Signing Day Specials

The primary focus of Signing Day is on high school seniors putting their signatures on college scholarship documents. But there are some others who are listed on the roster of new signees at many schools, including Alabama. For the Crimson Tide, today's list includes three Grayshirts, a junior college transfer who is already enrolled, and a prep school performer who had previously signed with Bama.

Four of Alabama's "signees" are already enrolled as fulltime students at The University. Three of them were parttime students last fall after having signed with Bama in February of 2005. Those three are the so-called Grayshirts, so-called because it is not an official designation.

It has been Alabama's practice to over-sign the past few years, signing more prospects than the Tide could bring in as new players in August. This is done with an understanding ofd the signees over and above the scholarship limit, which is 25 (but which has been lower in years prior to 2005 owing to NCAA sanctions).

Those who are academically eligible, but not included among the new players brought to football camp in August, were designated as grayshirts. They could take a limited class load below that of fulltime student. They could work in the weight room and look at videotapes, but not during organized team participation in those activities. And, finally, when classes were completed in the fall, they could participate in bowl practice sessions.

In January they became fulltime students and will participate as freshmen in spring practice (February 24-April 1). Next fall, they will be freshmen, with five years in which to complete four years of playing time.

Alabama's grayshirts are:

Sam Burnthall, a 6-2, 190-pound defensive back from Decatur High School, who worked at safety during bowl preparation. As a prep senior, Burnthall racked-up 63 tackles, 13 pass break-ups and three interceptions from his strong safety spot. He returned two interceptions for touchdowns.

Cole Harvey is a 6-3, 265-pound offensive lineman from Lincoln High School in Tallahassee, Florida.He was considered one of the top high school offensive linemen in Florida where he was two-time 4A all-state selection and a three-year starter. As a sophomore, Harvey was selected all-county and all-area.

Travis Sikes, who also worked at safety during bowl practices, is a 6-4, 190-pounder from Christ Presbyterian in Nashville. He was an outstanding wide receiver as well as safety in high school. As a prep senior, Travis had 52 catches for 957 yards and 13 touchdowns. His best game came against Murfreesboro-Riverdale when he hauled in 13 passes for 220 yards. In the last three games of the the season, he doubled at wide receiver and safety and had four interceptions. In basketball, he set the school single game scoring record with 51 points and was District MVP.

Two other players who had previously signed with Alabama fall into other categories, although both are being "signed" in this class.

Nikita Stover was considered the number one prospect in Alabama when he signed with the Crimson Tide out of Hartselle in 2004. He spent two years at Itawamba Junior College in Mississippi, although the wide receiver played football just one year. That means he has three years of college eligibility remaining. He is now 6-2 and 200 pounds. He entered Alabama in the spring semester and is taking part in the off-season program and will go through spring practice. Stover, who caught 26 passes for 588 yards and six scores in 2004, led the Mississippi junior college ranks in kickoff returns, averaging 30 yards per return. One of the top two- way players in the state of Alabama, Stover projects as a wide receiver at Alabama. He is an explosive athlete that had 723 yards on only 27 catches as a prep junior. He won the state high jump championship as a sophomore.

One of the top signees in Alabama's 2005 signing class was Mike Ford, a 6-2, 205-pound running back from Sarasota, Florida. Ford is spending this year at Hargrave Academy in Virginia and is expected to enter The University in the summer. As a prep senior, Ford was ranked among the nation's best at tailback. He set the Florida state record with 2,837 yards rushing and 37 touchdowns on 378 carries. He averaged 236.3 yards per game in leading Sarasota to a 10-2 record. As a senior, he had a streak of seven consecutive games rushing for 200 or more yards. He was named Florida's Class 5A Player of the Year and was ranked the 17th best running in the nation by SuperPrep. At Hargrave last fall he rushed for some 900 yards and averaged nearly 10 yards per carry.

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