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Jumbo Package: Recruiting Draws to a close; Wendell Hudson’s Jersey is Retired

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Football may be over, but sports never sleep

NCAA Football: Alabama-White House Visit Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

With the Super Bowl now 2 days stale, football is officially on hiatus until September. Fortunately for those of us utterly addicted to the stupid sport, there’s plenty going on year round. Tomorrow is National Signing Day, and while its importance has been undermined by the Early Signing Period, there’s still some storylines to follow. Especially with Alabama.

Alabama is the only program that controls its own destiny in the final recruiting rankings and that destiny is really simple: land four-star defensive tackle McKinnley Jackson and finish with the No. 1 recruiting class. Jackson took an official visit to Texas A&M over the weekend and the Aggies have momentum following the trip. If Alabama fails to land Jackson, there are technically other ways to finish No. 1. Massive Texas defensive lineman Alfred Collins has been a target. So too has Georgia commit Van Pran. Both of those guys look like longshots, though. Even if Alabama lands one or two of its targets that aren’t as high profile, it would likely need Georgia to lose somebody to jump the Bulldogs for No. 1 without Jackson.

The crazy part is that it wasn’t long ago that Clemson’s recruiting class was thought to be untouchable in the rankings and the best EVER.

Aaaaannddd now we’re right back to Alabama and Georgia battling for the top spot with LSU and Ohio State right on their heels. Some things never change.

McEachern (Ga.) receiver Javon Baker chose not to sign with Alabama last month, despite being committed to the Crimson Tide since November 2018.

His high school teammate, defensive lineman Jamil Burroughs, also waited to sign after committing to the Tide in October 2019.

Now, it looks like the McEachern teammates – two of only four Alabama commitments who chose not to sign on Early Signing Day – will sign as expected Wednesday, McEachern coach Franklin Stevens told AL.com today.

“I think they wanted to take their official visits, didn’t want to sign until they took their official visits,” he said.

While some of the other guys that didn’t sign in December have been questioned as to whether they were really going to join the team, no one has ever really doubted Baker and Burroughs. There were some rumblings that academic qualifications could be an issue, but their coach says in this piece that both should have no problems in that regard.

Meanwhile in the pros, Derrick Henry is about to get #paid:

“Zeke numbers is the floor,” Henry said on “The Rich Eisen Show” about his asking price.

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott has the largest contract for a running back in the NFL in total value, average value and guaranteed money. After a holdout, Elliott signed a six-year, $90 million contract extension that included $50 million in guaranteed money four days before the Cowboys kicked off their 2019 season.

After leading the NFL in rushing yards, Henry will stand a good chance of getting that money, too. However, after seeing the Cowboys struggle despite Zeke Elliot’s performance and the Rams faceplant while strapped for cash while Todd Gurley did absolutely nothing after getting a big contract, he may not have quite the leverage for a $50 mil guaranteed type of contract. If he doesn’t re-sign with Tennessee, he’ll easily be the biggest headline of this year’s free agency.

Oh, and there’s a basketball game tonight, if the bouncy-hoops is enough to get you through the dearth of football.

Translated to football: This is starting to look like Alabama’s 2019 season.

Minus the national-title expectations, the Crimson Tide basketball team’s first year under Nate Oats has injury luck that’s mirrored Nick Saban’s most recent football squad. Last week’s broken wrist of Herbert Jones struck a crucial blow to an already-thin lineup that depended on the junior’s scrappy defensive play and 9.9 points per game.

Jones, listed as out indefinitely, will take a seat on a bench for Tuesday’s visit from Tennessee with a growing list of un-uniformed teammates. That includes Juwan Gary, the top recruit in Oats’ first signing class, and highly touted JUCO transfer James Rojas. Both were lost to summer knee injuries similar to the matching ACL tears from starting linebackers Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillon.

Also on the bench is Jahvon Quinerly, a former McDonald’s All-American who was the nation’s No. 29 recruit in 2018. The NCAA denied his transfer request so he’ll have to watch this season from the sideline.

Well this sucks. On top of the expectations of struggling in year 1 with a new coach (running a totally different offensive philosophy and scheme), Coach Oats is trying to make it work without over 13 of the roster. That he’s had even as much success as he’s had is, quite frankly, amazing.

Finally,

Fifty years ago, Wendell Hudson stepped foot on The University of Alabama campus as its first African American scholarship athlete, helping to open doors for generations to come. To honor him and his legacy, Alabama Athletics will welcome back Hudson on Saturday, Feb. 15, and hold a halftime recognition and jersey retirement at the men’s basketball game versus LSU.

While the number 20 will remain in circulation, Hudson’s jersey will become the first in Alabama Athletics’ history to be retired.

In addition to the jersey retirement, a men’s basketball scholarship has been endowed by a generous donor in his honor and student-athlete uniforms will be adorned by a WH patch for the remainder of the winter and spring sports seasons.

Obviously, I wasn’t exactly around at the time to be able to appreciate the immediate impact of Hudson being the first scholarship black athlete at Alabama, but I can appreciate the monumental change for the better that’s come into the University, state, and world because of and since then.

Roll Tide, Wendell. Roll Tide.