One down; two to go?

From beginning to end there has been confusion about just how many athletes Alabama would sign this year, so why should the final week be any different?

But while it's definitely possible that the Tide will take some more pledges from athletes not expected to qualify, last night's commitment of Keith Brown probably reduced the number of unconditional spots left to two--or at most three.

Alabama's current number of public commitments stands at 25, if you count Jake Wingo, which we definitely do. Of course several (probably at least three) of those players have agreed privately to be "grayshirts," if needed. Depending on how qualifying issues involving higher-rated commitments play out, they might be called on to delay entry into The University until January of 2005, at which point they would count against Alabama's '05 numbers.

At least one of Bama's current commitments is expected to begin is career as a walk-on.

Defensive lineman Michael Brown might be too good to pass up.

And unfortunately, several others (probably as many as five) have not insignificant work to do in the classroom to become eligible. Though at this point, with the exception of Titus Ryan who we don't count in our 25, it's "possible" that every current Tide commitment could get eligible.

In recent weeks the word was that Alabama was looking to sign as many as two more receivers, two more defensive linemen, one more running back and possibly an "athlete," capable of playing more than one position.

When applied to the number of slots being juggled, those numbers were accurate. But at this point no one believes that six unconditional slots are still available.

So how many are left?

Probably two, though if the right defensive lineman wanted on board, then room would probably be made. That same scenario is also still "possible" regarding the right receiver, but less likely.

Keith Brown's commitment was big. Both athletically and academically, he was seen as the top prep receiving prospect left on Bama's board. If Larry Kendrick wants to commit, it's possible that room could be made--but not certain. D.J. Hall has always been waiting on the Gators, besides which he reportedly has a relatively longer road to travel than Brown to get qualified. And it's possible that Adrian Smith of Rome, Georgia, still may end up as a member of the class as a "sign and place."

Blue-chip tackle prospect Lorenzo Washington remains Bama's top target on the defensive line. But the Tide's desperate need at the position can be seen by the continuing very real interest in both Michael Brown and Neil Brown. Both Browns are currently scheduled for an official visit to Tuscaloosa next weekend, two days after Washington says he'll announce his decision on television.

Louisiana lineman Jeremy Jones took his official visit to LSU last weekend and came away still not committed. Clearly the Bayou Bengals are "slow playing" the in-state prospect. It's possible that he could realize that and call the Bama coaches this weekend asking to commit. It's possible that the Tide would ask him to wait until after they see what the two Browns are going to do. And yes, it's possible that Jones could end up out in the cold (which could also happen to D.J. Hall).

Recruiting can be a tough business.

Bama will have a scholarship for Manson on Signing Day.

Obviously if Washington disappoints the Tide coaches and goes to Georgia then the full-court press will be applied that weekend. But even if Washington commits to Bama, similar interest from either Michael or Neil Brown could cause the Tide to adjust and make room. Qualified defensive linemen are just too valuable this year for Alabama to pass up.

The third essentially certain scholarship slot is being held for Markus Manson. Alabama doesn't have to sign a tailback this year, but they'd certainly like to--and Manson remains their top target.

For weeks now Manson has said over and over again to every recruiting writer that asked that he was still committed to Florida but taking all his visits. Advisors close to the Hillcrest star have warned him against flip-flopping publicly, and he's listened to their advice. So frankly, fans shouldn't expect anything different from Manson until after he's taken his official visit next weekend to Alabama.

Sources close to Manson continue to say that in the end he'll have a very hard time making a decision that will take him away from Tuscaloosa. Interestingly, the NCAA recruiting schedule is about to work in Manson's favor. After this weekend, which will be the last full official visit weekend before Signing Day, a "dead period" will descend on recruiting. Basically, the athlete can call the various college coaches, but they cannot initiate contact with him. That restriction will remain in effect until Signing Day.

Should an athlete like Manson make a last-minute switch, he'll be shielded from pressure put on by the spurned coaches.

JUCO receiver Larry Kendrick remains uncommitted, but will Bama have room?

If Manson sticks with the Gators, then his scholarship would be available for possibly another receiver or D-Lineman, or it could simply allow the few "grayshirts" to move up one slot.

RECRUITING NOTES: Alabama is allowed to bring in 19 new scholarshipped players this fall. The Tide is expected to sign as many as 22 to 24 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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