||01-16-2012 10:20 PM
Nick Saban dirtiest recruiter in CFB?
One of Georgia’s top running backs said that was told by Alabama’s Nick Saban this weekend that he will have to wait until next year to sign with the Crimson Tide.
Justin Taylor of North Atlanta High School has been committed to Alabama for nearly a year, last February becoming the No. 7 pledge for this year’s class. The 5-foot-11, 208-pounder missed his senior season with a knee injury.
A couple of weeks ago, Taylor and his high school coach, former NFL RB Stanley Pritchett, both said they were informed by Alabama assistant Chris Rumph that it was likely that Taylor would not be able to sign with the Crimson Tide this February.
Alabama’s 2012 recruiting class is currently ranked as No. 1 in the nation by Rivals.com. Alabama has 27 commitments and is in the running for a few more elite prospects. The Crimson Tide is also accused of being one of the most frequent offenders in the practice of “over-signing” – which is when a college signs more players than they have scholarships available. (Click to go to website)
Back to Taylor: He took his official visit to Alabama this weekend and had the chance to sit down for a face-to-face meeting with Saban:
How did Nick Saban explain it to you? “Coach Saban said he wished he would’ve been able to tell me this in August instead of now. He said the only reason he can’t sign me is because he can’t sign 26 people. They can only sign 25 people. He said he was going to sign me with the next class. But he also said he would sign a piece of paper to show that they are keeping their word – they are going to sign it and they want me to sign it to make sure I know I still have my scholarship.”
When did Alabama first tell you that you couldn’t sign with them this February? “Coach Rumph actually told me about two weeks ago. Well, he called my coach, who told me, and then I called Coach Rumph. This weekend was the first time that they really broke it down like that. This was the first time I heard it from Coach Saban.”
What do you think happened? “Coach Saban just said I’m the 26th commitment. I would be the 26th signee. I guess he went and picked up somebody else. He said I make 26 and they only get 25. They talked about bringing me in next January.” [Note: Alabama has 27 commitments]
What was your reaction? “I’m cool with it, as long as I get to Alabama and play. And, as long as I have more time to recover and get solid.”
What will do you do this fall? “He said I’m going to stay in Georgia. They are going to find me a job. I’m going to work. I’m going to physical therapy at least seven days per week. I guess I will work, go to physical therapy and get strong … I will come in with the class of 2013. I’ll get there with the early group so I can do winter workouts and spring football.”
What about this piece of paper that you said Saban would sign? “Coach Saban is going to sign his name on a sheet of paper saying that I still have my scholarship. It was just for me. It’s to say they really still want me.”
What is the status of your knee injury from August? “I’m good right now. I’ve already had the surgery and everything. I’m running right now. They want me to be 100-percent healthy. They said it takes at least a year [to recover]. They said yeah, some can bounce back in 5-6 months. But the only people who bounce back in 5-6 months are the ones in college because there are on campus and they have that physician to be there seven days per week. I don’t have that. I only work out two days per week with my physical therapist.”
Do you think you could play this fall? “I feel like I could play this fall.”
With Saban saying you cannot sign with Alabama this year, will that make you look at other colleges? “I’m going to go ahead and stick with Alabama. I mean, I’m committed to them. They committed to me. They want me. I know they want me because that’s what they are telling me. If they didn’t want me, they wouldn’t let me keep my scholarship, They could’ve taken it when I first got hurt. If any other college wanted me, they would’ve hit me up. I haven’t really heard from anybody since the injury.”
What other schools were recruiting you the hardest? “Tennessee came through and I only talked to them one time. They gave me a number and the number didn’t even work. There was South Carolina and Georgia. They both stopped talking to me because I was committed to Alabama.”
Nick Saban to Atlanta RB: You can’t sign with Alabama until 2013
Here are Monday’s updates on Justin Taylor:
He’s the running back from North Atlanta High School who has been committed to Alabama for nearly a year but was told by Nick Saban this weekend that he can’t sign with the Crimson Tide until 2013. Go here to read the recap.
The 5-foot-10, 208-pound Taylor is considering the option of signing with another school in two weeks, according to multiple media reports, although it’s unclear on whether or not Taylor is still committed to Alabama for 2013. Here’s what Taylor told al.com’s Matt Scalici:
“At first I was cool with it but the more I thought about it, the less I liked it,” Taylor said. “I have already missed an entire season of football because of my injury. I decided I just can’t miss another season. It’s no hard feelings against Alabama but I just decided it’s best for me if I go somewhere that I can be at least practicing with the team this year, even if I have to redshirt. I haven’t talked to any other schools yet but I will start looking right now.”
UPDATE: We asked Taylor for clarification on whether or not he was still committed to Alabama. He responded via text message on late Monday night: “Yes, I’m still committed [to Alabama].”
Back to the story: Taylor’s high school coach and legal guardian is Stanley Pritchett, who played fullback in the NFL for nine seasons, including a stint with the Atlanta Falcons. We asked Pritchett some questions on Monday night in order to get more insight:
What’s your understanding of the situation? “If a kid has been committed for a year, you would think the college would honor it. But I understand college football is a business. When you hit the 25-scholarship limit, the colleges have to do something. It’s a hard situation for me because I’m also the legal guardian for Justin. I have to look at it from all sides. I’m upset about it. I kind of understand where Alabama is coming from because unfortunately he hurt this knee. But I was mad when [Alabama assistant Chris Rumph] called me about it two weeks ago. He knew I was mad. We played together at South Carolina. He knows me, and he knows how I feel about this. He assured me about [signing in 2013]. I left it up to Justin. If he still wanted to go to Alabama under those circumstances, that was up to him. For me, personally, I would go to a school where I am wanted. That’s just me.”
One of the benefits for a recruit to commit early is that it almost always protects the recruit’s scholarship offer in case he is injured before signing a letter-of-intent. Was this scenario discussed with Alabama when Justin committed last February? “To be honest with you, I don’t know. I’m not sure how all of all of this works nowadays. I’m an old-school guy. When I came out of high school 20 years ago, we didn’t commit until late our senior year. I’m new to ‘committing early’ situation. I guess Alabama got too many commitments and that’s why Justin has to grayshirt. It’s a tough situation. When they told me about it two weeks ago, I was mad.”
When Justin injured his knee last August, did Alabama mention the possibility of a “grayshirt” and waiting until next year to sign? “No, they never said anything like that at all. They were good about it. They made it clear they still wanted him this year. They said they were going to stick by him and honor the scholarship. They kept saying that over and over – ‘We’re going to stick by him.’”
When was the first time Alabama mentioned the possibility of delaying his offer until next year? “It was two weeks ago from Coach Rumph. We never had talked about it before at all. [Rumph] explained how they would have a spot for him next year, and I don’t think they would do this to him again next year. Then again, you never know, because college football is still a business. They might decide to go in a different direction. You never know.”
What is your opinion on what happened between Alabama and Justin? “I think it was both Justin’s injury and that Alabama has too many commitments. But Coach Saban said it was just the injury. They told me they talked to their trainers and the doctor who did the surgery and that Justin was on schedule with his rehab but he wasn’t really where he needed to be. I guess it was because he wasn’t getting every-day treatment. He goes 2-3 times per week but not every day like they do in college or the NFL. They felt like he was kind of behind on his rehab. I don’t think he’s behind on his rehab. He’s jogging and doing everything he’s supposed to be doing. The first few months after a torn ACL, you can’t take it too fast because you might re-injure it. After Alabama told me all of that stuff, I called his trainer and she thinks he is progressing well. I don’t know. Alabama told me it was because of his knee. They didn’t feel like he would be ready to come in August and compete. But I guess you could say it was both. Look at their number of commitments , and they’re still recruiting kids. You know it’s going to be about the numbers. They’re trying to say the knee but it’s really about the scholarship numbers, in my opinion … I’m disappointed. I’m disappointed with the whole process. If a kid commits and the college accepts it, then the college should honor it.”
Taylor said he was “90 percent” recovered right now and will be fully healthy by the summer. Is that accurate? “He’s jogging. I don’t know if he’s at 90-percent but he just started working out again with the football team this week. I think he’d be able to play next year, but I’m not a doctor so I can’t make that call. I know his physical therapist thinks he’ll be fine by August. She thinks he is where he needs to be. She said he’s coming along so well that he might be able to run track this spring.”
Did Alabama offer to help Justin find a job this fall? “I wasn’t with Justin every time he talked with the Alabama coaches. But that never came up in any of the conversations I was present for. No.”
You were with Justin during some of his conversations with Saban this past weekend. What stands out the most? “Coach Saban explained everything and never said anything about the scholarship numbers. Well, the only thing he did say was that the NCAA had a rule about signing 25. He didn’t like the rule or whatever, blah blah blah, and all that. He said this was because of Justin’s knee and nothing else. I asked Coach Saban about the grayshirting. I said ‘What does this mean? What do you want him to do from summer time until December?’ He said Justin would stay in Atlanta, that he would be committed to Alabama but that he could be recruited by anybody. They said he couldn’t go to Alabama yet but that he could take some classes at a community college as a part-time student while getting more rehab. I wanted to know about all of that because that will be two years out of football for Justin. I told Justin ‘If you’re good with that, then I’ll support you.’ Personally, I wouldn’t be good with that, though. I would go to a Plan B if it was me.”
Where is the NCAA?