February 3, 2008

Junior Day draws top prospects

While it appears that the Alabama coaching staff has wound down their recruiting efforts on a stunning 2008 recruiting season, they are just getting started on their efforts for 2009. The first major effort for next year's group of prospect occurred on Saturday with Alabama's Elite Junior Day event. Over 100 recruits attended the event and the consensus opinion from the attendees is that the Tide coaching staff put on a first-class show that left a lasting impression on some of the top athletes in the country.

Several offers extended

For a select few of Saturday's attendees, good news was extended in the form of a scholarship offer by Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban. One of those receiving offers was big offensive guard Johnnie Farms, a physical, 6-foot-3, 285-pounder from Perry, Ga.

"I grew up following Florida and have loved Florida all of my life, but Alabama did a better job with their junior day than Florida did last week," said Farms, who also holds early offers from Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Central Florida. "Everything was so organized and there wasn't any time wasted. When I got there, they broke us up into recruiting groups where we were separated by our recruiting regions. I was in the south Georgia, north Florida group. Each group went on tours of different facilities around campus and we got to check out everything.

"I went to the student dorms and caught up with Chris Jackson who I am friends with from camps. He said he loves it at Alabama, and their dorms were awesome. I also saw the additions to the student recreation center and the 10 new basketball courts they have up. When I got back, one of the coaches told me that Coach Saban wanted to see me. I went to his office, and out front was about five or six more coaches there to introduce themselves and shake my hand. Then I got to talk to Coach Saban for about an hour. He told me they will sign five or more offensive linemen in the next class. I don't have a favorite right now, but Alabama is going to be up there."

Another prospect who received good news from Saban was Hillsboro, TN defensive back Eric Gordon, a 5-foot-10, 170-dual threat weapon who is the brother of Mississippi State star basketball player Jamont Gordon.

"Coach Saban let me know I had a scholarship waiting on me," said Gordon, who says that he is being recruited by Alabama as a defensive back and kick returner. "This makes my second official offer because Tennessee offered earlier. It is too early for me to have any favorites and I plan on going through the whole process before deciding anything but I do like Alabama.

"The highlight for me was when everyone got to go to the stadium. It is very impressive, and not just big but nice. I got to meet some great people. One of Alabama's commitments (Don'ta Hightower) for this year was on campus today to see the basketball game and he won a Mr. Football award last year in Tennessee. I got to talk to him and he was a nice, down to earth guy for such a big dude. The whole day was nice. I got to see a lot and learn more about Alabama."

Alabama has dipped into the state of Louisiana two recruiting seasons in a row under Saban, and it appears efforts are underway to continue to mine the Bayou state for talent as Rayville receiver Kenny Bell picked up an offer from the Alabama staff on Saturday.

"This is my first offer, and I am pretty excited about it," said Bell, who stands 6-foot-1, 160 pounds and has been timed at a 10.55 in the 100 meters. "Alabama is definitely one of my favorite schools. Coach Saban told me he liked the way I played and that he liked my character. The facilities are very nice, and Chris (Tolliver) told me nothing but good things about Alabama when they were recruiting him."

Two other junior prospects who could not make the trip but had UA offers extended to them in the past week are Norcross (Ga.) receiver Prince Kent and Tucker (Ga.) running back Drayton Calhoun. Kent is a 6-foot-3, 190-pounder who was teammates with future Tide receiver Devonta Bolton and current UA athlete Darius Hanks. Calhoun also holds early offers from Florida and Tennessee and stands 6-foot, 175 pounds with 4.4 40-yard dash speed.

In-state stars have positive reviews

Many of the top prospects in the state of Alabama were at the Capstone Saturday as part of the Junior Day festivities, and one in-state recruit perhaps on the verge of a Tide scholarship is defensive lineman William Ming of Athens. Ming, 6-foot-4, 250 pounds and a lifelong Tide fan, visited the UA campus on Saturday and got a chance to speak with Saban.

"Coach Cignetti took me to talk to Coach Saban and Coach Saban told me that every coach on the staff liked my film, and that he needed to watch it," said Ming. "He said he would get back with me this week probably after he saw it. Auburn offered me this week and Vanderbilt had offered a couple of weeks ago. Mississippi State and Stanford said offers were on the way. I had a great time today. Everything was very nice, and just getting to talk to Coach Saban was a highlight."

A possible running back target for the Tide is Cordova's Tim Simon, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound athlete who blends power with speed. Simon got to take in Junior Day in what figures to be one of the first of many recruiting related trips for the bruising runner.

"I had a real good time today at Alabama," said Simon, who led Cordova to a 3A state championship this fall. "I got to talk to Coach (Lance) Thompson and Coach Saban for a bit. We mostly talked about grades and just keeping my school work up. I don't have any offers and a lot of coaches are telling me that they are still wrapping up their senior recruits first before they do a lot of film evaluations. Coach Saban just told me to keep my grades up and keep working hard. Alabama is a school that I am very interested in."

Alabama recently stole Eufaula's Courtney Upshaw out of the shadows of Auburn, and they may once again look to the east Alabama school as 6-foot-3, 190-pound outside linebacker Hans Rice was on hand to visit the campus.

"Everything about the trip was real cool," said Rice, who is an excellent student and runs a 4.6 40-yard dash. "We broke off into crimson, white and grey groups and saw all of the facilities. Coach Saban spoke with me when we were at the stadium looking around and told me that they are really evaluating me hard. Georgia Tech has acted like they may offer me soon and I am also hearing from Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and Auburn."

Out of state prospects roll in to Tuscaloosa

The Alabama coaching staff also played host to a number of quality out of state prospects this weekend, including several Magnolia state stars such as big Meridian quarterback Tyler Russell, Tupelo athlete Chad Bumphis and Magnolia Heights quarterback Cameron Lawrence. Bumphis and Lawrence both hold early offers from Mississippi State while Russell is expected to be a fast-rising prospect due to his 6-foot-5 size.

"The trip today was a lot of fun, and I got to meet a lot of people," said Russell. "Coach Saban told me to come back to campus for camps and that they were very interested in me. A lot of people were from Mississippi today, and Coach Saban told me that they would recruit my state hard next year. I saw Chris Garrett, Clayton Moore, Cameron Lawrence and Chad Bumphis and we all hung out together."

Lawrence, like Russell, is a signal-caller but has outstanding athleticism at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds and 4.6 40-yard dash speed. He has listed Alabama as one of his four favorites along with Mississippi State, Florida and Ole Miss.

"Coach Saban let me know that he likes my film, and not to get discouraged because he would spend more time evaluating me after Signing Day and I would hear from him soon," said Lawrence. "The highlight was definitely visiting with Coach Saban. He is a genuine guy who really gets his message across straight-forward and doesn't waste a lot of time."

Bumphis is a 5-foot-11, 185-pounder who is probably destined for cornerback at the next level. He will be a top target in the secondary for Saban and his staff this year.

"I got to ride in Coach Saban's car and talk with him a bit today," said Bumphis, who runs a 4.48 40-yard dash and had over 1,000 all-purpose yards as a junior. "He said they are still evaluating me. I really enjoyed checking out the locker rooms. They were huge. I know Alabama just got a commitment from Alonzo Lawrence. He was someone everyone in Mississippi knew about. I don't know him personally, but I know he is a great athlete and Alabama is getting a lot of great recruits right now."

The Henry County duo of quarterback Drew Little and tight end Jim Teknipp visited campus Saturday according to their offensive coordinator Rex Robinson and had rave reviews of their day as well.

"Drew and Jim had a great time and got to see Chris (Jackson - former Henry Co. teammate) while they were there," said Robertson. "They met Coach (Jim) McElwain and he laughed and said he had only been in town for about 48 hours but was looking forward to getting to know them. They were very impressed with the living conditions and weight room as well. It was a good trip for them and Alabama is going to continue to evaluate them."

Notable absences

Several Tide targets were expected in town but could not make the trip for various reasons. Rickards (Tallahassee, Fl.) athlete Jajuan Haley had family obligations and could not make the trip. He has received a verbal offer from Alabama and is expected to be one of the most highly recruited prospects in the state of Florida. Also missing Saturday were St. Paul's quarterback AJ McCarron and Andalusia linebacker Nico Johnson. Alabama is planning on another junior day outing in the coming weeks, and both McCarron and Johnson have indicated that they will make the next event.

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