The truth is, that the Tide could stop now and walk away with a very good signing class, filling all its needs except for defensive line and qualified receivers. And unbiased recruiting reporters all over the nation have already termed the resurgent Crimson Tide as the "surprise story" of this year's recruiting. But Bama isn't done yet.
But with (so far) no new commitments announced following last weekend's large official visit activity, many Bama fans are having a hard time adjusting to the calm. Obviously they're hoping it won't be a calm before a storm, but it's fair to say that some things are in a holding pattern right now.
Part of the problem comes from the discrepancy between what an athlete/recruit says to a recruiting writer and the actual, bottom-line truth of what's going on. By now most recruiting fans realize that just because a prospect "says" he's been offered by Notre Dame, Alabama, Florida State and Miami, doesn't "necessarily" mean that it's true.
Sometimes the athlete is pretty much making it up out of whole cloth, hoping to boost his visibility and stir up some activity on his own. Other times the athlete is just repeating partial truth--without giving necessary background information.
For example, a given coach might have said something to the effect of "If you get a qualifying score, then I think we'll offer." Or, "Once our recruiting board settles down, I'm almost certain we'll have a scholarship for you. So in the meantime just hang in there with us." Or as has certainly happened a few times this year with Alabama, "We want you at Alabama, but we're not sure about how many of our recruits will get qualified. Go ahead and commit, and as spots come available you'll get the scholarship. If not, at worst we'll bring you in as a grayshirt next January."
Did any of the three examples represent a completely unconditional scholarship offer? No.
But who can blame the athlete for embellishing the truth slightly when talking to an annoying reporter. Certainly not me, and especially not in the case of grayshirts. After all, they have been promised a scholarship, just not this fall.
Just as athletes don't always relate the full and unvarnished truth in regard to scholarship offers, likewise when a prospect says "I'm still not sure. I want to take a few more visits before deciding." Or, "I think I might be close to a decision. I may announce this week or I may wait until after my next visit." Those statements don't always mean that the athlete doesn't know where he wants to go. Often, instead they indicate that his preferred school has not yet given an unconditional offer.
Bama fans will remember when Luverne's Chester Adams wasn't shy about saying he grew up an Alabama fan, yet he's now committed to Georgia. Whether the Luverne lineman would have ended up at The Capstone even with an unconditional offer cannot be answered for certain, but it wouldn't have hurt.
Sometimes a school is "slow playing" an athlete, juggling several players for a given slot, hoping for the top-rated prospect but also tap dancing as fast as they can to keep lower-rated prospects from committing elsewhere.
And when a school suddenly finds itself fielding calls from genuine blue-chip athletes, asking to come on an official visit, it frankly can get a bit dicey.
At one point Alabama's recruiting board at tailback seemed clear. Try as hard as you could to sign Markus Manson, but also get Lavarus Giles on board as an athlete capable of handling the position if needed. Indeed Giles seemed close to committing last week. Then Darius Walker contacts the Tide coaches, asking to visit, which he did yesterday and today.
What should the Bama coaches have done? Tell Walker not to come?
A similar situation occurred with Bama's defensive line recruiting. The Tide is placing a lot of faith in the hope that Lorenzo Washington will announce his commitment next week on television. And K.T. Mainord and Jeremy Jones were being courted for that last D-Line slot. Then of course Mainord (through his own actions) took himself out of the equation, leaving the field seemingly open for Jones. Yet instead of committing, Jones made a fairly enigmatic statement, saying he may commit this week, or he may not, which was all the more confusing to some, given that he hasn't yet taken an official visit to LSU, which would be his favorite, all things being equal.
Of course in the world of recruiting all things are rarely equal.
Almost certainly LSU is "slow playing" Jones, and most believe the Bayou Bengals will not have a scholarship for the in-state prospect. But beyond that fact, the recent interest of three talented Georgia defensive linemen in Alabama, Michael Brown, Brandon Miller and Neil Brown, factors into this as well. For the Tide to take Jones' commitment now, they would have to be confident that either those three were not serious in their interest, or that Jones was a superior athlete.
A similar scenario can be told regarding D.J. Hall. The Florida receiver liked Bama fine, and indicated he'd be happy playing for the Tide. But he certainly seems to be angling for an unconditional offer from Florida, which is probably "slow playing" him at this point.
Is the game potentially dangerous? You bet.
For example what happens if Alabama decides not to wait on Hall and goes ahead and takes a commitment from another athlete (say Keith Brown and/or Adrian Smith)--and then Florida runs out of scholarships? It's not something that Hall wants to think about, but it's possible.
Of course it can work the other way around, too. Jeremy Jones could go ahead and commit to Mississippi State, where Sly Croom would love to get the athletic big man. Then all four Georgia line prospects could decide for other schools besides Alabama.
Again, that's not a prospect Bama's coaches want to think about.
For those that follow it closely, college recruiting is an interesting game. Contrary to what some assume, there almost always is logic behind what happens. You've just got to be well enough informed--and practiced in reading the tea leaves--to figure it out.
Key Targets Remaining on Alabama's Board
Defensive Line (Alabama is probably looking to sign two more, if possible): Lorenzo Washington, Jeremy Jones, Michael Brown, Brandon Miller and Neil Brown.
Wide Receiver (Alabama is probably looking to sign two more, one a possible grayshirt, depending on qualifying outcomes among currently committed wideouts): Larry Kendrick, D.J. Hall, Keith Brown and Adrian Smith.
Tailback (The Tide doesn't absolutely have to have one, but they'd definitely like one): Markus Manson, Darius Walker and Lavarus Giles.
Linebacker/Athlete (This spot is basically gravy for Bama, but if the right guy is available...): Steve Gandy and Lavarus Giles.
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.
Read all of the recent recruiting stories on Alabama recruits from TheInsiders.com.