With top 10 class locked in, Alabama waits for selection from other top-caliber players
by Michael Casagrande
Star sports writer
Feb 02, 2011 | 3490 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It’ll be a made-for-TV kind of a day for the Alabama football program Wednesday.

There are a few thrillers and one tantalizing cliffhanger coming down the road on the first day of the spring signing period for perspective college football players.

With 21 public commitments in hand, two of the biggest names of the 2011 signing class will sign paperwork live on ESPNU with the Tide factoring into both decisions.

Cyrus Kouandjio and Isaiah Crowell, both top-5 overall prospects according to Scout.com, will appear live on national television, pen in hand and the hopes of huge fan bases riding on the fax number they’ll dial.

Kouandjio, an offensive lineman from Hyattsville, Md., is a consensus top-5 prospect who is deciding between being a teammate of brother Arie Kouandjio at Alabama or becoming a rival at Auburn. The signing ceremony at DeMatha Catholic begins at 11 a.m. The younger Kouandjio has told reporters that his older brother’s presence in Tuscaloosa won’t be a deciding factor in his recruitment that’s also included visits to Iowa and New Mexico.

Crowell, the No. 1 running back according to Scout and No. 4 in the Rivals rankings, is scheduled for a 12:30 p.m. news conference in Columbus, Ga., where he’ll pick between the Tide and Georgia.

The Tide won’t expect a fax from Memphis with a signature from Cameron Clear. The highly-regarded offensive lineman announced Tuesday that he’d sign with Tennessee over Alabama, Duke and Memphis.

Regardless, director of scouting for Scout.com Scott Kennedy said Alabama’s projected signing class has plenty of star power.

“Even if the Tide were to be finished (Tuesday), this is a top-10 class,” Kennedy said. “There is a lot of offensive fire power in this class with versatile running back Dee Hart joining four wide receivers. Of those five players, four of them are rated 4-Stars by Scout.”

The theater is sure to extend beyond the much-hyped first day of the signing period since the consensus top player in the nation isn’t expected to sign Wednesday. Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney will reportedly wait until his birthday, Feb. 14, to announce for either Alabama or South Carolina.

Writing a first-person piece for the Feb. 7 edition of ESPN Magazine, Clowney discusses the tiresome recruiting process.

“At first, it’s a big thrill when coaches like Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier call. But by the middle of the year, that feeling wore off. Now I just let the calls go to voicemail. What else can they tell me? I would say, though, that Alabama and South Carolina have done the best job of recruiting me. I’m comfortable with them, and it’s probably because they keep calling every week.”

Crowell also grew tired of the questions. He stopped responding to reporters after making his official visit to Georgia two weeks ago, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.

The only other wildcard remain Russellville dual-threat Brent Calloway. He ended a long-standing commitment with the Tide early last month when we switched pledges to go with Auburn. Calloway visited Tuscaloosa on Saturday after canceling a trip to Auburn, but The TimesDaily reports he’s still committed to the Tigers.

With the 21 current commitments, Scout ranks the Alabama class No. 8 while Rivals says it’s No. 1 and ESPN slots it third.

Add either Kouandjio or Crowell and the rankings are sure to improve for a program that’s topped at least one of the recruiting rankings in two of the past three years.

True, there will be more intrigue on signing day this year compared to last, but Alabama will have a similar number of players who already enrolled. There are nine members of the incoming group already taking classes compared to the 11 who did so last spring.

The early enrollees include three junior college transfers, two members of the 2010 signing class who deferred enrollment and four who graduated high school in December so to participate in spring practice.

“As is typical with Alabama though, the stars of this class are on the defensive side of the ball,” Kennedy said. “Defensive tackles Quinton Dial and Jesse Williams are difference makers on a defense, and safety Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix and linebacker Trey DePriest are top 10 players on Scout regardless of position. They have a chance to be special players at Alabama.”

Dial, Williams and DePriest are among those already in Tuscaloosa along with former Tennessee offensive lineman Aaron Douglas who transferred to Arizona Western Community College after being named a freshman All-American with the Vols in 2009.

Kennedy said he should step in and replace another former JUCO transfer James Carpenter who started at left tackle the last two seasons.

The crown jewel of the line, however, remains the younger brother of a 2010 signee.

“Should Alabama close with Scout’s No. 1 offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio, he’ll be the highest rated offensive linemen I can remember Alabama signing, and that includes (former Alabama star) Andre Smith,” Kennedy said. “Andre Smith is still the best high school offensive line prospect I’ve ever seen, but Kouandjio is the total package with size and athleticism.”

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