But with at least five (or so) slots left to fill, Tide fans have plenty to speculate about. ">
But with at least five (or so) slots left to fill, Tide fans have plenty to speculate about. ">

Key questions remain

All the athletes have returned home from the final official visit weekend of the recruiting season. Signing Day won't take place until Wednesday. And an NCAA mandated "Dead Period" has settled over the recruiting landscape. <br><br>But with at least five (or so) slots left to fill, Tide fans have plenty to speculate about.

Several outstanding athletes visited Alabama this past weekend, and one "capped" the process by switching his commitment from Oklahoma State to the Tide. Chris Capps, a 6-6, 260-pound prospect from Fairburn, Georgia became Alabama's third offensive line pledge, probably finishing out that group.

Saint Preux would be a huge addition to the class.

The biggest (both in terms of size and importance) visitor was Freddy Saint Preux. The massive JUCO defensive tackle enjoyed himself very much, but has not yet decided between Alabama and Texas A&M.

Tide fans hoped that a visit to Tuscaloosa with his parents would sway Kenny Hollis (6-1, 241) Bama's way, but apparently the junior college linebacker intends to honor his commitment to LSU.

Of course in-state phenom Chad Jackson took his promised visit to Alabama, but his leaving early Saturday evening signaled everything fans needed to know about Jackson's real intent. The Hoover receiver will play for the Florida Gators.

Other than that, there wasn't a lot of news for Tide fans coming out of the official visits. Courtland's Earnest Nance confirmed he'll sign with Alabama, which though expected was a positive. D-End/Tight end Mario Lance is probably once again committed to the Tide, but he'll be a "sign and place" either way. A punter (Brandon Roberson) and quarterback (Cliff Davis) were courted by the Tide coaches. Roberson may or may not have an offer from Alabama (he says he does). Davis does not--though it's possible he could be a late addition on Signing Day.

With Capps' commitment, Alabama has 16 athletes expected to sign on Wednesday.

Miller's ability to catch the football makes him important for the Tide.

Things could change, but Lane, Felder and Packer are believed unlikely to qualify. And reports from Summerville, Georgia have Parrish seriously torn between Alabama and Tennessee. The Vols lost a major safety recruit last week to Colorado and have been putting a lot of pressure on Parrish to switch. Despite his public commitment, at this point odds on Parrish signing with Alabama would probably be no better than 50/50, if that.

The Tide staff can bring in 18 new scholarshipped players next fall. It's impossible to predict exactly what will happen, but Alabama would appear to have room for five more signees.

Other athletes like Roberson and Harris could end up a part of the class, but six names clearly top the Alabama wish list.

Top linebacker prospect Mitchell Thomas is still a possibility.

Based simply on need, Saint Preux and Miller may be the most crucial of the group. But after being hammered by negative recruiting for the past two months, as much as anything else the Tide simply needs to finish off the 2003 recruiting season on a positive note. And those six athletes hold the key.

Saint Preux is deciding between the Tide and Aggies, but Alabama's chances are believed to be good. With Miller, logic would dictate a Crimson decision. As a big-time receiver, he'd fill a critical "need position" for the Tide. Plus, he intends to play basketball as wel--and Coach Mark Gottfried's team has had him on their radar screens for some time as well. On the negative side, Miller has extensive family ties to Auburn, and he loves Stanford academically.

Thomas and McClain's unwillingness to pull the trigger for Alabama perfectly illustrates the battles Bama's coaches have had to face, fending off extremely negative messages from rival recruiters. At one time both were committed to the Tide, but each reneged after the coaching transition. Considered the top in-state prospects at their respective positions, reeling them back in would represent a major victory for Mike Price and his staff.

Normally, LeRon McClain would already be safely in the fold.

As a lifelong fan of Alabama, D.J. Norris would probably already be in the Bama fold--except that the previous staff essentially left him unrecruited. He may switch the Tide's way, but he has been reluctant to take back his commitment to Florida without careful consideration.

Despite playing for Tuscaloosa County High School, Jones has been courted by Auburn for months. The latest indications are that he's leaning Bama's way, but that's not certain.

Jones, Norris and Miller have said they'll announce their decisions today, and decisions from the other three are considered imminent as well. But any or all of the group could end up going down to the wire.

Like it or not, Signing Day promises to be a nail-biter for Alabama fans.

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