Recruiting work remains to be done

With less than a week left before Signing Day on the 5th, recruiting is coming down to the wire. And for an Alabama staff still searching for 18 qualified athletes, it's hard to overstate the importance of the next few days. <br><br>A quick look at the numbers illustrates the point.

Given that NCAA sanctions limit both initial counters (normally 25, this year 18) and total grants (normally 85, this year and next only 80), it is absolutely crucial that Tide Head Coach Mike Price and his staff sign 18 athletes who will also report next August.

At this point Alabama has verbal commitments from 14 players:

Dominic Lee is the top defensive line prospect in the state this year.

It's extremely difficult to accurately predict qualifiers this early in the process, but at this point nine of those players (Caddell, Roach, Lee, Castille, West, Moon, Parrish, Gray and Nance) are seen as certain qualifiers. Three (Chambers, Waldrop and Prothro) have some work to do but are expected to make it. The academic prospects of Felder and Packer are less certain.

There were never any hard-and-fast numbers, but heading into the recruiting season Alabama was hoping to sign a minimum of three defensive backs, four wide receivers, three defensive linemen, three offensive linemen, two running backs, two linebackers, one tight end and possibly a quarterback as well.

Good athletes can obviously play more than one position, and several of Bama's current commitments could as well, including Waldrop, Chambers and Roach. But for the sake of speculation broke down the Tide's present class this way.

(NOTE: Obviously if Packer and Felder qualify, they would be added in.)

Defensive Backs: Parrish, Gray and Prothro
Receivers: Caddell, Roach and Chambers
D-Linemen: Lee
O-Linemen: West and Moon
Running Backs: Castille
Linebackers: Waldrop and Nance
Quarterbacks: none
Tight Ends: none

Known receiver prospects still on the board include Jai Miller, Jonathan Russell (visiting this weekend) and Ryan Scott. Russell and Scott would be strong possibilities if offered. Miller likes Bama, but has strong ties to Auburn.

Saint Preux's commitment would be big.

Dominic Lee is a terrific line prospect, but he'll need help. Junior college star Freddie St. Preux is visiting this weekend and looks very promising. Rush end prospects Marquies Gunn and Mike Heard will also be in this weekend. Once committed to the Tide, in recent days Smiths Station tackle Michael Hill has been acting as if signing with Alabama is the last thing he wants to do.

Despite being committed to Oklahoma State, offensive lineman Chris Capps from Fairburn, Georgia, is visiting this weekend.

In any other year local fullback LeRon McClain would probably be a lock for Alabama, but he continues to worry about his role in Price's offense. Plus, there are qualifying concerns with McClain. Tashard Choice is a possibility at running back. It would surprise no one if he and teammate Mike Heard signed with the same school. A good visit this weekend could sway them Bama's way.

In-state linebackers Mitchell Thomas and Terrence Jones were once considered the Tide's to lose, but at this point both may be leaning elsewhere. Long-time Tide fan D.J. Norris from Pace, Florida liked his visit to Alabama last weekend, but he has not yet taken back his commitment to Florida. Though publicly pledged to LSU, star junior college middle linebacker Kenny Hollis (a native of Alabama) will visit this weekend.

Currently committed to Florida, D.J. Norris grew up a Tide fan.

Quarterback Kelcy McKissic-Luke visited last weekend but remains committed elsewhere.

When Dezmond Sherrod switched from Alabama to Mississippi State earlier this week, it left the Tide without a tight end for this year's class. Montgomery's Mario Lane may or may not visit this weekend, but he's almost certainly headed to junior college.

Several blue-chip prospects remain on the Alabama board, including Daniel Brooks, Chad Jackson (visiting this weekend), Aaron Sears, Andre Fluellen, JaMarcus Russell and Antonio Cromartie. The Tide coaches would love to turn any of them Bama's way, but that is unlikely to happen.

NOTE: Depending on what players like Mario Lane decide, Alabama's class could include several "sign and place" athletes who will start their college careers at the JUCO level. With that in mind, it's possible the Tide could end up signing as many as 23-24 players, though that total will probably be less.

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