count against any of the Tide's scholarship numbers.

Twenty-one athletes were in town this weekend for official visits, 15 committed and six that hadn't yet made up their minds. By all accounts the weekend was a big success.

Photos of all 21 athletes are featured on our front page. One prospect, K.T. Mainord, was sent home early for an undisclosed problem. After leaving Tuscaloosa, he called South Carolina and committed to sign with the Gamecocks. No one at Alabama is likely to mourn the loss, but Mainord's situation does reshuffle Bama's recruiting board at defensive line.

Louisiana lineman Jeremy Jones visited this weekend and came away impressed. The loss of Mainord almost certainly moved him up Bama's board somewhat. Jones said Sunday that he may announce later this week, naming Alabama and LSU as his leaders with MSU still under consideration. If Jones announces this week that would be prior to his scheduled visit to LSU. It's possible that the champion Bayou Bengals may not have room for Jones in their class.

Without question the Tide is clearly a "Hot School" right now, meaning that top recruits from the area are contacting Alabama, expressing interest in a visit. Three outstanding defensive line prospects from Georgia, including Brandon Miller, Neil Brown and Michael Brown, are scheduled to trip to Tuscaloosa soon. And of course Lorenzo Washington is believed to be a strong lean to Alabama. We detailed Bama's Defensive Line Outlook in a front-page story today.

Lavarus Giles

Lavarus Giles of Mississippi also visited this past weekend and liked what he saw. In a post-visit interview he said that his decision is down to Ole Miss and Alabama.

Blue-chip tailback Darius Walker (a friend of Lorenzo Washington's) will be in Tuscaloosa today and tomorrow on an official visit. Obviously Walker now views Bama as a team on the rise, and if the visit goes well he may choose to jump on board.

And Markus Manson remains a top Tide target at tailback as well. Manson took his official visit to Florida this past weekend, but surprisingly was fairly noncommittal in his comments afterwards. He's still saying he'll take all his visits and announce close to Signing Day (February 4). Not a coincidence at all, Alabama has scheduled Manson's Hillcrest teammates, Cody Davis, Travis Robinson and Jake Wingo, to visit Alabama with him on January 30. Of course Davis, Robinson and Wingo are all committed to the Tide.

Alabama also hosted two key receiver recruits this weekend, Keith Brown and D.J. Hall. Brown said Sunday that he might commit next week after taking a trip to Mississippi State. Having referred to the Alabama team and staff as being "like a brotherhood," Brown clearly liked what he saw in Tuscaloosa. We detail Bama's situation at Wide Receiver in a front-page story today.

Safety/linebacker Steve Gandy from Mississippi also enjoyed his visit. Most sources think he'll choose between Alabama and Ole Miss, though if Bama's recent hot streak with Georgia blue-chippers continues the Tide may not have a scholarship left for the talented Gandy.

Michael Brown will be in town next week.

Last Friday Tide commitment Nikita Stover explained that he had made progress academically and still expected to become qualified. If true, that would be excellent news. Stover was the consensus choice as top offensive player in the state this year, and he could very well make an immediate impact on the Bama depth chart next fall.

But as a note, in regard to qualifying issues it's always best to take a pessimistic view, especially when the positive news is "athlete reported." Better to be pleasantly surprised than the other way around.

At this point Bama's official visit list for next weekend is very much up in the air. It's believed that both Brandon Miller and Michael Brown are expected in for a visit, but names will almost certainly be added by Friday. Remember that for two weeks in a row now, Alabama has added a surprise blue-chip visitor at the last minute (Demonte Bolden two weeks ago and D.J. Hall last week).

Who's Hot? Among Recruits Still on the Board

Based on our off-the-top-of-our-head gut feeling (how's that for a mixed metaphor?), here's our ranking of the Top Alabama prospects to watch right now.

  1. Keith Brown, Is Brown ready to pull the trigger?
  2. Lavarus Giles, TB/Ath, On hold till after Walker's visit?
  3. Jeremy Jones, DL/OL/TE, Understands Bama's need, is he on temporary hold?
  4. Lorenzo Washington, DT/DE, Georgia visit done, still leaning to Bama
  5. Darius Walker, TB, Adding Walker would be a coup for Bama's coaches

Alabama currently has 24 public commitments, including:

Cullman two-way lineman Justin Britt,
Montgomery guard/center Antoine Caldwell,
Fort Payne safety Marcus Carter,
Briarwood Christian cornerback Simeon Castille,
T.R. Miller tight end Trent Davidson,
Hillcrest High School offensive tackle Cody Davis,
Sparta Academy offensive lineman Drew Davis,
Hoover middle linebacker/defensive lineman Curtis Dawson,
Morristown, Tennessee defensive lineman Brandon Fanney,
Prattville defensive lineman Kevin Hamilton,
Hoover defensive end Jeramie Holifield,
Thomasville defensive back Aaron Johns,
Randolph County wide receiver Ezekiel Knight,
Prattville tight end/athlete Travis McCall,
Fort Payne wide receiver Aaron McDaniel,
Jacksonville, Fla. wide receiver Will Oakley,
Hillcrest cornerback Travis Robinson,
Clarke County offensive tackle B.J. Stabler,
Brantley wide receiver Marcel Stamps,
Hartselle wide receiver Nikita Stover,
Northwest Mississippi CC defensive end/defensive tackle Chris Turner,
Pike County tight end Nick Walker,
Hoover quarterback John Parker Wilson, and
Hillcrest safety Jake Wingo.

NOTE: East Central (Miss.) Community College running back Titus Ryan committed to Alabama but subsequently withdrew from junior college, so he is not expected to be a part of this year's signing class.

Top Players Available

Brandon MillerDEMiller County (Colquitt, GA)
Lorenzo WashingtonDTGrayson (Loganville, GA)
Markus MansonRBHillcrest (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Demonte BoldenDTTyner (Chattanooga, TN)
Terrence SmithLBNW Mississippi CC
Larry KendrickWR/DBPearl River CC (Haines City, FL)
D.J. HallWRChoctawhatchee (Ft. Walton Bch)
Steve GandyLBWayne County (Waynesboro, MS)

Today's Recruiting Hot News

DTJustin Britt"Second to None"
SMarcus CarterBack from Official Visit
WRKeith Brown"It was like a brotherhood"
LBSteve GandyStill Has ASU on His Mind
DEBrandon MillerMom talks about visit
LBLavarus GilesTwo team race?
RBMarkus MansonVisits UF, more to come
DTNeil BrownBack from Knoxville
OLJeremy JonesBack from Alabama
DEK.T. MainordBecomes a Gamecock

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WRNRMarcel Stamps (Brantley HS)6-3/190/- 

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  • 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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