Positive publicity splash for Tide

Showing himself to be almost as comfortable on camera as the <i>Countdown to Signing Day</i> co-hosts, Lorenzo Washington turned his commitment into an impressive bit of positive publicity for the Crimson Tide.

The talented defensive lineman had been leaning Bama's way since his official visit two weeks ago, but he decided to hold off on his announcement until Wednesday's showing of the popular syndicated recruiting show.

Lorenzo Washington had nothing but positive things to say about the Georgia Bulldogs, his other finalist. But at the appropriate moment he proudly put the Alabama cap on his head.

"I've been weighing this decision for a long time, this whole season and this whole past year," Washington explained. "Georgia is a great school, close to home. Alabama is a great school, great tradition. It was close. Both schools are such good programs. It's hard to differentiate between the two.

"I couldn't make a bad decision, wherever I went. It came down to just where I felt comfortable."

Co-host Jamie Newberg, who also covers recruiting for TheInsiders.com, talked about Washington's talent.

Lorenzo Washington announced his commitment to Alabama Wednesday on syndicated television.

"Lorenzo is one of the best defensive line prospects in America," Newberg said. "Many schools, including Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina were after Lorenzo, but he narrowed his college choice down to Georgia and Alabama."

As Washington said, the choice was very much a close thing. But in the end his relationship with Paul Randolph, built over the past months by dogged hard work on the part of the Tide assistant, proved key to Washington's decision.

"Coach Paul Randolph was one of the biggest factors in my decision," Washington said. "He's going to end up as my position coach there. He's a great guy. He's fired up!"

Washington will be trading one respected coach for another. At Grayson High School former Alabama cornerback Mickey Conn (‘92-'94) was head coach.

Washington said, "My high school coach, Mickey Conn, has been a big help throughout the recruiting process. He's a good Christian man, which ties into my beliefs."

Rated a four-star prospect by TheInsiders.com, Washington says he's 6-6 and weighs right at 280 pounds. And given that he's only recently turned 17, the scary thought (for Bama opponents) is that he could still be growing.

"I'm good at stopping the run," Washington said of his ability as a player. "And one of the best things I do is rush the passer. You don't really see a lot of 270-pound guys running a 4.7, especially off the edge. In high school it was hard to find somebody to block me. With my long arms and quick hands, I can keep the blocker's hands off me. I get back to the quarterback."

The Loganville, Georgia native played both end and tackle in high school, but obviously his size has many pundits predicting he'll play on the inside in college. Washington says he'll wait and let nature take its course.

"I can see myself playing defensive end, but it really depends on how I progress," was how he put it. "I've put on 50 pounds since last year. I was 230 pounds at the start of my junior year. What position I play really depends on how I put on weight and how I progress in strength."

Only 17 and still growing, Washington has excellent potential. (And yes, that is fellow Tide commit Justin Britt in the right background.)

Asked to name some areas where he needs to improve, Washington listed pass-rush technique and raw strength.

"I need to learn how to use my hands more," he explained. "I'm pretty good now, but I need to use them more. I'm pretty tall, so I need to work on staying lower. And I need to get in the weight room. I lift weights every day now, but I need to get my numbers up a little bit."

Washington was so comfortable in front of the camera, that the CTSD producer gave him a significant section of the show. But he's definitely happy to get the announcement out of the way.

Normally an outgoing, friendly young man, the past several weeks coaches and recruiting writers have about run him ragged with their incessant phone calls.

He related what happened two weeks ago, following his official visit to Georgia. "I think writers and some of the other coaches have a sixth sense or something. Just when I stepped in the door, the phone started ringing. I answered a couple of times and asked them to call me back, but I knew what was going on. You get tired of it.

"I had 95 phone calls in that one afternoon."

By their very nature recruiting rankings are beyond subjective, but veteran recruiting pundits nationwide agree that Alabama is putting together an outstanding class.

Washington shared his thoughts on the subject. "They're doing well for many reasons. They have a great find in Coach Mike Shula. They did great hiring him. Their staff, Coach Randolph and Coach Kines, has been wonderful. They're great, great people."

"Coach Shula is a really great guy," Washington continued. "One day he's going to be a great coach like his father was. But he doesn't use (his family history). He's Mike Shula, and he's creating his own thing."

"(Lorenzo is ) another gem in a wonderful class for Alabama," Newberg noted. "Coach Mike Shula is one happy fella. They've been rolling."

Well spoken and comfortable in front of a camera, a good portion of Wednesday's Countdown to Signing Day show was given over to Washington.

Washington considered many factors in choosing the Tide, including his teammates. As he pointed out, "one player doesn't make a team."

With Mike Shula, Paul Randolph and the rest of the Tide coaches waiting, Washington can't wait to enroll and begin the process of rebuilding.

Washington said, "I know as soon as I come down there (that Coach Randolph) is getting ready to push me, so we can get to the SEC championship and the national championship. Get Alabama football back to where it's supposed to be."

Defensive lineman Lorenzo Washington is the 26th prospect to commit to Alabama as part of the 2004 recruiting class.

Other Tide commitments include:

Cullman two-way lineman Justin Britt,
Lee High School 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,
Evergreen offensive lineman Drew Davis,
Hoover middle linebacker/defensive lineman Curtis Dawson,
Morristown, Tennessee defensive lineman Brandon Fanney,
Fort Walton Beach, Florida receiver D.J. Hall,
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 receiver Marcel Stamps,
Hartselle wide receiver Nikita Stover,
Northwest Mississippi Community College defensive tackle Chris Turner,
Pike County tight end Nick Walker,
Hoover quarterback John Parker Wilson, and
Hillcrest safety/athlete Jake Wingo.

Washington is Bama's fourth D-Line commitment.

NOTE: East Central (Miss.) Community College running back/wide receiver Titus Ryan also committed to Alabama, but he subsequently withdrew from college, and it's now considered impossible for him to be a part of this year's signing class.

RECRUITING NOTES: Alabama is allowed to bring in 19 new scholarshipped players this fall. The Tide is expected to sign as many as 26 to 27 players in February, anticipating that several will not become qualified. It's also probable 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.

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