Crimson Tide Extra by Marq_Burnett
A source for full coverage of Alabama athletics.
Aug 05, 2013 | 83248 views |  0 comments | 50 50 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

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Levi Randolph scores a career-high 33 in Alabama's win over Missouri
by Marq_Burnett
Feb 22, 2014 | 29385 views |  0 comments | 145 145 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Alabama guard Levi Randolph knocks down a three-pointer against Missouri. Randolph had a career-high 33 points. (Photo courtesy of UA Athletics)
Alabama guard Levi Randolph knocks down a three-pointer against Missouri. Randolph had a career-high 33 points. (Photo courtesy of UA Athletics)
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TUSCALOOSA -- Levi Randolph was aggressive from the tip, actively hunting his shot.

The junior guard set the tone for Alabama’s 80-73 victory over Missouri with 19 first half points en route to a career-high 33 on Saturday.

“Once you see a shot go in, you feel good,” Tide coach Anthony Grant said. “He’s shot the ball well the last couple of games. He works hard. He’s had his struggles, our team has had their struggles shooting the ball. It’s good to see hard work be rewarded.

“I was just happy for him to have that type of game in that type of situation that he had tonight. I think its well deserved.”

The Crimson Tide (11-16, 5-9 SEC) ended a two-game skid.

Randolph knocked down 11 of his 15 shots including five three-pointers. He also led the Tide with 38 minutes played. Randolph was able to get a few dunks early to help get him going.

“As a basketball player, you try to (get) easy buckets,” Randolph said. “They get you going a little bit. I was trying to play in the flow of the game and take what came.”

Senior guard Trevor Releford put in 18 points and handed out six assists. Releford went to the locker room early in the first half after taking a knee to his upper thigh. He returned after a brief rest and finished the game, playing a total of 35 minutes. Grant said Releford suffered a contusion and will receive treatment, but noted that Releford should be fine going forward.

“Trevor played completely on heart and guts tonight,” Grant said. “He was no where near 100 percent so he played on just guts.”

For the night, the Tide shot 57.4 percent (27-47) from the floor and 47.6 percent (10-21) of its three pointers.

Alabama was outrebounded 36-24, but forced 16 turnovers and converted them into 19 points.

“Tough loss for us. I thought Alabama played with a lot more passion, a lot more toughness than we did,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “I thought we didn’t defend at all. … It really hurt us that we weren’t able to do what we needed to do on that (defensive) end of the court. That was really disappointing.”

The Tide will travel to Mississippi to battle Ole Miss Wednesday before returning home to host rival Auburn on March 1.

Shaun Dion Hamilton aims to be Alabama's next great inside linebacker
by Marq_Burnett
Feb 16, 2014 | 8801 views |  0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
TUSCALOOSA — Alabama signee Shaun Dion Hamilton may have a chance to follow in the footsteps of his idol.

Hamilton, a 6-foot-0, 240-pound linebacker out of Montgomery, said he models his game after former Crimson Tide All-American C.J. Mosley, who was a senior this past season.

“That’s my role model, that’s my idol,” Hamilton said on signing day. “I did a lot of watching of him this season and over the four years, and he became a great linebacker. Pretty sure he’s going to become a first-rounder. That’s who I really look up to.”

But what about Mosley makes him so great and worth emulating?

“His Xs and Os, he’s always one step ahead of everybody, so that’s what I tried. I did a lot in high school,” Hamilton said. “So that’s why I’m here now so I can study and try and get that kind of finish.”

Like Mosley, Hamilton figures to play inside linebacker at Alabama. He said he is comfortable at both the Mike (strongside inside linebacker) and the Will (weakside inside linebacker) positions.

While Alabama’s class brought in plenty of outside linebackers, Hamilton is one of few inside linebackers in the Tide’s 2014 class. 

Also working in his favor is the fact that the Tide doesn’t already have a ton of depth or experience at the position. There’s rising senior Trey DePriest, sophomore-to-be Reuben Foster, and rising juniors Reggie Ragland and Dillon Lee, who practices at both outside and inside linebacker. DePriest is entering his third season as a starter, but other than him, no returning player has played significant snaps.

“We really need to have guys like Shaun Dion,” Tide coach Nick Saban said. “He’s a really good, physical, balanced, body controlled, athletic guy who can take on blockers and has range as a player.

“Inside linebackers are an area that we thought we didn’t have a lot of depth at. He’s a very bright guy, which I think that’s a position where calls are made and responsibility for leadership are necessary. And he’s very strong in those two areas as well.”

Hamilton is one of eight Alabama players who enrolled early at the university, beginning classes in January.

Enrolling early gives Hamilton an opportunity to impress the coaches and his teammates. If he is able to learn the system, his career could mirror Mosley’s. While Mosley wasn’t a full-time starter until his senior season with the Tide, he played significant snaps beginning as a freshman in 2010. He learned from older teammates such as Dont’a Hightower and Nico Johnson throughout his career.

DePriest, Foster and others could provide Hamilton with similar guidance in his time with the Tide.

Hamilton said he can bring a lot of positive qualities to the team.

“Good character, good leadership, and I’ll be a hard worker,” Hamilton said. “Someone who’s going to help the team win.” 

Alabama signee Cam Robinson hoping to become the Tide's next left tackle
by Marq_Burnett
Feb 14, 2014 | 5492 views |  0 comments | 33 33 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
TUSCALOOSA -- There may be no prep prospect from Alabama’s 2014 class that comes in with greater expectations than those that will be placed on Cam Robinson.

The 6-foot-6, 325-pound Robinson is the Crimson Tide’s highest-rated prospect for the 2014 cycle. The Monroe, La., native ranks as the No. 4 player and the nation’s top offensive tackle, according to 247Sports Composite rankings. Adding more fuel to the fire, Robinson spurned home-state LSU for the Tide.

Robinson headlines what many recruiting analysts consider the best offensive line class in the country.

“Oh man, we've got a great, great, great, great offensive line class coming in,” Robinson said. “I was able to meet all of them actually. We have a good relationship. I played with all of them at the under armor game. We've got a great class coming in. I'm looking forward to it.”

Robinson is one of eight mid-year enrollees, but before he stepped on campus, he was called the Tide’s next great left tackle. He’ll be one of several players competing to replace two-year starter Cyrus Kouandjio, who declared for the NFL draft.

Robinson enrolling early puts him ahead of the learning curve.

“I wouldn’t say that it was a motivation, but it’s always in the back of your mind,” he said. “You work hard every day and if it happens, it happens and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”

But even Kouandjio didn’t start immediately as a freshman in 2011. He backed up Barrett Jones at left tackle for eight games, then tore a ligament in his knee and missed the remainder of the season. He moved into the starting lineup in 2012 when Jones moved to center.

The last true freshman starter at left tackle for the Tide was Andre Smith, who went on to become a top-10 NFL draft pick.

“Cam has rare feet, and he’s a special guy in terms of being able to move at his size,” 247Sports national recruiting director JC Shurburtt said. “He’s not Cyrus. Cyrus came out of high school and looked like he was going to line up and play power forward for the Golden State Warriors. Cam is a bigger kid. He’s going to have to reshape a little bit and get into the conditioning.

“Enrolling early is a big advantage for him. He’ll have those spring practices and that semester to adjust to college and workouts.”

Still, in Robinson’s mind, he isn't a finished product. What does he need to work on?

“Everything. I need to work on everything,” Robinson said. “In the SEC, with these defensive linemen, it’s crazy. These guys are freak athletes. I’m working on everything I can to just get better over all.”


Alabama signee David Cornwell ready to compete in stacked quarterback race
by Marq_Burnett
Feb 13, 2014 | 4828 views |  0 comments | 36 36 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
TUSCALOOSA — The deck appears stacked against Alabama quarterback signee David Cornwell.

Since 2007, the year Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa, no true freshman quarterback has seen the field for the Crimson Tide

On top of that, Cornwell is still recovering from a knee injury that cut short his senior season at Norman (Okla.) North.

And if that wasn’t enough, Cornwell will enter a six-man quarterback race as the youngest of the group, competing rising senior Blake Sims, rising junior Jacob Coker, rising sophomore Alec Morris, and two players who will be redshirt freshmen: Parker McLeod and Cooper Bateman.

But Cornwell won’t let any of that get his spirits down.

As far as his knee goes, Cornwell won’t put a percentage on how healthy he is. He said he feels “very ahead of schedule, but obviously we’ll find out in the spring.”

Outside of strengthening his knee, Cornwell said he wants to work on his footwork.

“I want to be explosive,” he said. “I think if I have a good base. ... You know, a lot of quarterbacking starts with the feet. A lot of people don’t realize that. The feet guide the arm.

“I want to have active feet, jump rope, footwork drills, all that stuff to get myself.”

Cornwell said he works out three times a day with the potential of a fourth if he has to throw.

“It’s tough, but obviously it’s great when you get on the machine and see the result and see what you’re working for,” he said. “You see (head athletic trainer) Jeff Allen get excited and then you get excited, where you are with this knee, how far it’s progressed with this struggle. I wouldn’t give up a minute of it. It cut my season short, but I met so many people on the way.

“It reassured my confidence with Alabama, how they were so caring, still let me sign with them. To get a scholarship here was very important to me.”

Cornwell showed his gratitude before he arrived on campus by being one of the 2014 classes’ most vocal recruiters at various camps, all-star games and through social media. But he isn’t taking any credit.

“Zero. Without Coach Saban, without the pedigree, without the past players,” Cornwell said. “You can’t take any credit for this. I just try to give them friendly reminders, advice, what I did when I decided. I think a lot of these guys made the right decisions for their families. And I think other guys (who) went to other schools, LSU, I think they made the right decisions, too. 

“Everyone here is here for a reason, and I think made the right decision.”

Cornwell said he knows he has a long road ahead before he has the chance to take a snap at Alabama.

The first order of business will be getting healthy while also adjusting to college and learning the Tide’s offensive scheme.

“I’m just trying to get back here and do it myself, get back to my old self,” Cornwell said. “I feel like I’m in a good spot, and confident in where I’m at.”


Alabama's Kevin Steele to coach inside linebackers, Kirby Smart to coach secondary
by Marq_Burnett
Feb 12, 2014 | 4428 views |  0 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
TUSCALOOSA -- Alabama announced Kevin Steele will move to linebackers coach and also serve as a “special assistant” to Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban.

Steele was the Tide’s director of player personnel in 2013.

Steele spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons on Saban’s staff at Alabama. He was the defensive coordinator in 2007 and an associate head coach in 2008.

“I’ve known Kevin for a long time and he will do an excellent job for us in this role,” Saban said in the school’s news release. “Kevin is very familiar with our program from an organizational standpoint as well as our defense from coaching here previously so he’ll be able to jump right in and not miss a beat.

“He possesses outstanding organizational skills along with great people skills which make him an excellent coach, teacher and recruiter.”

Steele will fill the void left by secondary coach Greg Brown, who accepted the same position at Louisville.

The move allows Steele to coach the inside linebackers and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to coach the secondary as the two did in 2007-08.

Last month, Steele turned an offer to be Louisville’s defensive coordinator.

“I’m really looking forward to getting back into an on the field coaching role and I want to thank Coach Saban and the University of Alabama for all they have done for me and my family through the years,” Steele said in the school’s news release. “I’ve been lucky enough to work with probably three of the best to ever coach the game from Coach Osborne to Coach Bowden to Coach Saban, so there is a great appreciation that comes when you have a special opportunity like this.”

With Lance Thompson coaching the outside linebackers and Bo Davis coaching the defensive line, the Tide’s on-field defensive staff is the same as it was in 2007, Saban’s first year at Alabama. The only change is Smart is now the defensive coordinator.

Steele was the defensive coordinator at Clemson from 2009-11. He returned to Alabama in 2013 after a year away from football in a role that focused on recruiting and administrative work. Steele made a salary of $200,000 last season.


Early risers: Recruits enrolling in January has developed into trend for Alabama
by Marq_Burnett
Feb 12, 2014 | 1199 views |  0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
TUSCALOOSA — Think back to what the final semester of high school was like.

For many, those final few months are the last time they will have to be adolescents before being thrust into college life.

But for six early enrollees at Alabama and other incoming recruits around the country, those few months will be spent attending college classes, mixing with older students, enduring college football workouts and getting accustomed to life away from home.

It’s a transition Alabama coach Nick Saban said is tougher than the jump from college to professional football.

Alabama has eight incoming players enrolling early, which includes two players from junior college. For the players, it’s a matter of weighing a short-term sacrifice against a potential long-term gain.

“It’s real tough,” said Alabama signee Shaun Dion Hamilton, a linebacker from Carver High in Montgomery. “Just getting calls from my friends, missing prom and all that kind of stuff, it’s real, real tough. You just have to go big picture and know that it will all pay off.”

While the trend is certainly nothing new, it has boomed in recent years for Alabama under Saban. Including the eight early enrollees for the 2014 class, 50 players have enrolled at Alabama early since the 2008 cycle, which was Saban’s first full class at Alabama. Some came from junior college, but most from high school.

But in Saban’s first two classes (2008 and 2009), just six players came to Tuscaloosa early. Since then, at least eight players from each class have been mid-year enrollees (2010-2014).

“I don’t think there’s any question about the fact that when you’re a mid-year guy your transition to college is a little smoother transition because you have more time to make the transition,” Saban said.

The 2008 class had two early enrollees, and neither made a major impact on the field — place-kicker Corey Smith and receiver Chris Jackson. But Alabama has had such stars enroll early as linemen Chance Warmack and James Carpenter (2009), cornerback Dee Milliner (2010), defensive lineman Jesse Williams and defensive back Vinnie Sunseri (2011), and running back T.J. Yeldon and receiver Amari Cooper (2012).

Last year, running back Derrick Henry and tight end O.J. Howard enrolled in January – in time to go through spring practice and offseason workouts in Tide strength coach Scott Cochran’s demanding Fourth Quarter program.

Regardless of whether a player becomes a star or a career reserve, the benefits of leaving home early seem to outweigh the negative.

“When you come in the fall, you start practice, you have school, and you have the first game, all in a month,” Saban said. “Now, our guys (who are enrolled) will be able to be here three or four weeks before we do anything at all in football. We lift weights for a couple of weeks, then we start the offseason program. Then we have spring practice, then they have a month off in May, then we go through it in the summertime in summer conditioning and then in the fall, they’re kind of going through things for the second or third time.”

Being able to get a jump on the playbook, strength and conditioning program, classes and other phases of college life and football entices players to give up those final months of high school.

“It wasn’t necessarily tough for me,” Tide signee Cam Robinson said. “I had to think about the long run, how it would benefit me when I get to college. So it wasn’t a tough decision at all.”

Robinson, a consensus choice by recruiting analysts as the nation’s top prep offensive tackle, is one of the players expected to compete for the starting left tackle job. Cyrus Kouandjio, a two-year starter, is forgoing his senior season to enter the NFL draft.

“Just getting acclimated to campus, get started, develop a relationship with my teammates early,” Robinson said. “And getting to know the campus and getting a jump start on my classes and everything. I’ll have that under my belt when the other freshmen come in.”

Tide quarterback signee David Cornwell, a four-star prospect from Oklahoma, is one of about a half-dozen players who’ll compete to replace three-year starter AJ McCarron. Cornwell is also recovering from knee surgery and has the opportunity to rehab with Alabama’s trainers while also building chemistry with teammates. He said he’s adjusting well to his new surroundings.

“It was tough. At first you’re a little homesick, but now you’re getting into it,” Cornwell said. “You realize why you’re here — getting better each day, lifting with Coach (Scott) Cochran. Relationships with the players are probably the most important thing in this whole experience, and I love every minute of it.”

Wide receiver signee Cam Sims enters an Alabama team with a crowded depth chart at wide receiver. But the extra workouts and other team activities will provide him with an opportunity to showcase his abilities to the coaching staff.

“It was real tough because you have family and friends back home, but you have to make a business decision,” Sims said. “That’s what my mom and dad always told me — it’s all about business. It lets me get classes and stuff like that over with faster.”

Still, enrolling early isn’t for every player. While Saban recognizes the benefits of being a mid-year enrollee, he said he never pushes it with any player.

“I don’t ever try to talk a guy into coming in as a mid-year guy,” Saban said. “I think you make a sacrifice to do that. You give up half your senior year. So that player has to want to do that, to me. If he wants do it, we’re fine with him doing it, but it’s not something that we go out there and encourage guys to do, but it does have its benefits in terms of transitioning into college life socially, academically and athletically.” 

Late three from Trevor Releford snaps Alabama's four-game losing streak
by Marq_Burnett
Feb 11, 2014 | 793 views |  0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Courtesy of UA Athletics
Courtesy of UA Athletics
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TUSCALOOSA -- Trevor Releford’s three-pointer with less than a second on the clock propelled the Crimson Tide to a 67-64 win over Ole Miss on Tuesday.

After two free throws by Ole Miss guard Jarvis Summers with 12 seconds left, Releford took the ball up the floor, passed to Rodney Cooper and got it back at the top of the key. With Marshall Henderson guarding him, Releford drilled the game winner to snap the Tide’s four-game losing skid.

“I saw Marshall try to play over the screen so I just crossed back over and took the shot,” Releford said. “I took what he gave me.”

Releford scored 21 of his 26 points in the second half to lead the Tide to the dramatic victory. Releford played 34 minutes.

“In the first half, I felt like I was struggling,” Releford said. “There was a point where coach took me out and just let me rest for a minute and get my legs back under me. I think that was key because I was a little frustrated with myself. I was able to gather myself and just focus on what I needed to focus on. I think that helped me throughout the rest of the game.”

After leading for much of night, Alabama trailed 55-51 with five minutes to play. Releford scored 14 of the Tide’s final 16 points and had an assist on the other two points.

“I thought Trevor really did an outstanding job of leading our team and willing our team to victory tonight with his efforts,” Tide coach Anthony Grant said.

On the night, 59 of the Tide’s 67 points came from Releford, Nick Jacobs and Shannon Hale. Jacobs put in 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds while Hale added 15. While Rodney Cooper didn’t have a big scoring night, he pulled down 10 rebounds.

Ole Miss had more turnovers (12) than assists (10). The Tide also dominated Ole Miss in the paint with a 34-18 advantage. Alabama also held a 42-34 rebound edge.

“We got some good efforts from a lot of different guys tonight and I think this team needed a win,” Grant said. “We needed some positive momentum going our way. It’s great to be able to get this win in the fashion that we did.”

The Tide (10-14, 4-7 SEC) will hit the road to travel to South Carolina for a matchup with the Gamecocks on Saturday. Tipoff is scheduled for 3 p.m.

Alabama's Crimson Caravan schedule for 2014 includes stops in Charlotte, Nashville
by Marq_Burnett
Feb 10, 2014 | 1385 views |  0 comments | 27 27 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

TUSCALOOSA -- Alabama coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Caravan will make eight stops in 2014.

The tour begins on April 22 and concludes May 20.

Along with Saban’s regular appearances in Huntsville (April 22), Mobile (May 1) and Birmingham (May 20) are stops in Dothan (April 29) and Montgomery (May 13).

Saban will also speak in Charlotte, N.C (April 24)

For a third consecutive year, Saban will speak in the city where Alabama opens its upcoming season when the caravan makes a stop in Atlanta (May 6).

Other Alabama coaches and university officials will also make appearances. Times and specific locations will be announced at a later date.

Tickets are $50 each for all events except Charlotte, N.C. and Nashville, Tenn., which are $75 each.

Crimson Caravan city/date

--Huntsville April 22

--Charlotte, NC April 24

--Dothan April 29

--Mobile May 1

--Atlanta May 6

--Montgomery May 13

--Nashville, Tenn. May 15

--Birmingham May 20


Alabama legacy Keith Holcombe's dream of signing with the Tide comes true
by Marq_Burnett
Feb 08, 2014 | 1529 views |  0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
TUSCALOOSA -- Signing the paperwork was just a formality for Keith Holcombe.

Holcombe, who signed with Alabama on Wednesday, has wanted to play for the Crimson Tide since he was 6.

His father, Danny Holcombe, played offensive center and guard under Paul “Bear” Bryant and lettered during 1980-1982. So the brief signing ceremony in Hillcrest High’s auditorium was a culmination of years of following his dream school.

“Growing up in Tuscaloosa, watching Alabama my entire life and having my dad play there, it’s always been a dream of mine,” said Holcombe, whose older brother Max is a three-year starter at center for Jacksonville State.

“I never thought I would be able to be apart of it, but once the opportunity came, I jumped on it. It’s a dream come true.”

After an 11-day commitment to Mississippi State this summer, Holcombe received an offer from Alabama and immediately flipped to the Tide.

And Holcombe’s father could not have been prouder.

“Me and his mother are ecstatic,” Danny Holcombe said. “Just for him to have an opportunity to be able to go to the university, a school he’s followed. Not all kids have that opportunity. Very few kids even get to play college football so it’s a great honor to be apart of.”

Holcombe, a four-star prospect, is listed as an outside linebacker and an athlete. He ranks as the No. 27 athlete and the No. 11 prospect in Alabama, according to 247Sports Composite rankings.

At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Holcombe may need to add some weight to play linebacker in the SEC. He has put on some weight throughout the year, but said he still wants to add at least 10 more pounds. But if he does remain near or at his current weight, he also has the skills to play safety.

“They’re talking to me about Sam and middle linebacker,” Holcombe said of Alabama’s coaching staff. “There’s talk that as long as my speeds up, I’ll be on multiple special teams.”

Holcombe is considered a sure tackler and has a nose for the football. During his senior season, Holcombe tallied 128 tackles, 11 tackles for loss with two sacks and an interception. He earned an invitation to play in the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic.

JC Shurburtt, 247Sports national recruiting director, said Holcombe could be one of the “sleeper” prospects from this class. While some believe Holcombe received an offer only because he’s an Alabama legacy, Shurburtt said that isn’t the case.

“He has a great frame, and guys that can run and hit at linebacker, those guys usually pan out because they’re physical enough to get out there and get after it and they have the speed to go out there and impose their physicality on ball carriers,” Shurburtt said.

Shurburtt also said that had Holcombe stuck with his pledge to Mississippi State, he would have been one of the best players in their class, but is being overshadowed among the talent Alabama brought in.

“Nobody’s going to talk about him because he’s a local kid, and you expect Alabama to get him,” Shurburtt said. “There was no drama in his recruitment other than the brief commitment to Mississippi State before flipping to Alabama. But just looking at him and taking the film into account, he’s got a chance to be a really good player.”

Kipp Adams, 247Sports' national recruiting analyst, also raved about Holcombe’s versatility.

“He has the ability to be a difference maker at tight end or an extremely rangy linebacker,” Adams said. “He does not get enough credit for how much ground he can cover sideline-to-sideline.”

Holcombe is playing baseball for Hillcrest and plans to join the Tide shortly after graduation.


As Rashaan Evans deals with backlash for picking Alabama, he'll have plenty of teammates to lean upon
by Marq_Burnett
Feb 07, 2014 | 1420 views |  0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink
Rashaan Evans talks with reporters after the Auburn High football player announced he will attend Alabama. (AP Photo/Butch Dill).
Rashaan Evans talks with reporters after the Auburn High football player announced he will attend Alabama. (AP Photo/Butch Dill).
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TUSCALOOSA -- Cam Robinson has lived what Rashaan Evans is dealing with now.

Robinson, the nation’s top offensive tackle prospect and one of eight Alabama early enrollees, chose the Crimson Tide over home-state LSU back in September. Robinson grew up in West Monroe, La., a breeding ground for LSU fans.

Evans, one of the top-rated linebackers in the country, is an Auburn High star who spurned hometown Auburn University to sign with Alabama.

“I know exactly how that feels to be in his shoes. It was an extremely tough decision,” Robinson said Wednesday. “But at the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you. You’re going to be the one that has to spend the next three or four years here. So you can’t make a decision based on what other people are going to think or what other people are going to say.”

In a signing ceremony at Auburn High’s gym, loud cheers broke out immediately after Evans placed the Crimson Tide hat on his head and committed to Alabama. But there were also a few boo birds.

“I experienced the most backlash I ever had in my life,” Robinson said. “Leaving Louisiana to go play for not just any school, but Alabama. You just have to let it roll off your shoulders. Just take it with a grain of salt. It wasn’t that big of a deal.”

In recent years, Alabama has swooped in and taken the top players from the backyard of a rival. Along with Robinson, safety Landon Collins and linebacker Reuben Foster are two that come to mind.

Collins chose the Tide over LSU in a televised announcement, as his mother disagreed in an infamous video clip. Foster had the Auburn logo tattooed on his forearm, before flipping to Alabama.

So if Evans, a consensus five-star prospect, needs help dealing with the backlash of his decision, he’ll have plenty of teammates to lean upon.

Foster, who also attended Auburn High, played a big part in Evans decision. The two built a friendship when Foster moved from Georgia to Auburn.

“As soon as Rashaan committed to us, Reuben Foster called me and absolutely said that he was a much better recruiter than I was and he was really responsible for that,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

Added linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton, another Alabama signee: “Reuben was actually his host here when he took his official (visit). I heard he was down there last weekend with him. I’m pretty sure Reuben did a lot of work on him getting him to sign with us.”

Hamilton, who played AAU basketball with Evans, said he wasn’t shocked when Evans chose Alabama. He said he spoke with Evans on Monday and felt confident about the Tide’s chances.

“Alabama speaks for itself,” Hamilton said. “Everything that we have here, every recruit knows what we have. It’s just their decision, do they want to join us and be part of the team or go elsewhere.”

After long being considered a virtual lock for the Tigers, Evans ultimately rolled with the Tide. It came as surprise to nearly everyone except those close to the Tide’s program.

“I talked to him (Tuesday), and I felt really good about where he was yesterday with him and his family,” Saban said. “I also talked to him this morning and I felt really good about where he was with him and his decision making and that he would come to the University of Alabama.”

Evans’ parents, who both attended Auburn, expressed their concerns to Saban about how people close to them and the fanbase would receive the news. But Saban assured them it would be the right decision.

“We had lots of conversations with his family, because they were concerned about their circumstance of being where they were and the decision they were going to make and how people would to react to it,” Saban said. “I said, ‘However many people you think you’re not going to make happy there you’re going to make a lot more people happy here,’ and that’s exactly what happened. We’re excited about getting a fine young man who has such talent in our program and is such a good fit from a position standpoint at outside linebacker.”

With the decision behind him and his addition to the Tide’s 2014 class official, Evans may be one of the more heavily analyzed players from this recruiting cycle, particularly from the state of Alabama. Still, Saban and the Tide are elated to have added a quality player and have high expectations for him.

“We’re excited about Rashaan, who not only is a fantastic athlete, and exactly what we’re looking for in terms of the more athletic, fast-twitch edge player who can rush but also has great character, is a really good person,” Saban said. “I think will provide leadership in our program that will be beneficial to us being successful in the future.”


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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Marketplace