All-state wideout on the way

It's one of the basic rules of recruiting publicity. An athlete looking for maximum PR should always commit late, rather than early. To illustrate: Alabama actually had not one, but two receivers in last week for an official visit that were both First Team (3A) All-State from Florida. <br><br>Who were they?

After a bit of reflection, most fans could probably guess D.J. Hall. He's a tall, fast athlete who has narrowed his choice down to Alabama and Florida. The other All-State visitor, Will Oakley, actually led the state of Florida in receiving yards with 1,283, a new record for Northeast Florida. But because Oakley committed relatively early in the recruiting process, the publicity spotlight focuses elsewhere.

"It was awesome," Oakley said of last weekend's official visit to The Capstone. "It was a great visit. To sum it up, if I had not been committed, that visit would have done it for me."

Having followed Alabama's recruiting efforts long distance, Oakley was especially pleased to put names with faces and spend time with other members of the recruiting class.

"Getting to hang out with some of my future teammates and getting to know everyone real well," was one thing Oakley listed as memorable about the trip. "We are starting to develop good relationships with each other."

Will Oakley's on-the-field production this past season tabbed him as one of the top receivers in Florida.

As most fans know, each official visitor is assigned a player host, whose job it is to act as guide and introduce him around to the current players. Tim Castille played that role with Oakley.

"He was awesome," Oakley said of Castille. "He is really a great guy. I enjoyed being around him all weekend. He showed me around Rose Towers and showed me a few of he houses where some of the football players live."

"I had met some of the players before briefly in the locker room after football games," Oakley continued. "I really like being around A.C. Carter. He has been here for five years now and I remember always looking up to him. I was only 13 years old when he first came to Alabama. I can't wait to start playing with him."

Except to point out that Alabama is doing well in comparison to other comparable schools, recruiting rankings are mainly icing on the cake and of little practical value. But there is no question that Oakley will be a member of the strongest Tide signing class in years.

He commented, "We have a really strong class this year. I was talking to some of the current Tide players and they were all really excited. Most of the time, current players do not like it when freshmen come in and try to take their spot, but it is different this year.

"Alabama is definitely a team on the rise and we are going to rebuild this great football program."

Tide Head Coach Mike Shula has said that he knew he would enjoy the recruiting process, especially getting to know the prospects' families and the various high school coaches. But he never imagined he would like it this much.

"I got to talk to (Coach Shula) and hang out with him a lot," Oakley said. "He is a great guy. We had a lot of great conversations. He came to my home even after I had committed to just show how much he cared. That really showed character.

"The entire coaching staff cares about each player."

Slated for wide receiver, Oakley also had a chance to enjoy Coach Charlie Harbison, Alabama's receivers coach, who also happens to be one of the best recruiters on the staff.

"Coach Cheese is an awesome guy," Oakley said. "He is a man of God. He is one of the leaders on the coaching staff, and he develops relationships with all of his players."

His first year to play full time on offense, this season the Florida native caught 67 passes for 14 touchdowns, averaging an impressive 19.1 yards per reception. According to his coaches, Oakley accumulated nearly 500 yards in so-called "YAKs," yards after the catch. In no less than eight games he gained 125 yards or more from his wide receiver spot.

Besides earning All-State honors, Oakley was a nominee for Florida's prestigious "Mr. Football" award, the FACA Player of the Year in District 5, and a member of the Florida Times Union's "Super 24."

Having lost no less than five senior wideouts to graduation, Alabama clearly needs athletes next year to come in ready to play. Oakley is looking forward to the challenge.

Oakley took his official visit to Alabama last weekend.

He commented, "The coaches have left it up to me. They told me they don't look to redshirt anyone unless the player is not ready. This could mean in the weight room and a grasp of the game."

Oakley's database entry lists him at 6-1, 190 pounds and with a 4.45 in the 40-yard dash. Fans are understandably skeptical of all such speed numbers, but last year as a junior Oakley was a state finalist in the 110-meter hurdles.

Has he talked to Coach Harvey Glance about possibly running track as well?

"I have considered it but I don't know yet," Oakley responded. "I will have to talk to the coaches to see if that would interfere with football. If it doesn't, I will talk to the track coach and strongly consider it."

NOTE: It's very unlikely the Tide coaches would agree to let a true freshman still learning the system run track, but Oakley's prep numbers do indicate it as a possibility.

RECRUITING NOTES: Alabama has commitments from several talented wideouts, including Oakley, Ezekiel Knight, Aaron McDaniel, Marcel Stamps and Nikita Stover. But unfortunately qualifying questions surround several in the group. Oakley is an excellent student and will qualify easily.

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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