Alabama Nick Saban has made recruiting Georgia prospects a top priority for his No. 1-ranked recruiting class (AP photo)
Nick Saban, coach of the reigning BCS champions, was spotted everywhere around Atlanta on Tuesday.
Saban and a companion, Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, did a whirlwind tour around the metro area to eyeball some of the state’s top prospects. They were gazed upon like rock stars as they made appearances at Milton, Alpharetta and Grayson high schools – and even a local gym.
Recruiting talent from the state of Georgia is a top priority for Saban. The coach of the nation’s No. 1-team has accumulated the nation’s No. 1-ranked recruiting class, which includes seven commitments from Georgia. They had eight for 2012 until an Atlanta RB was recently told he can’t sign until next year.
Where did Saban go?
He was at Grayson to see DE Robert Nkemdiche, who is ranked as the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect for 2013 by 247Sports. Grayson coach Mickey Conn, who played on Alabama’s 1992 national championship team, knew in advance of Saban’s appointment but didn’t tell many people.
“We kept it on the down low; it was just us coaches,” Conn said. “It was big for me because I played at Alabama. I’m a huge Alabama fan. I brought my little boys up there and got my picture taken.”
“We just sat there and made small talk for about 30 minutes. He was all excited about winning the championship.”
Saban also asked about two Grayson juniors, Nkemdiche and RB Wayne Gallman. Nkemdiche has offers from nearly every school in the nation, and denied again this week the never-ending rumor that he is a “secret commitment” to Alabama.
Robert Nkemdiche, the nation's No. 1-ranked overall prospect for 2013 (AJC photo)
“They love Robert, they want him,” Conn said. “They got film on Wayne, and made sure to tell us to invite both of them to Junior Day on Jan. 28. I think they’re both going down there for that.”
Gallman claims early offers from Georgia Tech, Auburn, Clemson, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss. One more note on Nkemdiche: Florida’s Will Muschamp is the only other head coach to check on Nkemdiche (a few weeks ago) since UGA’s Mark Richt and Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson stopped by during last football season.
Saban and Smart also visited Walton for RB Tyren Jones, Alpharetta for WR Carlos Burse and Milton for DE Carl Lawson and RB Peyton Barber.
“Everybody was excited that Coach Saban was at our school,” Milton coach Howard DeCristofaro said. “He and Coach Smart are nice guys. They were happy to win the championship. Coach Saban ran into one of our basketball players, Mo Lewis, whose father played in the NFL. He talked to him a little bit. He knew his dad.”
Saban’s most surprising personal appearance was at a Gwinnett County gym to observe the workouts of prospects from several different high schools. “The Factory” is located in Lawrenceville and bills itself as “Atlanta’s Newest and Best Sports Performance Training Facility.” Many high school athletes of all sports go there for speed and agility training.
“I go there 3-4 times per week and I got a call from the guy who owns it; he said some college coaches were coming up there,” said Chase Alford, a junior LB from Heritage High School. “They wanted to make sure I would be there at the right time. He said Saban might be coming, but he wasn’t sure.
“It ended up that Coach Saban and his defensive coordinator were there. That was it, as far as college coaches. We did speed and agility stuff, along with some football-like drills. I went and introduced myself to Coach Saban. The defensive coordinator said ‘I heard a lot of good things about you. I’m going to watch your game film.’ I brought it there to give to them. They told me to make sure to come to Alabama’s Junior Day.”
Norcross RB Alvin Kamara, who has an early offer from Syracuse, said he tried his best not to get nervous while working out with Saban oberserving for an hour.
“I didn’t let it get to me,” Kamara said. “There were some other kids there … people I hadn’t ever really seen before. I didn’t pay attention to them. I just tried to go through everything as if I was by myself training.”
Kamara said he approached Saban as he was leaving. “I went over there but he couldn’t talk a lot. He said he liked me and to make sure to come to Junior Day … That was cool, to be able to work out for Coach Saban and meet him.”
North Atlanta RB Justin Taylor (left) and his coach and legal guardian, Stanley Pritchett (AJC photo by Michael Carvell)
FOLLOW UP: We went by North Atlanta High School on Tuesday to follow up with our story on Justin Taylor. He’s the RB who committed to Alabama last February and was told last weekend by Saban that he can’t sign with the Crimson Tide until 2013.You can read more about it here and here. Saban told Taylor his enrollment was being delayed while he recovers from a knee injury while others speculate the real reason is because Alabama has too many commitments for this year’s class, ranked No. 1 in the nation by Rivals.
As usual, Taylor had on his favorite Alabama baseball cap. He remains committed to Alabama but is listening to other options. His football coach and legal guardian, former NFL running back Stanley Pritchett, said Ole Miss, Purdue and two prep schools — Fork Union and Hargrave – have expressed interest in Taylor.
- On his current status: “I’m still committed to Alabama but I’m leaving my options open. Alabama is where I want to go. It’s my dream school. The only reason I’m looking at options is because I want to play football next year.”
- On the report by an Alabama website that he de-committed from the Crimson Tide: “I saw that. That’s totally false. I never said that. I don’t know where that came from. It’s untrue. I’m still committed to Alabama.”
- On recent communication with Alabama: “I talked to [assistant coach Chris Rumph] on Monday. It kind of hit him hard when he read everybody’s comments on the AJC below the story. I asked him questions like ‘Why didn’t he let me sign this year and then let me redshirt?’ Coach Rumph said ‘Because of the commitment list.’ I asked him some of the same things people were bringing up on the AJC. I asked him ‘Since I was the seventh commitment of this class, why can’t I be redshirted since I’ve been committed so long?’ [Rumph] didn’t have anything to say, to be honest. He was like ‘I don’t know but I will talk to the coaching staff.’ [Rumph] is supposed to come talk to me this week, probably Wednesday.”
- On what it would take for him to switch to another school: “It would have to be an unbelievable situation. I would have to love the coaching staff just like I love Alabama’s coaching staff. I would have to like the school like I like Alabama. It’s not going to be easy for any school to compare. It’s not going to be easy.”
FROM THE REST OF THE RECRUITING NOTEBOOK
- UGA’s Mark Richt and Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson hit the road and visited … (click on story link)
Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy scouted prospects at Walton and Lassiter (AP)
- Nick Saban wasn’t the only out-of-state coach invading Atlanta on Tuesday. Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy was at Lassiter and Walton. The two schools have a combined dozen juniors and seniors with D1 scholarship offers. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio made an in-home visit on Tuesday night with the state’s “hottest prospect” – ML King safety Jordan Moore. The 6-foot-3, 203-pound track star made a recruiting trip to Auburn last weekend, will visit TCU on Friday and will likely go to Michigan State the following week. Also, ML King WR Carnell Boyd committed to Akron.
- Here’s an interesting development: Cairo QB Steven Bench will take an official visit to Penn State this week. Bench is currently pledged to Rice. He’s a firm commitment and it will reportedly take a lot to change his mind. Another QB, Grayson’s Nick Schuessler, was offered by Colorado State on Tuesday, and Arkansas may be next. Arkansas assistant Paul Petrino met with Schuessler on Tuesday and Mississippi State is stopping by on Wednesday.
- Ray Buchanan, Jr., son of the former NFL All-Pro DB, will welcome Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Haynes for an in-home visit on Wednesday night. Buchanan is committed to the Razorbacks.
- Milton DE Josh Manley, the nephew of former NFL great Dexter Manley, is committed to Syracuse and will visit Missouri this weekend. “I didn’t sign anything. I’m open to other schools. One new school that offered is Missouri. I’m still going to take my visits and choose where to sign after all my visits.”
- Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen made an in-home visit last weekend with North Gwinnett DL Jordan Washington, who has committed to the Bulldogs and will make his official visit on Friday.
- Collins Hill WR Nick England visited with coaches from Middle Tennessee State and New Mexico but is sticking with his commitment to Florida International.
- Central Gwinnett WR Malachi Jones, whose older brother plays for Notre Dame, said his top three are Louisiana-Monroe, Appalachian State and William & Mary.
- McEachern OL Kofi Amichia, who is committed to South Florida, will take an official visit to Cincinnati. “I’m going to go there and see what they have as a program,” Amichia said.
- Parkview WR Jordan Reid picked up his first offer from Ohio U. on Tuesday. The 6-3, 190-pounder caught 41 passes for 549 yards and three touchdowns. He runs a 4.5 in the 40-yard dash and has a 3.4 GPA. “The interesting thing about Jordan is that he didn’t play football as a sophomore or junior because he wanted to focus on basketball,” Parkview assistant Justin Bishop said. “Before spring practice last year, he was convinced by several coaches to come back and give football a try. He immediately was a difference-maker for us on offense.”
Marietta QB Anthony Jennings (AJC)
- 2013 Marietta QB Anthony Jennings said he got his first offer from Virginia Tech. The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder also plays basketball.
- 2013 RB Kamani Thomas of East Paulding was offered by Ole Miss. He also claims offers from Mississippi State, Southern Miss, Vanderbilt and Troy. Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech and Kentucky have stopped by to check on Thomas within the last week.
- 2013 GAC linebacker Tony Jones, whose father played in NFL, thinks Kansas may be close to offering. He’s also hearing from Iowa.
- 2013 Buford OL Josh Cardiello and 2103 Lithonia LB David Johnson will go to Auburn’s Junior Day this weekend. Johnson has early offers from South Carolina, Louisville and Southern Miss.
- 2013 Dutchtown OL Jordan Harris plans to go to Junior Day at UGA on Jan. 28 and Florida State on Feb. 25.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog
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