As we all know, Alabama needs attrition in order to make the 2009 signing class fit under the NCAA mandated maximum of 85 players allowed on scholarship. Of course though, precisely how we get to that point remains uncertain, and as of right now all we can do is speculate. With a speculative mindset, let's see if we can get a better picture of where we are and exactly how much further attrition we have left.
To begin our little inquiry, let us begin with the rather obvious assumption that we were at 85 or fewer scholarships last season, and for the sake of speculation, let us just assume that last year we had exactly 85 players on scholarship. So, who has left the program? From the outset, we did have nine seniors graduate from the 2008 team. That puts us with, at most, 76 players on scholarship. Furthermore, two other players declared early for the NFL Draft (Glen Coffee and Andre Smith), so that puts us at 74 players.
Since that point in time, however, seven more players have left the program as well, which puts us with, at most, 67 players on scholarship. Those players include:
- Corey Smith: Transferred to West Virginia
- Prince Hall: Transferred to Central Washington
- Jennings Hester: Medical scholarship with hamstring injuries
- Evan Cardwell: Medical scholarship with a back injury
- Charlie Kirschman: Graduated and gave up football
- Chris Jackson: Transferring due to playing time issues
- Brandon Fanney: Transferring, likely to North Alabama
On the other hand, however, we have also added four players since the end of the 2008 season. Those players include Kerry Murphy, Jermaine Preyear, James Carpenter, and Chance Warmack. Those four additions puts us with, at most, 71 players currently on scholarship. To be sure, we also added Phelon Jones, but despite what his father has said to the media, he is widely expected not to go onto scholarship until 2010, so he does not affect the numbers. Thus, with, at most 71 players currently on scholarship, that leaves the Tide with room to add only 14 players come Fall.
Now, with that said, there are currently 24 players in the 2009 class who hope to enroll. We originally signed 27 players, and since then two have already enrolled (Carpenter and Warmack), and another has signed with a junior college due to academic shortcomings (Quinton Dial). That leaves, again, 24 players still hoping to enroll from the 2009 class, and at the moment we can only say that we definitively have 14 spots available. As a result, on the surface, we need to create room for 10 more players in the coming weeks.
So, we have 24 players out there and only 14 spots currently available... how do we make it work?
To begin with, two of those 24 players are still on the fence academically, and those two are, of course, Eddie Lacy and Darrington Sentimore. In the past I've considered Lacy as unlikely to qualify thanks to Clearinghouse concerns (even if he completes his remaining coursework to satisfaction), and I'm afraid to say the most recent reports on Sentimore have been increasingly bearish. This may not turn out to be the case, and one of these two (or both) may end up and qualify, but I'm afraid to say that the smart money is probably not on it at the moment. So, in other words, those 24 players looking to enroll may in all likelihood be only 22.
And if you trim to 22 players, you can actually still trim further. Even barring unforeseen injury concerns that we are currently unaware of, three potential candidates for a greyshirt are clearly in play, and they are Kellen Williams, Kendall Kelly, and Rod Woodson. Williams tore his ACL playing in a charity basketball game and will not play in 2009 regardless, Kelly had some pretty serious hip surgery and was still on crutches as the summer months approached, and Woodson recently underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery. Of the three, Woodson seems most unlikely to greyshirt because he should be physically fine by the start of Fall camp and he could make a big contribution on special teams (at least) in 2009, but even so he likely remains in play. Williams does not want to take a greyshirt (who does?) and I imagine Kelly does not either, but again both are in play. All three could feasibly greyshirt, and that could drive the number down as low as 19 players looking to enroll.
Furthermore, on the opposite side of the equation, we can also take two more cuts without necessarily losing anyone. Prior to the 2008 season, Coach Saban found himself with a couple of additional scholarships at his disposal, and awarded them accordingly to kicker Leigh Tiffin and punter P.J. Fitzgerald. However, neither Tiffin or Fitzgerald performed particularly well in 2008, and it is widely expected that both of those players will go off of scholarship for the 2009 season. Those two cuts alone could currently give us 16 spots available.
In other words, while the 24/14 ratio indicates that we may need to trim another 10 players from the current ranks, the real numbers right now may very well be 19/16, and we may need to only clear another three players in order to get in under the 85. Long story short, all of the aforementioned notwithstanding, all of the doom and gloom talk of massive amounts of attrition to come may very well be overblown, and in all actuality we are probably closer to making the 85 than imagined. Now of course all of that isn't necessarily going to happen (I figure, realistically, at most we get two greyshirts), but nevertheless the point remains that we are most likely far closer to getting in under the limit than is currently recognized.
So, with all of that in mind, exactly how do we get there from here? Obviously, we are going to have some more attrition from the current ranks, but frankly I do not think it will be a major issue. Just browsing the official roster at RollTide.com, without explicitly naming names, I can find six players on scholarship who simply do not seem to be legitimate SEC caliber players. And frankly, we have reached a point where, as Chris Jackson showed, we are going to see some kids transfer simply because they cannot get any playing time, and if you look at the current roster from that perspective, things really open up. It's very easy to find kids who, while solid players, do not look to get any meaningful playing time any time soon (if ever), and those kids are obviously going to be potential candidates for attrition as well.
One way or the other, it will work out in the coming weeks. I imagine we'll probably lose another four to six players from the current crop, and that will be that. Some of them will be the so-called scrubs that we all expected from the beginning as potential casualties in the war of attrition, but no one should be surprised if there is a surprise player or two who ends up biting the dust. Nevertheless, despite all of the doom and gloom talk by some, the Tide will get under the 85 once again after a long summer of speculation, and if my guesstimation is correct, the road to getting to where we need to be probably will not have near the number of casualties as many expect.