Recruiting continues

Recruiting anywhere in the nation can be a cutthroat business, with schools often saying anything and everything about their rivals, hoping to sway a top prospect their way. <br><br>And with their new coach otherwise occupied until after the Rose Bowl, right now Tide fans are worried.

But Randy Ross, Director of High School Relations and temporary recruiting coordinator for Alabama, isn't concerned. "I don't think there is any reason to panic," Ross said. "The one thing to remember is that most of our commitments are from the state of Alabama. They kind of grew up wanting to play at Alabama.

"I think we're in good shape with most of them."

Like tackle Dominic Lee, most Tide commitments are standing firm.

In the interim period between the previous staff's departure and the arrival of Mike Price and company, Ross has been the Tide point man in Tuscaloosa, handling recruiting. "Coach Ross and the staff have been working and have done a wonderful job of organizing things," new Head Coach Mike Price said.

While Alabama Athletics Director Mal Moore was looking for the Tide's new head coach, he asked Ross to stay on top of recruiting. ''I just don't know what we'd have done without Randy Ross,'' Moore told the Huntsville Times.

A fixture in and around the Alabama Football Complex since being hired by Gene Stallings in 1990, Ross has stayed busy on the telephone. "I just reassured our recruits that if they had already committed to us, then Coach Moore and Coach Price are assuring them that they have a scholarship to Alabama," Ross explained. "That's first and foremost. We want our public commitments to know that nothing on that has changed. Alabama is going to honor its commitments."

NCAA sanctions limit the number of new scholarshipped players the Tide can bring in this fall to 18. Twelve athletes publicly pledged to sign with Alabama, have never seriously wavered from that commitment. They include:

Coach Ross is functioning as Bama's interim Recruiting Coordinator.

Mario Lane (DE, TE) of Carver-Montgomery briefly reneged and arranged some official visits to other schools, but he remains a probable Tide signee. LaRon McClain (FB, LB) of Tuscaloosa County and Michael Hill (DT) of Smiths Station are no longer firmly committed, but as long-time Tide fans both are expected to eventually sign with Alabama. Mitchell Thomas (LB) of Smiths Station briefly committed to Alabama along with teammate Hill before taking his pledge back. He will reportedly decide between the Tide and Notre Dame.

"Some of our commitments had heard some things that may have put some doubt in their head, but now that the (head coaching) selection is made I think we'll be fine," Ross said. "Now we can get back in their home and get them settled back on Alabama. There are some guys that during these few weeks have looked at some other situations, but once we can get Coach Price in place we can go back on them. I'm telling them to hang on with us.

"‘Don't let go of your dream to play at Alabama.'"

Coach Price spoke of the commitment shown by the Tide recruits. "Right now, the kids that want to come here are committed to this university," he said. "They're not committed to Mike Price. They want to come here because it's Alabama. In the future, we'll have some commit because of me, but that's not the case right now."

Before flying back to the West Coast to prepare Washington State for its Rose Bowl showdown with Oklahoma, Price spent a busy day and a half calling and meeting in person with numerous prospects. Next season he'll oversee the implementation of a brand new offense at Alabama, featuring more down-the-field passing. So besides Bama's few wavering commitments, Price is targeting several other high-profile recruits, including quarterback JaMarcus Russell of Mobile, wide receiver Chad Jackson of Hoover, and offensive lineman Aaron Sears of Russellville.

"I'm going to meet all of the players who committed and talk to all of them," Price explained at last week's press conference. "And then I'm going to talk to two or three guys who have thought about going someplace else, and I'm going to turn them to Alabama. They can't pass up this opportunity.

"It's my plan to go out and get the kids that were already committed to this university and then go out and get a few more that are going somewhere else."

Before going back for the Rose Bowl, Price flew to Mobile to meet with prep quarterback JaMarcus Russell.

Determined to finish what he started this season with his Washington State players, Price will be principally occupied the next week with the Rose Bowl. But Tide fans shouldn't worry. "We're going to have coaches that are going to be camped out (in Tuscaloosa) over Christmas vacation," Price said. "Also, there's telephones, there's faxes, there's airplanes to get around.

"Recruiting won't slip an inch."

Price and Ross took advantage of the travel time back to Washington last week to go over the Tide roster in detail, making sure the recruiting strategy coincides with the realities of next year's depth chart.

Now back in Tuscaloosa, Ross will enjoy Christmas with his family. But his cell phone will always be close at hand. "I've let kids know that a lot of things are going to be told to them (by rival recruiters)," Ross explained. "But all that talk is just rumor. I'll tell them any specifics. Basically, I don't want them to believe anything they hear if it didn't come from us.

"The most important thing right now is to maintain the line of communication. If we can keep that open, then we'll be okay."

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