TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — JaWuan James made waves a few weeks ago when he dropped his commitment to Alabama.
The senior offensive lineman at North Gwinnet (Ga.) High School made even more Tuesday night when he pledged his services to one of the Crimson Tide’s archenemies. James made his new commitment to Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin in the latest chapter in the border feud between the two schools.
De-commitments are far from rare in the modern world of big-time college football recruiting. James and every other high school seniors have until February’s official signing period to make final decisions.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, James chose the Vols over Georgia and UCLA in the second round of recruiting.
“I really appreciated everything everybody did and I have a lot of respect for Georgia and all the other teams that recruited me,” James told the paper. “They did a good job. But I just felt like I fit better at Tennessee. The coaches, the players, I like that new environment. I think coach Kiffin is going to do big things and I want to be a big part of it.”
According to scout.com’s recruiting team rankings, Alabama ranks forth with the quality of its 22 commitments. The Tide sits behind Oklahoma, Texas and Penn State but ahead of Tennessee who is sixth in the rankings.
Texan in Tuscaloosa
With his Houston Texans enjoying a bye week, former Alabama offensive lineman Antoine Caldwell was back in Tuscaloosa on Wednesday checking out the Crimson Tide practice.
Standing close to the always colorful linebacker’s coach Sal Sunseri’s drills, Caldwell said he was happy to see the “intensity hasn’t slowed down around here.”
His departure, along with two other veteran starters, after last season brought several questions about how effective this year’s group would be. Through nine games and nine wins, Caldwell said he’s proud of the way everyone responded.
“They’ve been dominating this year,” he said. “I knew there wouldn’t be much of a drop-off.”
Talking about his new job as a reserve lineman in the NFL, Caldwell said he learned a lot from another Alabama product, linebacker DeMeco Ryans. For the first few months, the rookie said he was “a deer in headlights” before Ryans took him under his wing to assist with the transition.”
Jockeying for awards
Don’t call it a campaign, but Alabama began the process of distributing computerized versions of pamphlets of its top football players as awards season heats up.
Decatur product Rolando McClain was featured in the first such release that had a picture of the middle linebacker set behind the word “Candidate.”
An Alabama spokesman said the mailings would eventually include all of the program’s potential award winners as voting for All-American teams begin soon. He stopped short of calling it a “campaign” and promised there would be no trinkets like bobble-heads mailed to voters as had become trendy in recent seasons.
McClain remains a candidate for the Butkus, Bednarik and Lott awards and its considered a lock for most All-American teams. Just Wednesday he was named one of eight semifinalists for the Lott Trophy awarded to the nation’s best defensive player in honor of Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott.
Having so many current players contend for a long list of national awards is nice, coach Nick Saban said, but it doesn’t really seem to affect the recruiting process.
“I haven’t had a recruit talk about that at all,” Saban said. “I don’t usually talk a lot about it. Maybe I should. But maybe they read about it on the Internet. Most of the time when I talk to guys, it’s usually about what they’re doing.”