Tide signs 19 athletes in football

Bama's remarkable run of good post-sanctions recruiting news was marred when the Pope brothers had a last-minute change of heart. But overall the Tide coaches are happy with their class. Nineteen athletes (three JUCOs and 16 high schoolers) signed grants with Alabama. <br><br>Highlighted by six D-Linemen, overall the group was weighted heavily toward defense.

Brandon Avalos

6' 1½", 180 pounds, 4.55, Quarterback
Hillcrest HS, Tuscaloosa

Brandon Avalos, QB

Avalos is an extremely quick, heady quarterback with the ability to beat you with either his feet or his arm. He's an outstanding athlete, excelling at wide receiver as a sophomore and good enough to be offered a scholarship by Alabama to play baseball.

Avalos was credited with 1,578 yards as a junior and 1,306 as a senior, despite playing for a 3-7 team. In two years at quarterback, he accounted for 27 TDs. Adding in his numbers as a sophomore wideout, Avalos totaled more than 3,800 all-purpose yards and 32 touchdowns.

He was a member of the Tuscaloosa News' Sweet 16, a Top 25 quarterback for The Sporting News and Rivals.com's No. 12 dual threat QB. Assuming Watts, Croyle and Pennington all stay healthy, Avalos will probably end up redshirting his first season in Tuscaloosa. Avalos is a good student and should easily qualify.

Chris Browder

6' 5", 204 pounds, 4.56, Defensive End
Wilcox Central HS, Camden

Chris Browder, rush end

Browder is a pash rusher, extraordinaire, with the speed to chase down plays from the back side. He'll need to add weight to become an every-down player in the SEC, but Browder isn't afraid of contact and should have no trouble maturing into his position.

With the height and speed to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks, he was credited with an amazing 29 sacks his senior year. Browder also recorded 136 tackles in leading a defensive unit that allowed fewer than five points per game during an undefeated regular season. His sack total is believed to be an Alabama State record. As a junior, his numbers were 109 tackles and 19 sacks.

Browder was a member of the Tuscaloosa News' Sweet 16, the Birmingham News' Dandy Dozen, the Mobile Press Register's Elite 18, the Birmingham Post Herald's 10 Most Wanted, and the Montgomery Advertiser's Elite 11. Browder is expected to either attend prep school or enter a junior college before enrolling at Alabama.

Ahmad Childress

6' 3", 320 pounds, 5.0, Defensive Tackle
Garden City JC, Kansas, Whites Creek HS, Nashville, Tennessee

Ahmad Childress, DT

Originally one of Bama's principal targets for this recruiting class, interest waned in Childress when it was believed he would not graduate from junior college in time to enroll this fall. Childress still has 23 hours of course work to complete, but even if he doesn't finish this summer he should be ready by winter of 2003.

Childress had been committed to South Carolina but it was Alabama that placed him in junior college. Because of that, he felt loyalty to the Tide, but Childress also wanted to play with his junior-college teammate, Derrick Pope. Childress has three years of eligibility at the Division I level. He was an All-State selection his senior season in high school, after making 85 tackles and nine sacks. In his last season at Garden City CC, Childress had 56 tackles, seven sacks and 10 quarterback hurries. He bench presses 405 pounds.

Jeremy Clark

6' 3", 275 pounds, 4.7, Defensive Lineman
Daphne HS, Daphne

Jeremy Clark, DL

Considered one of the top two or three defensive lineman in the state, Clark sports an impressive combination of size, strength and speed for a high school athlete. He could play early for the Tide at defensive end, or, should Clark's body continue growing and adding strength, he could just as easily mature into an impressive defensive tackle.

Contributing 80 tackles and nine sacks his senior season, Clark helped lead Daphne to the 6A State Championship. Clark had 66 tackles and one sack as a junior. The Daphne lineman was a member of the Tuscaloosa News' Sweet 16, the Birmingham News' Dandy Dozen, the Mobile Press-Register's Elite 18, the Birmingham Post-Herald's 10 Most Wanted, and the Montgomery Advertiser's Elite 11.

He is a former teammate of current Tide linemen Kenny King and Atlas Herrion. Though Clark still must achieve a passing test score, he is considered likely to qualify.

Ken Darby

5' 10½", 190 pounds, 4.54, Tailback
Butler HS, Huntsville

Ken Darby, tailback

Considered by most experts to be the top running back prospect in the state of Alabama, Darby committed early to the Tide and has worked to bring other prospects along with him. Darby has good speed and elusiveness, but those that have seen him in action report that a tough (almost mean) attitude on the football field may well be his best attribute.

Darby rushed for 4,674 yards during his prep career, which included 1,289 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior. A versatile threat, Darby also accounted for 2,367 all-purpose yards and 24 total touchdowns at Butler. Playing defense at outside linebacker, he turned in 281 career tackles.

Darby was selected to the Tuscaloosa News' Sweet 16, the Birmingham News' Dandy Dozen, the Montgomery Advertiser's Elite 11, the Mobile Press Register's Elite 18, and the Birmingham Post-Herald's 10 Most Wanted. The Huntsville native has the talent to play right away, so a possible redshirt will likely depend on how Bama's present tailbacks perform in 2001.

Grant Dickey

6' 5", 305 pounds, 5.28, Offensive Line
Tyler, Texas

Grant Dickey, O-Lineman

Described by Texas sources as a powerful, bruising run blocker, Dickey was somewhat overlooked by the homestate Longhorns and Aggies because of minor (cartilage) problems in his knee suffered last spring. Surgery has corrected that tear, and Dickey is excited about playing football for a national program like Alabama.

Dickey bench presses 365 pounds. He was selected an All-Texas Super Team member as a senior. Good footwork will allow him to play several positions on the O-Line. However, given Alabama's current depth on the offensive line, Dickey is most likely headed for a redshirt season in 2002.

Zach Fletcher

6' 3½", 195 pounds, Wide Receiver
CCSF, San Francisco, California, Lawrence County HS, Moulton

Zach Fletcher, receiver

Fletcher is from Moulton and played for Lawrence County High School. Having grown up an Alabama fan, Fletcher wanted to sign with the Tide out of high school but went the junior-college route when an offer wasn't forthcoming. This time around, he jumped at the chance to commit when offered a scholarship by the current staff.

Fletcher is a tall, physical receiver, not afraid to catch balls across the middle. But he also has good speed and is an excellent leaper. In 2000, Fletcher hauled in 45 catches for 1,057 yards and 15 touchdowns. This past season, the Moulton native caught eight TD passes. Fletcher will have three years to play two, and the Tide coaches expect him to contribute right away.

Juwan Garth

6' 2", 190 pounds, 4.6, Rover/Outside Linebacker
Austin HS, Decatur

Juwan Garth, rover

At this point in high school Garth would be considered a strong safety/outside linebacker combo athlete. But standing 6-2, and weighing 180 pounds, Garth is frankly still growing into his frame. He's projected as an outside linebacker in college, and the Decatur native seems ideally suited for the Rover position in Carl Torbush's defense.

From his linebacker spot in high school he was credited with 83 tackles, three quarterback sacks and an interception. Garth also played offense this past season, catching 42 passes for 778 yards and eight touchdowns. Those that have watched the defender in person or on film, note that he's not afraid of contact. Garth should qualify easily but would likely be slated for a redshirt season to begin his college career.

Chris Harris

6' 6", 230 pounds, 4.72, Defensive End
Central HS, Tuscaloosa

Chris Harris, rush end

Committing to Alabama back before summer, Harris probably hasn't gotten the media attention he deserves. He has a long (6-6), wide frame, capable of adding plenty of additional muscle as he matures but without sacrificing speed. Experts project him as the classic "flash" defensive end, specializing in pressuring the quarterback off the edge.

During his junior year Harris had 52 tackles and 12 QB sacks, and as a senior he was credited with 70 tackles and eight sacks. Harris was a member of the Birmingham News' Dandy Dozen, the Mobile Press Register's Elite 18, and the Birmingham Post-Herald's 10 Most wanted. With Alabama's current depth at end, it's likely that Harris will spend his first college season as a redshirt.

Nic Luke

6' ½", 213 pounds, 4.74, Fullback/Strong Safety
Central HS, Phenix City

Nic Luke, running back

The brother of Tide receiver Triandos Luke, Nic considered several other programs before settling on Alabama. Luke will get an early look at tailback, but he has the frame to easily add extra weight, so fullback might be his ideal position. And Luke is also athletic enough to play strong safety.

Used as a wingback in the conservative, ball-control Central offense, Luke nevertheless rushed for 690 yards on 111 carries with 12 touchdowns. He also hauled in six passes for 110 yards and two TDs. Expect him to redshirt his first season, maturing and gaining strength as the coaches decide where he can best contribute.

Chauncey Malone

6' 0", 180 pounds, 4.5, Cornerback
West Morgan HS, Trinity

Chauncey Malone, corner

Considered by many recruiting experts to be the top athlete in Alabama this season, Malone could play any of several positions. But most project Malone at cornerback, where he has been described as "a clone of Antonio Langham."

On offense he rushed for 1,431 yards and 24 touchdowns his senior year. He also excelled returning kicks, totaling 106 yards on five returned punts and 320 and a pair of TDs on only 10 kickoff tries. On defense, he had two INTs, including a 99-yard return for a touchdown. Malone has a 36-inch vertical jump, bench presses 245 pounds and squats 400. Playing in only six games as a junior due to a neck injury, Malone still managed 875 yards and 12 TDs, averaging over 10 yards per carry.

The 13th rated "athlete" on PrepStar's list, Malone was a member of the Tuscaloosa News' Sweet 16. Qualifying is a concern, and Malone will probably begin his collegiate career on the junior college level.

Greg "Moose" McLain

6' 3", 230 pounds, 4.65, Tight End/Linebacker/Athlete
Lineville HS, Lineville

Name goes here

Just call him "Moose." The pride of Lineville, "Moose" McLain followed his heart in committing to play for Alabama. A versatile athlete capable of handling any of several positions, McLain could play quickly at either tight end or linebacker. Or he could add bulk to his frame and end up at defensive end.

McLain was a four-year starter in high school. Playing both ways his senior year, "Moose" rushed for almost 900 yards, caught passes for more than 300 yards and accounted for 18 touchdowns. Defensively he had 82 tackles, four quarterback sacks, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery. After leading his team to a 13-1 record, McLain was honored as 2A All-State. An ‘A' student, McLain will have no trouble qualifying. McLain could delay his entry until January of 2003.

Earnest Nance

6' 3", 210 pounds, Linebacker/Fullback
Courtland HS, Courtland

Earnest Nance, RB/LB

Nance was generally considered one of the top 2001 prospects in the state. But a serious ACL injury in the fifth game of the year, ended his season prematurely. Since that time Nance has undergone successful surgery to repair the ligament tear and reports that his recovery is going "perfect." Depending on his recovery and how his body matures, he could project at either tailback, linebacker or fullback on the college level.

Prior to his injury, he totaled 827 yards rushing with nine touchdowns. Nance is very aggressive and had excellent speed before the injury. He recorded 102 tackles as a junior and made 84 stops through five games as a senior. The Courtland native was a member of the Mobile Press Register's Elite 18 squad. Nance's coach says he will delay entry into The University until January of 2003. Nance is qualified academically.

Ramzee "Bino" Robinson

5' 9½", 175 pounds, 4.5, Cornerback/Athlete
Butler HS, Huntsville

Ramzee Robinson, corner

Robinson is the classic superior athlete, asked by his high school coach to play quarterback just to make certain he touches the football on every play. Scouting reports describe him as a fast, fluid player that enjoys physical contact. With "good hips" (meaning he can change direction well), the Huntsville native is projected at cornerback on the college level.

Robinson threw for 1,338 yards as a senior, going 72 of 114. He threw for seven touchdowns. On the ground, Robinson accounted for 466 yards on 85 carries with six rushing TDs. Playing both ways for Butler, Robinson also had 33 tackles and one interception. Both smart and personable, Robinson should have no problem at all qualifying.

Titus Ryan

6' 2", 195 pounds, 4.4, Tailback/Wide Receiver/Safety
Tuscaloosa County HS, Northport

Titus Ryan, TB/WR

A stellar track athlete before he even started playing football, Ryan was the fastest recruit in the state. Were it not for lingering questions regarding his eligibility status, he might well have been the top prospect in Alabama. Certainly, he is the most physically gifted offensive player around.

Ryan rushed for 1,251 yards and 17 touchdowns, but his speed and excellent hands make him just as good a prospect at wide receiver. As a raw talent just learning the game, Ryan managed 1,501 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns his junior year. An excellent all-around athlete, Ryan won three events at the state indoor track meet: the 55-meter dash (6.42 best time), the high jump (6-4) and long jump (23-3). His best time in the 100-meters is 10.65, and Ryan has been clocked at 21.63 in the 200. And scouts report that when his coach put him in for spot duty in the secondary, Ryan displayed potential as a big-play safety.

The Northport native made the Tuscaloosa News' Sweet 16, the Mobile Press Register's Elite 18 and the Birmingham Post-Herald's 10 Most Wanted.

Demeco Ryans

6' 1", 210 pounds, 4.5, Outside Linebacker
Jess Lanier HS, Bessemer

Demeco Ryans, linebacker

Considered by most analysts to be the top linebacking prospect in Alabama this season, Ryans joined a long line of stellar linebackers from Jess Lanier when he committed to the Tide. Ryans came on late in the recruiting process, after a growth spurt added two inches and almost 20 pounds of muscle to his frame.

Ryans totaled more than 125 tackles and 11 sacks, while playing for one of the top prep defenses in the state. Ryans was selected to the first-team 6A All-State squad. Ryans has played both inside and outside linebacker in high school, but he projects as a strongside linebacker at Alabama. Ryans made the Tuscaloosa News' Sweet 16 list and was named a member of the Birmingham Post-Herald's Super Senior team. An excellent student, Ryans is already qualified.

David Scott

6' 0", 180 pounds, 4.4-4.5, Cornerback
Jones County Community College, Ellisville, Mississippi, Homestead, Florida

David Scott, corner

Originally signed out of Homestead, Florida by Carl Torbush and Ron Case when both coached at North Carolina, Scott transferred to Jones County when Torbush left the Tar Heels. Last season Jones Community College won the Mississippi junior college championship. Scott is said to be a classic ‘cover corner,' capable of locking up on receivers in man-to-man across the field. And his size fits the mold of taller, stronger cornerbacks favored by the current Tide staff.

Last season the Florida native was credited with 44 tackles and seven interceptions. Following the season, Scott was named first-team junior college All-American. As a general rule, Alabama doesn't believe in signing junior-college athletes unless they can contribute right away. And Scott is expected to compete for playing time immediately.

Henry Smith

6' 3", 280, Defensive Tackle
Aliceville HS, Aliceville

Henry Smith, DT

Judged by most scouts as the top pure defensive tackle prospect in the state, Smith favored Alabama throughout the recruiting process. Had he been fully qualified, Smith would have been a Top Five prospect.

Smith was named Class 3A Lineman of the Year after making 190 tackles, 10 sacks and 14 tackles for losses. Smith's prep career total is 440 tackles and 24 quarterback sacks. He hasn't yet taken the ACT test, and most expect him to begin his career in junior college. Pear River Community College in Poplarville, Mississippi is likely where he'll end up. Smith hopes to graduate in 18 months and get back to Tuscaloosa as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, Smith made the Tuscaloosa News' Sweet 16 list and was a member of the Mobile Press Register's Elite 18.

Kyle Tatum

6' 6", 270 pounds, 4.7, Defensive Tackle/D-Line
Prattville HS, Prattville

Kyle Tatum, D-Lineman

Most experts list Tatum as the top defensive tackle prospect in Alabama. And while the Prattville native literally had his choice of scholarship offers, Tatum went with his heart in committing to play for Alabama. At 6-6, he towers over most athletes, but he's also surprisingly agile for a young man his size. Tatum played defensive end in high school, but as he continues to mature and fills out his frame it's believed he'll likely end up on the inside at tackle.

Despite being double- and triple-teamed for most of this year, Tatum still managed 95 tackles, including 25 for a loss, 14 sacks and three fumbles recovered. As a junior the Prattville native was credited with 80 tackles, nine sacks and 23 tackles behind the line of scrimmage. The big lineman was named to the Tuscaloosa News' Sweet 16 and the Birmingham News tabbed him a Super Senior. Tatum should qualify with no trouble.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Junior college All-American linebacker Derrick Pope did not sign with Alabama today. Reportedly, he is taking some time to reconsider his decision, planning now to visit Michigan State. Given his family ties to Bama Assistant Head Coach Kenith Pope, it's still possible Derrick could end up in Crimson. But logic would assume those odds are now long. Derrick's brother, Roshawn, who was also earlier committed to Alabama, signed with Houston.

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