Football’s ‘second season’ nears dramatic close

Published 12:11 am Friday, January 23, 2009

Odds are that many sports fans throughout the south have Feb. 4 circled on their calendars. In fact, some have probably even planned to call in sick that day.

Sorry if I spoiled your cover, but if your boss has Auburn or Alabama ties, he — or she — will probably understand.

Feb. 4 is national signing day. For fans of teams coming off a good year, it’s a time of putting high school athletes under the magnifying glass to determine if the coaches are building on success. For teams with new coaches, it’s a time to get excited about the future. For teams that are just perpetually bad, recruiting offers that sought after light at the end of the tunnel.

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The merits and accomplishments of the athletes signed in less than two weeks will be hot topics of debate for the next four or five years, and rivals will probably spend the offseason comparing offers and stars.

So, where do Alabama’s SEC representatives stand as zero hour nears?

It appears Alabama is going to fork over its No. 1 recruiting ranking to LSU this year, but the Tide is still recruiting at a level most schools only dream of. According to recruiting website, Alabama is currently ranked No. 10 in the country. The Tide’s 2008 class had six players rated in the top 10 nationally at their respective positions, and though that number has dropped to three this year, they are at three key positions.

D.J. Fluker is rated the No. 8 offensive tackle in the country, and Bobbie Massie – currently at Hargrave Military Academy – is widely thought to be the top tackle in the country. Landing Fluker and Massie has the makings of a true bookend set of tackles, and beginning of a dominant offensive line.

Trent Richardson is rated the country’s No. 2 running back, and Nico Johnson is the No. 2 middle linebacker.

Alabama will likely finish strong as wide receivers Reuben Randle and Pat Patterson — in addition to cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick — are still in play and giving the Tide a strong look.

With the departure of Tommy Tuberville and his staff, Auburn has not fared as well. Though the Tigers are ranked No. 24, they lost running back Rodney Scott to Ole Miss, as well as former quarterback commit Raymond Cotton. Cotton hinted that he would stay if linebacker coach James Willis was retained. But new coach Gene Chizik released and rehired him before before he took an assistant head coach position at Alabama.

Now, if the recent commitment of Clint Moseley is any indication, the Tigers are out of the running.

Weakside linebacker Eltoro Freeman is the headliner of the class. To finish strong, Auburn will have to reel in three commitments that are on the fence and close with 5-star cornerback Demond Washington, who has expressed renewed interest.

Odds are, I’m looking at both classes and saying the same things you are about who has to do what to finish strong and which players will be make a difference down the line. The fact of the matter is, some will pan out and some will not. That’s the way just every signing class turns out, and I predict this class won’t buck the trend.

Nonetheless, practice that fake cough and scratchy voice if you feel the need. Signing day is one of football’s few high points over the next seven months.