January 12, 2008

UA hosting nation's best

Alabama biggest visitor weekend of the New Year will kick off this weekend and the Tide will be hosting many of what they hope will be the final pieces of the puzzle for their 2008 class. Among the visitors expected at the Capstone are seven of the UA current commitments which make up a top five recruiting class. In addition, at least six four-star non-committed prospects are expected in Tuscaloosa including one who is committed to other programs and two of the top defensive backs left on the Alabama board. If that wasn't enough the Tide will also host a mid-week Rivals250 prospect on January 13.

Bryant will take first official

Lincoln defensive back T.J. Bryant has been one of the most watched and sought after boundary corners in Florida since he was a sophomore season. Bryant, 6-foot-1, 175-pounds, has been a star among stars at a school that produces them on a yearly basis.

This weekend's visit will be the first for Bryant but he is expected to take five before making his decision. He has yet to cut down his list but FSU, Miami, Florida, LSU, USC and a few others are still under consideration. He made a couple of unofficial visits to Alabama last year.

Bryant is a four-star prospect and is member of the Rivals100. He is rated the nation's 5th best cornerback and No. 3 prospect in Florida. As a senior he recorded 30 tackles and four interceptions.


Alabama gets first shot at Lawrence

Perhaps the nation's fastest rising prospect the last two months has been George County defensive back Alonzo Lawrence who has seen himself go from relatively unknown to everyone's all-american. Lawrence, 6-foot-1., 187-pounds, earned that national reputation after all-star performances against five-star wideouts Julio Jones and DeAndre Brown at the Alabama-Mississippi all-star game.

The good news for Alabama is that the Tide was one of the first school on Lawrence and this week will be his first official visit giving Nick Saban and staff the first shot at landing him. The bad news is the rest of the world has caught on and now Auburn, Tennessee and LSU among others are trying to get involved.

Lawrence is ranked a four-star prospect and is a member of the Rivals100. He is rated as the nation's 2nd best cornerback. As a senior he played both ways and scored 12 touchdowns and recorded 93 tackles and two interceptions.


Georgia commit to visit UA

Griffin defensive end Toby Jackson gave a summer verbal commitment to Mark Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs. Despite the pledge Jackson, 6-foot-4, 244-pounds, took several unofficial visits during the year and has plans to take at least two official visits as well beginning this week.

Early in the recruiting process Alabama was one of the leaders for Jackson who unofficially visited the Capstone including one for the LSU game. His official visit this week will be his first and sources close to the Peach State native believe that the Tide have the best chance of flipping Jackson. With that said Georgia is going to be very tough to beat.

Jackson is a four-star prospect and a member of the Rivals100. He is rated the nation's 4th best strongside defensive end. Jackson boasts a 315-pound bench press and 24-inch vertical jump.


Harbin finally visits Capstone

McGill-Toolen defensive end Glenn Harbin will finally make his official visit to the Capstone, Harbin, 6-foot-6, 250-pounds, was rumored to be coming on each of the Tide's earlier big weekends but a run into the playoffs postponed those trips until this weekend.

Harbin has been quiet this year but his offer list has quickly climbed up among the elite with Florida, FSU, North Carolina, South Carolina among his top five choices. The Gators and Tide have been listed by Harbin as his top two choices for far this year but many expect him ultimately to choose Alabama.

Harbin is ranked a four-star prospect and is a member of the Rivals250. He is rated as the nation's 12th best strongside defensive end and No. 10 player in Alabama. As a senior he recorded 52 tackles and five sacks.


Tide late addition to Ingram's list

In a testament to the current Tide's staff relentless pursuit of top players look no further than Michigan native Mark Ingram who emerged in December as a Tide possibility. Ingram. 5-foot-10, 185-pounds, has quickly seen his stock rise with recent footage of his senior year going out.

Wisconsin (11/9), Michigan State (11/30), and Iowa (12/7) are the finalist with Alabama for Ingram's services. He is expected to make a decision after his visit this weekend and not take anymore visits. He has family connections to East Lansing and the Spartans have based the success of their recruiting class on him and will be tough to beat.

Ingram is rated a four-star prospect and is a member of the Rivals250. He is the nation's 18th best athlete and No. 8 prospect in Michigan. Ingram is a speedy back who has a legit 4.4-40 speed and a 4.1 shuttle time.


Georgia native has 'Bama in top 3

Chamblee lineman Omoregie Uzzi has slipped by without as much fanfare as some of his peers but the 6-foot-4, 298-pounder is one of the best prospect the Peach State has to offer. Despite offers that crept toward 20 total Uzzi has narrowed his list down to his three favorites.

Tuscaloosa will be the first official visit for Uzzi and he also has trip to Virginia scheduled for the next weekend. Georgia Tech rounds out his finalists but the Yellow Jackets' coaching change has his visit to Atlanta in limbo for now.

Uzzi is rated a four-star prospect by Rivals.com. He is the nation's 15th best offensive guard and No. 24 prospect in Georgia. He boasts a 340-pound bench press, 500 squat and 27-inch vertical jump.


Huffman native stock rises

Huffman defensive lineman Marcel Dareus has put together a great senior season on the field and in the classroom both of which raised his stock considerably. Dareus, 6-foot-4, 277-pounds, could project at numerous positions but it's most likely he will add to his massive frame and move inside on the next level.

With an 18 ACT score on his most recent ACT attempt Dareus put himself in a position to qualify academically which was the only hold up for the Birmingham native. He still needs a strong finish in the classroom but Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee some of the schools interested.

Dareus is rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.com. He recorded 117 tackles and 20 sacks as a senior. He boasts a 550-pound squat, 300 bench press and 29-inch vertical jump.


Texas star will be mid-week visitor

This late in the recruiting process there aren't many available prospects like Texas running back Aundre Dean who earlier had given his verbal pledge to UCLA but the coaching change caused him to open back up. Dean, 6-foot-1, 200-pounds, is fresh off a Texas state championship in which he rushed for over 200 yards.

Alabama is new to the mix for Dean with the Tide offering and moving among his favorite in December. He is expected to be in Tuscaloosa for a mid-week visit (1-13) so his parents could also attend. Arizona State, Louisville, LSU and Ohio State appear to be Alabama top competition. In recent interviews he has claimed to be wide-open.

Dean is a fou-star prospect and a member of the Rivals250. He is rated the nation's 11th best running back and No. 16 overall player in Texas. As a senior he rushed for 2, 498 yards and 26 touchdowns.



St. Paul two-way star Mark Barron committed to Alabama right before the start of his 5A state championship senior season. Barron, 6-foot-2, 202-pounds, started at running back and linebacker during his run and enjoyed one of the most impressive years in the South.

During the year he recorded 1, 094 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns while also hauling in 21 passes for 389 yards and one score. On the defensive side he was just as impressive with ??? total tackles, ?? sacks and ?? interceptions.

Auburn, Florida, FSU and Tennessee were some of his 20 plus offers. He is rated a four-star prospect and is a member of the Rivals100. Barrons is rated as the nation's 5th best athlete and No. 49 overall prospect.


John Curtis defensive back Robby Green was a three-way starter for one of the top high school programs in the country and chose Alabama in December. Green, 6-foot, 175-pounds, was used as a wideout and boundary corner during his senior campaign while also returning punts and kickoffs.

This season Green helped lead John Curtis to a 5A state championship by recording 37 tackles, four interceptions and 16 pass breakups at cornerback. He also totaled 500 return yards for 3 touchdowns and blocked two kicks.

Florida, Penn State, Michigan, West Virginia and USC were some Green's other suitors. He is rated a four-star prospect by Rivals.com. Green is the nation's 17th best defensive back and No. 8 player in Louisiana.


While his teammates might have gotten more discussion St. Paul two-way standout Destin Hood enjoyed a great year on both sides of the ball. Hood, 6-foot-3, 190-pounds, was a starter at wide receiver and cornerback in addition to special team duties. He committed to Alabama in August.

As the top deep threat Hood totaled 51 receptions for 963 yards and 15 touchdowns. Additionally he saw time in the secondary where he locked down one side of the field for the Saints.

Auburn, Florida and Tennessee were the Tide's top competition for Hood. He is rated a four-star prospect and is a Rivals250 member. Hood is rated the nation's 37th best wide receiver and No. 13 prospect in Alabama.


Tennessee native Barrett Jones was considered one of the top prospects in the Volunteer state heading into his senior year and the Memphis prospect did nothing to hurt that reputation this season. Jones, 6-foot-5, 271-pounds, committed to Alabama in November after being pursued by many of the nation's top programs.

Jones, who played numerous position in high school, found a home at left tackle this year and helped lead Evangelical Christian into the playoffs by allowed only one sack all year. Recently he was selected to the Army All-American Bowl where he was one of the top linemen in attendance.

Florida, Georgia and Tennessee were among Jones 20 plus offers. He is rated a four-star prospect and is a member of the Rivals100. Jones is rated the nation's 9th best tackle prospect, top player in Tennessee and No. 42 overall in the country.


The St. Paul offense was lead this year by power runner Ivan Matchett was the Saints go to guy for tough yardage. Matchett, 5-foot-10, 210-pounds, was one of Nick Saban's first commitments when he chose Alabama in March. He was also the first of his teammates to give a verbal pledge.

This season Matchett put up even more impressive numbers than his 1,400 yard junior campaign by rushing for 2, 054 yards and 25 touchdowns. In addition he moved over to linebacker when needed and proved a punishing tackler.

Despite the early pledge Matchett saw his offer list reach double-digits including Colorado, Georgia Tech, Kansas and Miami. He is rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.com. Matchett is the nation's 17th best running back and No. 21 player in the state Alabama.


Head hunting Huntsville safety Wes Neighbors had a reputation as a player who would bring the wood heading into his senior year and opponents took notice. Neighbors, 6-foot-1, 190-pounds, is a Crimson Tide legacy and he wasted little time before jumping on an Alabama offer when he committed in April.

After a 95 tackle and four interception junior season Neighbors followed that up with 70 tackles and three interceptions with opposing teams trying to avoid him. He was also a special team bandit on kickoffs where he had several big hits.

Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt offers Neighbors before his verbal commitment with Pittsburgh and Clemson also showing heavy interest. He is rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.com. Neighbors is the nation's 63rd best safety and No. 30 player in Alabama.


North Florida Christian wide receiver Melvin Ray caught a few people by surprise when he committed to Alabama back in July. Most expected the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Tallahassee native to end up at home with the Seminoles. So far, despite a heavy push from the home team, Ray has stood firm. His visit this weekend will be his first and possibly his last.

As a senior Ray led NFC with 53 receptions for 1, 058 yards and 16 touchdowns to the state championship game where they just came up short. He also saw time on special teams as a return special and in the secondary when needed.

Florida, FSU, Georgia, LSU, Miami and Tennessee were some of Ray's many offers. He is rated a four-star prospect and is a member of the Rivals250. Ray is the nation's 19th best wide receiver and No. 16 player in Florida.


American Christian athlete Brad Smelley has been a two-way star during his high school while leading ACA deep into the playoffs all four season. Smelley, 6-foot-3, 220-pounds, committed to Alabama early in the process after receiving an offer from the Tide. Ole Miss also offered Smelley before his verbal in May.

Smelley has put up staggering numbers the last two years while serving as starting quarterback, replacing big brother Chris, and as a free safety. This season on offense he threw for 2, 718 yards and 30 touchdowns while also rushing for 510 and 11 scores.

The Tuscaloosa native could project at numerous positions at the Capstone but was recruited originally for the h-back position. But linebacker or even quarterback are not out of the question.


Texas defensive end Damion Square gave an early verbal commitment to Texas A&M before reconsidering his early pledge and opening his commitment back up. In August Square, 6-foot-3, 270-pounds, made his final decision when he committed to Alabama with heavy attention across the nation.

This year Yates came up short on their goal to win a state championship but Square put up big numbers. In 12 games he recorded 97 total tackles, 35 tackles-for-loss and 14 quarterback sacks.

Florida, Michigan, Nebraska and Tennessee were some of his other offers. Square is rated a three-star prospect by Rivals.com. He is the nation's 31st best defensive tackle and No. 75 player in talent laden Texas.


Eufaula defensive star Courtney Upshaw was just beginning to see the offers star to pour in when he decided he had seen enough and committed to Alabama in June fresh off a visit to the Capstone. But that verbal pledge hasn't stopped other school from recruiting the 6-foot-2, 220-pound head hunter.

As a senior playing at defensive end Upshaw recorded 67 tackles, 13 tackles-for-loss and seven sacks and six fumble recoveries. Also the starting tight end he hauled in 296 yards and three scores on offense.

Auburn, Georgia, LSU, Clemson and South Carolina were some of the schools who pursued Upshaw. He is rated a four-star prospect and is a member of the Rivals250. Upshaw is the nation's 7th best defensive end and No. 11 prospect in Alabama.


There could be changes to the official visitors list for the weekend of January 11. As is often the case plans can be changed. There could be additional players visiting or some listed might not make it this weekend.

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