University of Alabama

DE Christian Bell a good example of how grayshirting can work

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Two weeks before last year's national signing day, Christian Bell said he was approached about the possibility of a grayshirt.

Bell had been committed to Alabama for nearly a year, so the offer caught him off guard initially.

"My initial reaction, I was like, there's no way I was going to accept that," Bell said. "But then I sat down, prayed, talked to family members, coaches, people that helped me with my decision."

Bell ultimately accepted the offer and delayed his enrollment. He arrived in January with the 2016 mid-year enrollees instead of last summer with his original class.

During the semester away from Alabama, Bell spent his time "coaching a little league team" and working out with a personal trainer. He said he added "20 pounds" while also improving his speed.

But would he recommend grayshirting to others?

"I would just say it depends on your situation," Bell said. "People, kids our age, usually look at it as a bad thing. But in the long run it can help you out."

Bell is one of the few success stories when it comes to grayshirting. Generally, players don't accept the offer and often go to smaller schools.

Grayshirting is the process of delaying enrollment until January instead of arriving during the summertime with the rest of the signing class.

Alabama coach Nick Saban has been criticized during his time at Alabama for springing late grayshirt offers on lower-rated recruits.

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh has also recently come under fire for using the grayshirt.

The criticism stems from the thought process of it being a way for Alabama or other schools to push out lesser players to make room for more high-profile signees who wait until signing day to pick their schools.

The topic came up again around Alabama after one-time linebacker commit Riley Cole posted on Twitter that the Tide approached him about grayshirting less than a week before signing day. Cole, a three-star prospect out of Oneonta, decommitted from Alabama and ended up signing with South Alabama.

Saban was asked about how he and Alabama handle grayshirting.

"I think that I view that as a real positive because we want the player, but we feel that the player is probably going to get redshirted based on where he is in his development, whether he needs to get bigger or stronger, or whatever," Saban said. "We have a player (Bell) that is here now, a mid-year guy, that we did that to a year ago, that has gained weight and gotten bigger and got stronger and he's got a better chance to be successful now."

Typically, Saban said Alabama likes to talk about the possibility "early in the process" so that the players "have a chance to weigh" their options going forward.

"It does give them an opportunity to come to Alabama, and it does give them the time to develop," Saban said. "In most cases, the guys that we do that with, that's really our goal, and our itention for them. We recruit them, we want them to come here, we just think it would help their development if they matured before they enrolled."

-- Contact Anniston Star Sports Writer Marq Burnett at mburnett@annistonstar.com. On Twitter:@Marq_Burnett.

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