Some Who Got Away

On the first Wednesday in February each year, hundreds of young men live out the dream of signing major college football scholarships. For a relative handful of those, it is truly special, because they sign with one of the traditionally elite programs of college football–Alabama, Notre Dame, Southern Cal, Texas, Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State.

For the rest of their lives, some 26 young men who signed football scholarships with Alabama this year will be able to say they were Crimson Tide football players. Some will probably be stars, but most will not. Still, they will always be able to say they played for Alabama.

And around the country, there is a similar story for those picking Notre Dame or USC or Texas or the like.

Most who play college football, of course, are not selected for such programs. And there are some who have the opportunity but go elsewhere.

There are two categories of those who turn down an elite program. In one group are those like Andre Smith, who turned down Southern Cal. But he selected one of the other elite programs, Alabama. (He also took a look at the likes of LSU and Florida, but in the end those were just trips.)

Another category is those who have the opportunity to play in one of the elite programs, but decide for whatever reason to go elsewhere. Those are the young men who years from now are likely to hear something like, "You're a big guy. Did you play college football?"

And he may answer along the lines of, "Yeah, I played. I was offered by Alabama, but decided to play at…"

And he has already said too much. By the time he finishes his sentence with "Louisville" or "Auburn" or "Southern Miss" or wherever, his listener will have tuned him out.

But it is true that Alabama doesn't get every player it wants. The same is true for the other elite programs. That's why every school recruits more prospects than it can sign.

Alabama "lost" some very good players this year, "lost" in the sense that the Crimson Tide was unsuccessful in recruiting them. Something never had can't really be "lost."

There is no one reason that players elect to pass up the opportunity to play in an elite program to go elsewhere.

Considering that both Alabama and Auburn had good recruiting seasons, it is somewhat surprising that once again the Tide and Tigers did not have a big overlap in prospects, so there were not a large number of head-to-head recruiting battles. But Alabama did lose at least five prospects to Auburn. Among those who passed on Bama to play for the Tigers are tight end Michael Goggans, wide receiver Tim Hawthorne, lineman Jermarcus Ricks, linebacker Craig Stevens, and wide receiver Terrell Zachery.

Bama lost linebacker Rashaad Byrd to Southern Miss and defensive end Deantwan Whitehead ("Peanut") to Louisville.

Florida had what many consider to be the nation's top recruiting class, and the Gators got some that Alabama wanted, headed by quarterback Tim Tebow. Florida also signed linebackers A.J. Jones and Brandon Spikes who were high on the Tide's list and wide receiver Jarred Fayson.

While Bama beat Southern Cal for Smith, the Tide lost a player to another of the elite programs when linebacker Toryan Smith went to Notre Dame.

Linebacker Recardo Wright committed to Alabama, but on signing day reneged and went with Florida State. Also picking FSU over Bama were linebacker Tim Rawlinson and fullback Sedrick Holloway.

Ole Miss had a surprisingly good recruiting year, including landing Alabama prospects running back Cordera Eason, defensive end Kentrell Lockett, and defensive end Marcus Tillman.

Clemson finished ahead of Alabama for three prospects from the state of Florida, defensive end Kevin Alexander, defensive back DeAndre McDaniel, and running back C.J. Spiller.

Arkansas managed to keep local quarterback star Mitch Mustain, who flirted with Bama, and the Razorbacks also got wide receiver Carlton Salters from Tallahassee.

It's tough for Alabama to recruit in Texas with the likes of the Longhorns and Texas A&M getting most of the top players. It was a bit of a surprise that Texas prep defensive end Ugo Chinasa turned down Alabama for Oklahoma State.

Although Alabama got the top running back in Mississippi, Mr. Football Terry Grant, the Mississippi State Bulldogs got a good one in Anthony Dixon.

The top prospect in Tennessee, offensive lineman Jacques McClendon, looked at Bama but kept his commitment to the Vols.

LSU had to fight to the last minute, but landed linebacker Derrick Odom.

It remains to be seen whether Alabama or those prospects lost the most.

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