So far, every recruit is standing firm

When word that the NCAA had leveled crippling sanctions against the Crimson Tide football program was announced, the Bama coaches had 20 recruits committed to sign. Though defections are still possible--especially from one or two junior-college recruits--to date not a single athlete has publicly reneged on his pledge to Alabama.

In an article posted yesterday afternoon (Recruits Re-affirm their commitments), BamaMag.com reported that Nic Luke, Brandon Avalos, Roshawn Pope, Demeco Ryans, Henry Smith, Kyle Tatum, Jeremy Clark, Juwan Garth and Chris Harris had all stated publicly their intent to stick with the Tide.

It's the last recruiting weekend before National Signing Day and most high school athletes are being pulled in different directions, but one-by-one each name on the commitment list is speaking out.

Darby remains adamant in his commitment to Alabama.

"I'm still firm to Alabama," Ken Darby told BamaMag.com yesterday. "We'll still succeed--most definitely. I know we will."

Darby is generally considered among the Top Five recruits in the state and the tailback/linebacker prospect has become something of a fan favorite during the recruiting process. "I was shocked when I first heard the news," Darby said. "Taking away the bowl games surprised me, but that was about it."

Despite committing to the Tide back during the summer, coaches from other schools have never let up in their solicitations. And the phone calls started up again, following Friday's announcement. "It really didn't matter to me too much," Darby said. "I just like Alabama and I like the football program. With Coach Fran and the other coaches, we'll make it through no matter what they do to us."

Ramzee Robinson sees a chance for more playing time.

But Darby's determination to stick with his chosen school doesn't mean he wasn't upset. "It made me angry," he admitted. "If anybody is an Alabama fan, it would make them angry. At least that's what I think. I was definitely angry when I heard about it. I thought it shouldn't have been that (harsh). You shouldn't punish this football team."

Darby's good friend and teammate Ramzee Robinson is also committed to Alabama. Slated to compete at cornerback in college, Robinson has been away this weekend at an indoor track meet. But he assured his high-school assistant coach that he was still Bama bound.

In fact, Robinson has his own unique take on the issue of scholarship reductions. "So we won't have as many players? GOOD! Now they will HAVE to let me play both ways!" Robinson played option quarterback for his high school team, but his athleticism could project at wideout.

Bama stuck with Nance, despite a serious knee injury.

As expected, the sanctions have given renewed hope to recruiters from other schools. And all the prospects' phones have been ringing off the hook. Understandably, many have simply stopped answering the phone.

Linebacker/Fullback prospect Earnest Nance is one that has chosen not to speak. But in a report that appeared on TimesDaily.com, Nance told a local reporter, "I don't feel comfortable talking about the punishment. But tell everybody I'm still going to sign with Alabama."

With a two-year bowl ban presently levied, Alabama's three junior-college commitments were seen as particularly vulnerable. Each would have only two years of eligibility left, and if the sanctions are not reduced on appeal the junior-college transfers will miss out on post-season play.

Zach Fletcher's dream has always been to play for Alabama.

Zach Fletcher attended City College of San Francisco for the past two seasons, but before that the wide receiver played for Coach Tim Gillespie at Lawrence County High School. Fletcher himself has not been quoted in the media, but Gillespie stated yesterday that Fletcher would honor his commitment to Alabama.

Many recruiting pundits have labeled Titus Ryan the most gifted offensive prospect in the state. The Northport star was unavailable for comment this morning, attending the same track meet as Ramzee Robinson. But his mother spoke directly to the situation. "He's still committed to Alabama," Mrs. Ryan said. "He's been at the state indoor track meet since Friday afternoon, so we haven't talked since then. But he hadn't changed his plans."

If any recruit had reason to shop around, it would have been Lineville's Greg McLain. In a misunderstanding widely reported earlier in the recruiting process, McLain was disappointed to learn that Alabama could not guarantee him a scholarship in the fall of 2002. He has been officially offered a chance to delay his entry until January of 2003 and go on scholarship at that point.

Whether in September or next January, McLain is coming to Alabama.

Whether McLain enters this fall or waits till winter is still uncertain, but his commitment to Alabama is not. "(The sanctions) didn't change anything," McLain said this morning. "I've heard from the Alabama coaches about what's going on. I'm still coming to Alabama."

McLain excels in the classroom as well as on the football field, and he's not about to let the NCAA interfere with his long-range goals. "It's not a big deal to me," he said. "I'm going to come down there to help the program out as much as I can.

"I guess some of (the penalties) took me by surprise, but like I said, it was not a big deal."

Committing to the Tide out of Jones County Community College, cornerback David Scott has always been viewed as a key component of this class. He's from Homestead, Florida and originally signed with North Carolina out of high school. Obviously his close ties to Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush and Safeties Coach Ron Case (both former Tar Heel coaches) were a factor in his decision to commit to the Tide.

As a junior college transfer, the sanctions would hit Scott especially hard.

Given his circumstances and background, logic would indicate that Scott might now reconsider his commitment. As of Friday night, a strong source close to the football program believed that Scott was still headed to Tuscaloosa. But Scott has not been available for comment, so BamaMag.com cannot confirm that report.

Junior College All-American linebacker Derrick Pope has also avoided reporters the last several days. The nephew of Tide Assistant Head Coach Kenith Pope, Derrick would be an invaluable addition to the Alabama squad. Roshawn Pope, also a Tide commitment, is Derrick's brother.

Yesterday Roshawn told BamaMag.com that while he was troubled by the severity of the sanctions, he was still committed to Alabama. But yesterday Roshawn also told TiderInsider that he planned to talk with his brother about their situation.

Given the close family ties, strong sources still think that both Popes should stay with the Tide. But until Derrick makes a firm statement of his intent, Alabama fans will remain uneasy about his situation.

Chauncey Malone was understandably troubled by the sanctions.

Trinity's Chauncey Malone, one of the very best athletes in the entire state, has been committed to Alabama for some time. However, his academic situation will dictate that he begin his career in a junior college.

He expressed great concerns about the sanctions to his hometown newspaper, but Malone did not renege on his commitment to the Tide. He is expected to sign with Alabama and be placed in a junior college. Malone will be recruited again in two years, at which point the issue of sanctions will be mostly moot.

EDITOR'S NOTE: To this point BamaMag.com has been unable to contact either Grant Dickey (a Tide offensive line commitment out of Tyler, Texas) or Camden defensive lineman Chris Browder, also committed to Alabama.


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