Recruiting Diary, final visit weekend

Markus Manson

It's possible that one more commitment could be added to Bama's already stellar 2004 recruiting class. But it's also possible (maybe even probable) that the Tide is done.

Receiver D.J. Hall (Tuesday) and defensive lineman Lorenzo Washington (Wednesday) claimed Bama's last two available scholarship slots this week. Yes, Markus Manson's "seat" is still empty. But at this point it's not even certain that the talented tailback will make his official visit to the Capstone this weekend.

Plenty of athletes these days stumble when dealing with the press, too often coming off as immature and arrogant when making their announcements. But Washington managed to have fun with the process, playing along with the television show Countdown to Signing Day to build some excitement, but also acting respectfully to both his finalists.

Indeed, more than a few Tide fans were worried as they listened to him praise the Georgia Bulldogs, but at the end he explained that he was Bama bound. Holding his own with the two television co-hosts, Washington calmly fielded their questions and generally did his parents and high school teachers proud.

Alabama benefited from some excellent publicity this past week, as Lorenzo Washington announced his decision on television.

Alabama's coaches felt good all along about their chances with Washington, but clearly he was a key component of the 2004 class. The Tide needed qualified defensive linemen, and it needed them badly. Washington came through in the clutch and may well become the capstone to an excellent group of athletes.

But what about Manson?

Make no mistake, the Tide coaches would love to have the Hillcrest athlete. But if Alabama's tradition--and Manson's family ties to Tuscaloosa--aren't enough to keep him in town, then so be it. Latest word was that the Florida coaches are pushing hard to keep Manson from making his official visit to Alabama. They can read like anyone else, so they know that the Tide has also arranged for Manson's three Hillcrest teammates (Cody Davis, Travis Robinson and Jake Wingo) to be on hand this weekend, hopefully to influence his decision. Ron Zook and Co. also knows that Manson's family and friends are pushing for him to switch to Alabama.

Zook is flying to Tuscaloosa this morning and plans to meet with Manson before this afternoon, when he is scheduled to check into the Tide team hotel at around 4 pm. Some reports even have Zook telling Manson that if he goes on the visit, his offer will be pulled. Given that they've known of the trip for weeks, that's a little hard to believe. But certainly such strong-arm tactics aren't uncommon in recruiting.

Bottom line, if he doesn't make the trip, then paint him Orange and Blue, because he's gone to Gainesville. If he does, then Bama still has a chance.

Manson is being pressured by the Gator coaches not to take his visit to Alabama this weekend.

Some wonder why Bama is going out of its way with Manson. After all, it's a tad unsettling to think the Tide coaches would let themselves be manipulated by one player. But the truth is deeper than that. Beyond Manson's talent, which is real, the Tide coaches made a conscious decision this year to close the borders of Alabama--and close them tight. At least in part Manson is still being recruited hard precisely because he's from Alabama.

Take care of your in-state kids first.

For example, frankly Alabama could have taken commitments from several out-of-state athletes that will end up as "sign and places," but they chose not to--at least not yet. On the other hand, they have recruited (and committed) several in-state athletes that appear headed for JUCO. Why?

Take care of your in-state kids first.

Alabama's high school coaches notice. And they appreciate the effort. In time, that philosophy will pay off handsomely for the Tide staff.

Cody Davis visits today.

Should Manson decide to listen to family and friends and choose the Tide, he'll be welcomed with open arms. If he does not, his scholarship will be given to an already committed player (previously a conditional grayshirt). There is a remote possibility that the Bama staff could decide to spend Manson's scholarship on a different athlete, but it's not considered likely.

Besides the Hillcrest threesome (possibly foursome), two players from White High School in Dallas, Texas, are also visiting this weekend. Micah Howeth, a talented defensive end, and Riyad Rogers, a tailback, will fly in together. Howeth could end up as a "sign and place" for the Tide.

Two other athletes, both defensive linemen from Georgia, had been scheduled to visit Alabama this weekend. But Washington's commitment took away the purpose behind the trips. Michael Brown switched his commitment from Georgia to Florida and now says he's finished with recruiting. Neil Brown hasn't yet announced his decision.

Travis Robinson also visits, beginning today.

A couple of athletes previously linked to Alabama made some news recently. Chris Nickson, Alabama's Mr. Football this year, committed to sign with Vanderbilt. More than a few Tide fans wish there were enough scholarships available this year to have signed Nickson. A dangerous run/pass combo-quarterback, Nickson deserves to play for a school that will utilize his talents, and the Commodores could be the answer.

Josh Sitton, a center prospect from Florida who attended Alabama's mini-camp last summer, committed to sign with Central Florida.

Who's Hot? Among Recruits Still on the Board

Based on our off-the-top-of-our-head gut feeling (how's that for a mixed metaphor?), here's our ranking of the Top Alabama prospects to watch right now.

  1. Markus Manson, TB, Bama promised to hold a spot, and they will
  2. Jeremy Jones, DL/OL/TE, Expect him to end up at LSU as a grayshirt
  3. Micah Howeth, DE/TE, Visiting Bama; a "sign and place"?

Alabama currently has 27 public commitments, including:

Cullman two-way lineman Justin Britt,
Gulfport, Mississippi, receiver Keith Brown,
Montgomery guard/center Antoine Caldwell,
Fort Payne safety Marcus Carter,
Briarwood Christian cornerback Simeon Castille,
T.R. Miller tight end Trent Davidson,
Hillcrest High School offensive tackle Cody Davis,
Sparta Academy offensive lineman Drew Davis,
Hoover middle linebacker/defensive lineman Curtis Dawson,
Morristown, Tennessee defensive lineman Brandon Fanney,
Fort Walton Beach, Florida receiver D.J. Hall,
Prattville defensive lineman Kevin Hamilton,
Hoover defensive end Jeramie Holifield,
Thomasville defensive back Aaron Johns,
Randolph County wide receiver Ezekiel Knight,
Prattville tight end/athlete Travis McCall,
Fort Payne wide receiver Aaron McDaniel,
Jacksonville, Fla. wide receiver Will Oakley,
Hillcrest cornerback Travis Robinson,
Clarke County offensive tackle B.J. Stabler,
Brantley wide receiver Marcel Stamps,
Hartselle wide receiver Nikita Stover,
Northwest Mississippi CC defensive end/defensive tackle Chris Turner,
Pike County tight end Nick Walker,
Loganville, Georgia defensive lineman Lorenzo Washington,
Hoover quarterback John Parker Wilson, and
Hillcrest safety Jake Wingo.

NOTE: East Central (Miss.) Community College running back Titus Ryan committed to Alabama but subsequently withdrew from junior college, so he is not expected to be a part of this year's signing class.

Top Players Available

Markus MansonRBHillcrest (Tuscaloosa, AL)
Neil BrownDLBuford (Buford, GA)
Micah HowethDLW.T. White (Dallas, TX)
Walter FisherDLHillsboro (Nashville, TN)

Today's Recruiting Hot News

OLJosh SittonPensacola Catholic OL Committed to UCF
QBChris NicksonBama's Mr. Football makes his choice
DTMichael BrownGeorgia DT Comes to a Final Decision
DTLorenzo WashingtonPublicity splash with announcement

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  • RECRUITING NOTES: Alabama is allowed to bring in 19 new scholarshipped players this fall. The Tide is expected to sign as many as 25-26 players in February, anticipating that several will not become qualified. It's also possible that one or more players may be asked to delay entry into The University until the following January, counting against 2005 scholarship numbers, depending on how qualifying issues play out.

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