With National Signing Day approximately three weeks away, it is time for another edition of the Meat Market. As you will probably recall, I discontinued this piece earlier this year in large part due to the fact that there was very little actual recruiting news taking place. Nick Saban and company had the recruiting juggernaut cranked up to the point that much of the class was already formed, and thus there was relatively little news to discuss.
And frankly that is still largely true today. The overwhelming majority of this class is all but signed, and remaining spots look to be extremely scarce. At this point, we have a couple of spots left open, but beyond that we are seemingly looking to hold onto existing commitments more than anything else. Truth be told, for some time now, Saban and company have been turning their attention to the 2011 class.
Nevertheless, again, Signing Day is quickly approaching, so a quick update on the handful of prospects left on the board:
Blake Sims is perhaps the one to keep your eye on in the coming days. After being a longtime Alabama commitment, Sims reneged on the Tide a few days back, due in large part to a home visit with then Tennessee coaches Lane Kiffin and Ed Orgeron. Long story short, Sims wants to play wide receiver at the collegiate level and he had serious concerns over ending up at defensive back if he indeed signed with the Tide. However, with Lane Kiffin heading out west, things have changed. Nick Saban and company are still recruiting him heavily, and he does have a spot if he wants to take it. He will be taking an official visit this weekend, and it should come as no surprise to anyone if Sims re-commits to the Tide then. One way or the other, though, it does seem that the smart money is on Sims ultimately coming back to the Tide.
Arie Kouandijo and James Stone are the big uglies left on the board, and Alabama looks to be in very good shape with both. Kouandijo, the Maryland product, is the top tackle prospect on our board right now, and the smart money is on him signing with Alabama. Stone, the Tennessee native, was also expected to sign with the Tide, and that general feeling has only been further solidified by the Lane Kiffin melodrama. Alabama will take two more offensive linemen in this class, and expect those two linemen to be Kouandijo and Stone.
Shon Coleman remains the fall-back target on the offensive line. The Olive Branch product was recently awarded a fifth star by Rivals, but nevertheless the Alabama coaching staff -- showing you that they aren't kidding when they say they don't pay attention to recruiting rankings -- has both Kouandijo and Stone higher on our board. Coleman is an Auburn commitment, but he is a bit of a soft verbal and for the longest there was the sense that if Alabama truly wanted him, the Tide could get him. I imagine that may still be the case, but it's likely a moot point one way or the other. Alabama is almost certain to sign both Kouandijo and Stone, so it is unlikely a spot will ever come open for Coleman.
Speaking of offensive linemen, don't expect Alabama to sign either Damien Robinson or JaWuan James. The former is just too low on our overall board -- he's behind Coleman, too -- and we haven't recruited James since he de-committed several months back. He wanted to be a Vol, and for better or for worse he is going to be a Vol. Best of luck to him in Knoxville.
Markeith Ambles was also recently given his fifth star by Rivals, and the Kiffin melodrama has raised speculation that he could sign with Alabama. If you remember correctly, Ambles was very high on Alabama early in the process, but there was a cooling of interest by one side or the other (or both). With Kiffin gone now, however, things have really opened back up. He will not be in Knoxville, as planned, on an official visit this weekend, and now it seems like the Vols are out of the picture. I imagine that Ambles ultimately heads west with Kiffin and signs with USC -- he has repeatedly said distance is not a factor for him -- but anything could happen with him if we get an official visit out of him sometime in the next two weeks. And, furthermore, there have been some late rumblings that perhaps even Auburn is in the picture and will perhaps get one of his final official visits, and that he would not visit USC after all. Given all of the rumors that swirl around this time of year, who can say for certain? Only time will tell. I still expect Ambles to end up at USC, but I suppose it wouldn't be shocking to see him end up elsewhere. If nothing else, though, it seems like the Vols are out of it for this one, and that alone is good news for the Tide. And as a closing thought, for what its worth, while I do believe we would probably take his commitment, doing so would probably cause another current wide receiver commitment to go elsewhere. Just a harsh reality of the recruiting game...
Alfy Hill has had a lot of rumors swirling around his commitment in recent days, specifically with the speculation being that he would be taking an official visit to in-state North Carolina this weekend. We will see what happens one way or the other this weekend. I would imagine Hill will stick with his commitment to Alabama, but again anything can happen when late official visits get involved.
William Gholston is another name to keep your eye on. The long-time Michigan State commitment showed out in Orlando, and some people think the Tide has a shot with him. For what its worth, he was a bit non-committal on his commitment status after the game, so there has been a lot of speculation. We have been trying to get him to Tuscaloosa this weekend for an official visit, but so far it seems our efforts have been unsuccessful. The smart money is clearly still on him signing with Michigan State, but to repeat the theme of this piece, anything can happen when you are talking about official visits -- especially when the coaches at that school have the in-state ties like Nick Saban and Bobby Williams have, and especially when you are celebrating a national championship on that weekend.
Finally, keep your eye on Brandon Jackson, the defensive end out of Shreveport. The longtime Texas A&M commitment will be taking an official visit to Alabama this weekend, one week after taking an official visit to Arkansas. I'm not sure that we would take Jackson's commitment, but we could stand to add another defensive lineman in this class, and I doubt we would be bringing him in this late for an official visit if there wasn't at least a reasonably high chance that he might possibly get a firm offer. We'll see how things play out.