Nick Saban hits town to recruit top juniors at Atlanta high schools — and a gym

Alabama Nick Saban had made recruiting Georgia prospects a top priority for his No. 1-ranked recruiting class (AP photo)

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 Nkdemiche, the nation's No. 1-ranked overall prospect for 2013 (AJC photo)

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 Prichett (AJC photo by Michael Carvell)

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)

    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)

    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

Got an item? mcarvell@ajc.com

Got an item? mcarvell@ajc.com

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418 comments Add your comment

BOBO JONES

January 18th, 2012
5:47 am

Don’t believe him! OSABAN Bin LYIN’

College guy

January 18th, 2012
5:53 am

This is clearly an NCAA violation by Alabama. 100 percent. It is against the rules for Saban to attend an organized “closed” workout of high school juniors during the NCAA “contact period.” This is only permissible during the April-May “evaluation period.” Even then, not prospects from several different high schools at one location. This is multiple NCAA violations for Alabama. I will look up the specific NCAA rule and post it.

Joe

January 18th, 2012
5:54 am

Nick Saban is nothing more than a modern-day slavemaster. You play for him, he will give you credits to the company store until you cannot pick anymore.

Parents, if you let your kids play for Nick Saban, you need to understand the peril in which you are putting them. Winning a national title is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of life. Wake up.

DawgMan87

January 18th, 2012
5:55 am

Take notes Mark Richt, it’s a 24/7 job these days, get with the program.

Destin Dawg

January 18th, 2012
5:58 am

I don’t know why anyone would want to go to Bammer if they had an offer from UGA or GT unless education was of no importance what so ever ?! Go Dawgs !!

Buddy Landell

January 18th, 2012
6:01 am

Joe, why did you have to open the “slavemaster” can of worms? Unnecessary.

Dawg bounty hunter

January 18th, 2012
6:02 am

Kids that stay in State, close to support groups, friends and family, gernerally do better in school and life after sports… Go Dawgs !!

Destin Dawg

January 18th, 2012
6:05 am

Parade magazine says ” UGA #2 large State University education, plus big time sports ” in a great college town, Athens, Ga.

DawgMan87

January 18th, 2012
6:11 am

If we want to keep all these kids in state to play at UGA and get mad at the ones that leave this state for other schools WHY do we recruit kids from other states to play here?

Golden White

January 18th, 2012
6:13 am

Nick sure was looking at a lot of RB’s yesterday. Hmmmmmm.

just observing

January 18th, 2012
6:15 am

Why is Taylor still drinking the Kool-ade of Saban? Why is Pritchett handing him the glass? Young man, since you’re obviously reading the blogs, don’t you and your coach know that Alabam can still sign you this February, Grey shirt you, allow you to re-hab as a member of the Crimson Tide and the commitment counts towards the 2013 class? There would be no difference other than you would be on the team if they allowed you to sign now (read: they WILL NOT sign you in 2013. they are already scouting the country for 2013 talent…..duh).

dean

January 18th, 2012
6:16 am

Since we now see that recruits do read these opinions. Please make sure you represent the UGA nation well when you comment publicly. Of course there is no stopping the people impersonating UGA fans who say terrible things.

dean

January 18th, 2012
6:18 am

True Just observing. Bama can sign you today for the 2013 class. If they won’t do it then they are breaking their commitment to you. Go somewhere you are wanted today and get an education.

just observing

January 18th, 2012
6:23 am

if Alford is a junior, are college coaches allowed to have a conversation with him? If I’m not mistaken (and I’m not), the only thing that they can do during this period is introduce themselves to a junior….good ole rules-breaking Bama

DawgMan87

January 18th, 2012
6:27 am

It’s Justin’s choice where he wants to go. If it’s his dream to play for Alabama then let him be happy. The ajc should be ashamed for letting the general public post garbage about high school kids for the whole world to read.

Follow your dream Justin, Roll Tide to you.

Tampa Gator

January 18th, 2012
6:28 am

Anyone notice that Dre Kirpatrick got arrested yesterday……in Florida…..for 20 grms of weed?

Funny…..gets out of the state of Bama, where Tide players never get arrested…..and gets arrested.

Things just seem not to be as they appear in Tide land. Just wondering.

DawgMan87

January 18th, 2012
6:30 am

If he committed to UGA today you guys would be crying he’s taking a spot for someone who is healthy and couds contibute immediately, good grief.

just observing

January 18th, 2012
6:30 am

@ Golden White…you’re right…I was @ the Factory yesterday and ole Saban was checking on the local RB talent of 2013.

and by the way Carvell and Alford, there were other College coaches at the factory, including Vandy.
Alford, please be open-minded and realistic about your options

Tampa Gator

January 18th, 2012
6:34 am

Also…..anyone figured out how Saban explained to Taylor that he was recruit #26 out of 25 possible commits (when Saban and Bama actually has 27 recruit commits)…..and he was actually the #7 commit? Funny things going on at Bama….it seems. Saban must have let Justin smoke whatever Dre Kirpartick has been smoking at Bama before he had that conversation with him.

tenn.DAWG

January 18th, 2012
6:37 am

This poor kid just doesn’t get it.How can you be in love with a coaching staff that helped you plot out your life the next four years only to have it jerked away from you in the eleventh hour.

North Ga. Dawg

January 18th, 2012
6:40 am

Mr. Carvell,
Is the MO LEWIS in this article is his father the same Mo Lewis that played at Georgia ?

I oversign babby!!

January 18th, 2012
6:43 am

I over sign them then cull out the kids I don’t want .What is the N.C.A.A. going to do? Nothing because I have been doing it for years.

Spitting Truth

January 18th, 2012
6:44 am

Taylor’s problem is….. Pritchett and his coaching staff. They have too much influence over this kid. He and his staff want Taylor @ a major D-1 college (only Bama, Auburn, UGA or SC count in their feeble minds) or else they feel as though he hasn’t accomplished anything. Every coach wants their kid a @ a major D-1 but it’s not always in the cards. Get this kid into a school now, if other options are available to him. If he’s destined to make it to the NFL level, they will find/see him.

North Ga. Dawg.

January 18th, 2012
6:45 am

Is the Mo Lewis that played @ Georgia is this his son?

Beast from the East

January 18th, 2012
6:46 am

Justin Taylor, go elsewhere. It’s obvious that you’ve been lied to and now they want to string you along while he’s out recruiting RB’s for the 2013 class. Don’t be made a fool and let it happen to you next year, kid. There are many great schools out there. Pick one and move on.
Best of luck!

bo

January 18th, 2012
7:01 am

of course Saban is out offering scholarships to underclassmen; there is no drawback for him. by offering early thay flatter the players. if the kid flops or hurts himself during subsequent HS play, they simpy tell him that he can’t sign afterall.

ole dawg

January 18th, 2012
7:02 am

Did Saban go by and visit with Justin Taylor? He should be taking care of his own before he starts worrying about next year…if he considers Justin Taylor his own. Saban comes into this state and rapes our talent. He wants to drag these kids back to Tuscaloosa, use them for however long he needs them (and that could be 1-5 years.. who knows/) and spit them out. Why they bend over for him I do not know. I am a huge Dawg fan but I have no problem saying that Mark Richt and Paul Johnson would never treat kids like Saban does. Why would you go to Bama for a scholarship that may only be there one year when you could stay home, represent your home state, and play at either UGA or Tech? Wake up Georgia High School football players!

JB

January 18th, 2012
7:10 am

The guy just out works the rest of the league. Hate him or not, he has 3 rings…….while Dawgs are knocking on the door of greatness…………Geez.

Mr. Westlake

January 18th, 2012
7:14 am

I personally know the Pritchett family as I have lived down the street from them for years in College Park. They are a first class family and Stanley Pritchett is a first class man. This story is sad because a young mans dreams deferred story should not happen on a 85 man college football roster. I am very close with my coaches at Westlake as are all the prior athletes that played there. I will be visiting there today as well some other schools on the southside of Atlanta which supplies the entire southeast with its talented kids to tell the coaches that Alabama is a school that they should require written promises from BEFORE they are allowed to recruit these kids, because obviously there unwritten ones arent worth anything. Thankyou for continuing to follow this story Mr. Carvell

Old Dawg

January 18th, 2012
7:19 am

“Winning a national title is pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of life.”

Spoken like the fan of a truly mediocre team. Yeah, we haven’t won a NC in 32 years, but our Coach is a really nice man!

JB

January 18th, 2012
7:20 am

Saban, with 25 million in the bank, 3 NC rings and rock star status, could easily be at his lake house on Lake Burton chilling out……………….Or he could be in metro Atlanta touring high schools and visiting players. We dawg fans are digging deep looking at his methods. I do know his methods have won 3 NC titles since Richt has been at Georgia…..And I’m not bashing Richt, I’m stating facts. This state has more D1 talent than Alabama three times over and a athletic dept. with profits second to none and maybe the best college campus in the league yet we continue to ” knock on the door of greatness…………….I do feel 2012 will be special, but the true test will in the dome in the SECCG.

Old Dawg

January 18th, 2012
7:21 am

“Why would you go to Bama for a scholarship that may only be there one year when you could stay home, represent your home state, and play at either UGA or Tech?”

Maybe because they want to play for a WINNING team!

Fleischman in Chi Towns Bed

January 18th, 2012
7:22 am

The fleabag nation will never get it…

Real Problem

January 18th, 2012
7:25 am

As long as Saban has Alabama at the top he is going to come under fire, plan and simple. My question remanins, does he do much more right than wrong? I would vote more right, and if I were Georgia or any other school I would be dwelling on that aspect. Deal with his positives and Georgia will find they are getting rid of some of their own negatives. The guy can be beat, but one must clean up their own house in the process.

Old Dawg

January 18th, 2012
7:26 am

“This is clearly an NCAA violation by Alabama”

So report them to the NCAA. Of course if your team has no chance of beating them in football, maybe you can try to tear them down some other way. Or, better idea, why doesn’t UGA hire a good head coach that can win some games, then everyone will be trying to tear US down!

Mark Richt

January 18th, 2012
7:28 am

I don’t have time to go out recruiting, I am planning my next mission trip.

Mr. Westlake

January 18th, 2012
7:28 am

I personally know the Pritchett family as I have lived near them for years in College Park. They are a first class family and Stanley Pritchett is a first class man. This is a sad, as no young mans dreams deferred story should happen on an 85 man roster compiled by (reasonable) adults. I will be visiting Westlake and some other schools on the southside of Atlanta as I am still close to the coaches as are all the other athletes that played there are. To tell them that they should require ALABAMA to put promises in writing BEFORE they are allowed to recruit our kids. Because it is obvious the unwritten promises they doll out are checks that can’t be cashed.

JB

January 18th, 2012
7:29 am

Fleischman……….I wrote yesterday that the main difference in Bama and Georgia in football is that Bama has the support and resolve from the Governor on down to win Championships. We don’t have that in this state. If we did, Richt would of been fired year before last after that 6-7 year, which was following a disappointing year before that. Instead, our school president and the Board of regents met after the season, slapped him on the back and told him and the world what a great guy he was…………And make no mistake, he is a great guy………..and…………………..You are correct….we don’t get it.

icallbs

January 18th, 2012
7:37 am

Someone above hit the nail on the head: did he go by and talk to Justin Taylor? THAT is what defines Saban.

Oh, and the reason UGA recruits out of state is because while Georgia has great players, there actually are kids in other states that may be interested and worth of being recruited.

Not all kids are going to stay in state, for a variety of reasons. All national programs recruit outside of their home state.

JB

January 18th, 2012
7:37 am

” recruiting talent from the state of Georgia is a top priority for Saban” The article say’s.

Well, he knows it’s here…..and he knows it’s easy pickings……..7 of the 27 commits are from Georgia this year…..25%………Those 7 x 4 years would equal 28 pretty damn good football players in Athens. Think it would make a difference in our team?

Jimmy Crack

January 18th, 2012
7:38 am

Georgia kids beware! Slick Nick Satan will say anything. Anything.

Say yes to this little smooth talking tyrant and the next thing you will see is some chewed up junior college football field in the Alabama sticks because Saban over signed recruits and there are too many of your position. Don’t be cattle!

He’s also quite a mean little man and will yell at you for not licking his shoes daily. Do you want that?

Joey

January 18th, 2012
7:40 am

Saban’s working his ass off, as usual. He difinitely has a “system.” I mean, LSU was pathetic before Saban got there in 2000. Les Miles probably felt he had won the lottery when he stepped into that job behind Saban.

Anyway, Saban’s working.

Richt’s planning his next trip to some poor country in South America.

JB

January 18th, 2012
7:43 am

I’m thinking Bama has 75 to 100 that would say yes that they contact, so what looks like bad behavior is just Saban and staff cherry picking who they want. I’m a Dawg fan and I think that is the case. They are in the drivers seat with Saban

BobDawg

January 18th, 2012
7:43 am

TAMPAGATOR… I did notice about Dre K. getting arrested for “weed”… and out of Alabama…Once you are off the “plantation” it is not easy out there, is it… Sounds like Saban wants to get back on the good side of coaches after the latest snafu from the kid they had to pull the scholly from this year… LOL

Paula

January 18th, 2012
7:46 am

Did Saban show him the new bammer play “teabagging”????

Dap01

January 18th, 2012
7:47 am

Why worship Saban? Why not expose him for the person he is? He turns his nose at the NCAA with oversigning. He could care less about the players who he “dumps” each year. Apparently the NCAA and the AJC are star struck.

Jaw Jaw Homer

January 18th, 2012
7:50 am

Momma, if being a slave means a team like the Falcons trade 3 1st round picks, plus 2 more, and I get a 20 million dollar contract, and a big condo in downtown, and 20 hot girlfriends……… I wanna be a Saben Slave.

Joey

January 18th, 2012
7:50 am

I “get it” JB.

I get that, had Saban come to Athens in 2000, UGA would be the school with 3 or 4 BCS Titles, instead of Bama and LSU.

I also get that if Mark Richt is worth $4M a year, Saban is worth $16M.

Randall Simmon

January 18th, 2012
7:52 am

THIS JUST IN…… SAINT RICHT just adopted another African baby. GOD BLESS

Jaw Jaw Homer

January 18th, 2012
7:53 am

Momma, why do all them good Junior football players want to play fo Bama, when they could be a Dwag and have peoples in they on state laugh at them and hate they coaching staff. Why don’t they want to play fo a Bo Bo.