A Summer Gamble

The Shula summer signing splash hit for the third year in a row late last week with the news that Eryk Anders signed on to join the Crimson Tide program next week.

The undersized defensive lineman, potentially a linebacker at Alabama, is not walking an uncharted path and neither is head coach Mike Shula in signing him.

In fact, Shula has worn out a steady path of finding diamonds in the rough in summertime.

Two years ago, with just a few weeks of head coaching and recruiting experience under his belt, Shula okayed picking up undersized Wallace Gilberry from Bay Minette after the defensive end posted a eye-opening week of practice and a solid game at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic.

Gilberry, now a redshirt sophomore, was Alabama's 2004 sack leader and is penciled in as the starter at defensive end this season. In other words, his is already considered a scholarship well-used.

That signing was made possible by Mike Price's sub-par effort to fill the boat in 2003 after a late start.

Last summer it was safety Jeffrey Dukes who was added to the signing list after a rash of unexpected non-qualifiers. Dukes played on special teams last year as a sophomore, but this year he is among a handful of players to watch for a breakout year.

Dukes' name was on the tip of everyone's tongue in the spring and senior safety Roman Harper said Dukes was looking sharp in summer pass skel workouts. Odds are that Dukes will have an impressive junior campaign and remove any outside doubt about his worthiness as a summer signee.

If Anders follows in the footsteps of Dukes and Gilberry, the Shula mid-summer signing experiment might become tradition at Alabama, leaviing other coaches to wonder where Alabama is finding these guys.

If Anders falls short of the Dukes-Gilberry precedent, it will still be difficult to say he wasn't worth the risk.

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