Alabama football recruiting, national signing day: Crimson Tide on verge of another top class

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerJanuary 31, 2012 

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- All is quiet as signing day begins in Tuscaloosa.

Maybe a little too quiet.

Alabama appears to have locked down one of the top football recruiting classes with major scores in December and early January. Five-star names such as T.J. Yeldon, Landon Collins and Cyrus Jones made huge commitments, and the Crimson Tide is hovering near the limit for signees.

“For the most part, there shouldn’t be a lot of drama on signing day,” said Scott Kennedy, the director of scouting for Scout.com. “You know, ho hum, another No. 1 class.”

But it’s not always that easy. Verbal commitments have a history of dissolving once the fax machine fires up.

Anyone who watched the action a year ago saw the volatility of 18-year-olds facing a life-changing decision on live national television. There was Cyrus Kouandjio’s commitment to Auburn before switching back to Alabama a few weeks later. Brent Calloway also swapped the Tigers for the Tide on signing day, while Jeoffrey Pagan made the surprising decision for Alabama.

The unpredictability makes signing day the spectacle it’s become.

And there are a few names still on the table who could opt for the Tide.

The most prominent name belongs to Dalvin Tomlinson. The four-star defensive end from McDonough, Ga., told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he had scholarship paperwork from Alabama, Georgia and Georgia Tech. The winner will reportedly receive the fax just after his 9 a.m. announcement set for local television.

Alabama is reportedly a long shot for Eddie Goldman, a five-star defensive lineman from Washington D.C. He also is scheduled to choose among Alabama, Auburn, Florida State and Miami at 10:05 a.m., live on ESPNU.

Oxford (Ala.) linebacker Kwon Alexander also will choose among Alabama, Auburn, and LSU at 11:05 a.m., live on ESPNU. The four-star prospect tore his ACL in a mid-September win over Austin and missed the rest of the season.

But with 27 commitments already made public, does Alabama have the room for more?

Alabama’s scholarship situation remains a mystery for which only Tide coaches know the formula.

Who is on scholarship and who is a walk on is a secret coach Nick Saban prefers stay that way, but new SEC rules limit schools to 25 signees a year. There’s a gray area to that too, however.

Teams still can back-count early enrollees to the last class, but since the number of scholarship recipients from the 2011 is unknown, it isn’t clear how much wiggle room Alabama has.

Kennedy said he expects the new league rule will mean teams won’t sign players who aren’t expected to qualify academically. Players such as Deion Belue signed with Alabama in 2010 before landing in community college when the grades didn’t shake out. He is back in Tuscaloosa as an early enrollee after two years at Northeast Mississippi Community College.

“We’ll see guys that don’t sign letters of intent that still get placed in junior colleges but won’t have signed papers coming out of high school,” Kennedy said. “Moving forward, we’ll probably see less guys coming out of junior college saying ‘originally signed with.’ They probably just won’t sign.”

Either way, Alabama appears on the verge on another top class.

The Tide is No. 1 in the team rankings for recruiting services including Rivals, 247sports and ESPNU. Scout says Alabama narrowly trails Texas with the players both schools have committed.

Alabama topped at least one of the national rankings three of the past four years.

Tom Lemming, the CBS Sports Network analyst with 32 years of recruiting experience, said the lack of a top-flight quarterback keeps this class from being among the best of all time.

“Over the past four years, it may be consistently the best recruiting classes,” Lemming said. “It probably ranks with Notre Dame (1987-90). Notre Dame had four No. 1s in a row and sent 70 guys from that group to the NFL. These four years with Alabama will rank right with that one.

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