23 August 2009
We've had several requests for a final breakdown of the scholarship numbers situation, and since we like to appease our faithful readers, here it is.
The basic information that you need to know if you are new to this:
- Every football team in Division 1 Bowl Sub-Division is allowed to have 85 student-athletes on scholarship.
- No group of incoming football scholarship student-athletes can exceed 25 players.
- Alabama’s 2008 signing class consisted of 29 players, meaning the Tide had to get that number down to 25.
- At the close of the 2008 season, it appeared as though Alabama would have 73 scholarship players returning for competition in 2008.
- Alabama returned 73 players on scholarship from the 2008 season.
- With only 25 allowed in the new class, add 73 and 29 and you get 102 – 17 too many for the 85 limit.
The NCAA requires that all student-athletes who will not have their scholarship renewed have to be informed by July 1, so most of this was worked out a long time ago. There are still some issues that can arise late - disciplinary dismissals, academic dismissals, transfers, injures, etc. - but for the most part, the coaching staff knew what was going to happen back in the middle of the summer. The details of how it all played out are just now becoming clear, though. With that in mind, here is how I see things.
The easiest thing to start with is the incoming class of freshman, and how Bama squeezed the 29 guys who signed letters of intent into a class limit of 25:
- Kerry Murphy and Jermaine Preyear enrolled in January. Since the Tide only enrolled 23 players as a part of the 2008 recruiting class, these two guys could back-count to that class. You can only do that if the player enrolls in January. That left the Tide with 27 players to fit into 25 spots.
- James Carpenter and Chance Warmack also enrolled in January, but with Murphy and Preyear filling the remaining two spots from 2008, they did have to count towards 2009’s limit of 25.
- Signee Quinton Dial, a defensive tackle from Clay-Chalkville High School, did not qualify. He enrolled at East Mississippi Community College, and is planning to take a redshirt year, and graduate in three semesters. If he pulls that trick, he will be eligible to report to Alabama in time for spring training in 2011, and would have three years of eligibility. Nikita Stover took this exact course of action a few years back.
- Signees Anthony Orr, Petey Smith, and Darius McKeller are deferring their enrollment until January of 2010. They will be eligible to begin practicing with the team once the fall 2009 semester ends - as long as Alabama's season continues. So if the Tide is in a bowl game, these guys can begin practicing for that bowl, though they are not eligible to participate in the game.
So Bama added 25 total players, with two back-counting to 2008. So the 2009 class enrolled just 23. The interesting part of this is that Jermaine Preyear is no longer with the team, after violating team rules, and being dismissed. That means that the Tide only brought in 24 players. The question we've been asked a lot is: With Preyear exiting, can Bama back-count either James Carpenter or Chance Warmack in his place?
While I have not been able to get a definitive answer from the SEC - they tend to ignore e-mails from blog sites, sadly - my interpretation of the rule seems to indicate that one of those guys can. I am basing that interpretation on the fact that Alabama was able to back-count a player when Jamar Taylor enrolled in January of 2007, and then transferred to South Florida prior to the '07 season.
If my interpretation is correct, that would mean that Alabama only counted 22 players towards the incoming limit of 25. And if I'm correct, that means that all three guys who deferred enrollment would be able to count towards the 2009 class when they enroll, leaving 25 slots open for the class of 2010. The other big question from many of you: Do those guys count towards the SEC's new limit of 28 total signees in a class?
Again, the SEC likes to pretend that the blogosphere doesn't exist, so we're just going to have to go with my best guess. And that guess is that they will not
count towards that limit of 28. They already signed a letter of intent to play at Alabama, and because they will not play football anywhere else before enrolling at Alabama, they should not have to sign a new one.
Further clouding the issue is the potential of guys who will be a part of the class of 2010 who are also planning to enroll in January - which could be a larger number than we've seen before. My guess is that those players will
count towards the limit, because they will be signing a letter of intent. Alabama does have two junior college guys (Brandon Lewis
and Devonta Bolton
) who signed with the Tide in 2007 that have indicated that they intend to sign with the Tide again in 2010, and enroll early. Because junior college players sign a letter of intent as well, and they have played football since they signed their initial letter of intent, it is my guess that they will
also count towards the SEC limit of 28.
The interesting thing to note is that the NCAA does not require that a letter of intent be signed. A player could, if he chose, just show up at a college campus and enroll. If the school has a scholarship available, then he could be given one. That's a risky situation for the player, because the school might not have a scholarship available. It's also a risky situation for the school, because the player would in no way be bound to a verbal commitment. I would be interested in seeing how the SEC would treat such a situation.
I've gotten a bit off topic, but those questions have been asked a lot over the last two months. In returning to what we're actually talking about... with Preyear out, Bama added 24 players to the returning 73 - giving Bama 97 guys on scholarship. That meant that there had to 12 spots open by the time that fall camp began.
How did that happen?
- Linebacker Prince Hall transferred to Eastern Washington after being dismissed from the team.
- Kicker Corey Smith transferred to West Virginia to be closer to home.
- Linebacker Jennings Hester has gone onto a medical hardship scholarship because of nagging hamstring injuries.
- Center Evan Cardwell and linebacker Charlie Kirschman have both decided to move on with their lives, having earned their degree from Alabama.
- Wide Receiver Chris Jackson has transferred to Georgia Tech. He had glowing things to say about his time at Alabama.
- Defensive lineman/Linebacker Brandon Fanney has transferred to North Alabama after being dismissed from the team. Interestingly enough, he did graduate, after being dismissed from the team. That says a lot about how Brandon took his dismissal, as does the fact that he had very kind words to say about Nick Saban after the fact.
- Defensive back Alonzo Lawrence was dismissed from the team and has enrolled at Southern Mississippi.
- Linebacker Charlie Higgenbotham transferred to South Alabama for playing time. He was a favorite of Coach Saban's due to his work ethic, but was unlikely to see playing time given the depth of talent at linebacker.
- Running back Ivan Matchett was placed on a medical hardship scholarship due to a back injury. He is still at Alabama and had expressed an interest in becoming a football coach. Don't be surprised to see him stay involved with the team, and end up as a graduate assistant in a few years.
So that takes care of ten of the spots - leaving the team at 87 returning players. Obviously that's two too many, but we'll deal with that in a minute. As for now, here's the breakdown of that 87 by class:
Seniors (19) – Eryk Anders, Javier Arenas, Terrence Cody, Drew Davis, Brandon Deaderick, P.J. Fitzgerald, Baron Huber, Marquis Johnson, Mike Johnson, Tyrone King, Mike McCoy, Colin Peek, Cory Reamer, Chris Rogers, Ali Sharrief, Leigh Tiffin, Roy Upchurch, Lorenzo Washington, Justin Woodall
Juniors (13) – Earl Alexander, Luther Davis, Preston Dial, Terry Grant, Kareem Jackson, Rolando McClain, Greg McElroy, Brian Motley, Taylor Pharr, David Ross, Travis Sikes, Milton Talbert, Chavis Williams
Sophomores (23) – Mark Barron, John Michael Boswell, Josh Chapman, Marcel Dareus, Nick Gentry, Brandon Gibson, Demetrius Goode, Robby Green, Jeramie Griffin, Darius Hanks, Jerrell Harris, Dont’a Hightower, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Chris Jordan, Marquis Maze, Alfred McCullough, B.J. Scott, Brad Smelley, Chris Underwood, Courtney Upshaw, William Vlachos, Alex Watkins
Returning Freshman (9) – Undra Billingsley, Glenn Harbin, Star Jackson, Barrett Jones, Robert Lester, Tyler Love, Damion Square, Michael Williams
Incoming players (24) - Jonathan Atchison, Kenny Bell, Chris Bonds, Michael Bowman, James Carpenter, D.J. Fluker, Nico Johnson, Kendall Kelly, Dre Kirkpatrick, Eddie Lacy, Mike Marrow, A.J. McCarron, William Ming, Brandon Moore, Kerry Murphy, Kevin Norwood, Tana Patrick, Trent Richardson, Darrington Sentimore, Anthony Steen, Ed Stinson, Chance Warmack, Kellen Williams, Rod Woodson
So how does that 87 fit into 85?
The folks over at BamaOnLine.com have indicated that their sources tell them that Travis Sikes is not on a football scholarship. The guys at BOL tend to be very cautious about going with things as fact unless they are sure, so I feel pretty confident that they are correct. Whether or not Sikes has been on scholarship up until now, and is just becoming a walk-on, or he has been a walk-on since his arrival... well, unless Travis decides to let us know, there is no way of knowing.
The most likely scenario for the other spot comes from the three walk-ons who were granted scholarships prior to the 2008 season - Leigh Tiffin
, P.J. Fitzgerald
, and Tyrone King
. For the purposes of the numbers situation, it doesn't really matter which guy isn't on scholarship any more - though I feel confident that it probably does matter to them. With Tiffin and Fitzgerald set to be starters, I am guess that King is the odd man out. It could be that all three have returned to walk-on status, though.
I'm going with Sikes and King no longer being on scholarship, which would get the number down to 85.
Sadly, that isn't the end of things, though. We still have to deal with the issue of transfer Phelon Jones
. While Phelon is practicing with the team, he will not be eligible until 2010. There have been questions regarding whether or not he will have to count towards an incoming recruiting class, and the answer is no
. The folks at EA Sports count transfers towards a recruiting class in their video game, but they are incorrect. If you've heard that he'll have to count towards an incoming class of 25, then you probably heard from someone who plays the video game - or heard from someone who heard from someone who plays the video game.
His father has indicated to the media that he will be on scholarship, though he has not always been 100% truthful with the media. As it is, it is unclear whether he is currently a scholarship player or not. If he is, then it is likely that either Tiffin or Fitzgerald are also now walk-ons. With Tiffin having the more affordable in-state tuition, it would likely be him.
Despite the fact that running back Jeramie Griffin will miss the entire 2009 season after having surgery to repair a torn ACL, he is still on scholarship. If, for some reason, he is unable to recover enough to play football again, he could be placed on a medical hardship scholarship. As it stands now, though, that does not appear to be an issue.
If you take a look ahead, you'll see that Alabama will be right back in this situation again next off-season. The Tide has just 19 seniors, and it is expected that Coach Saban will sign 28 players, and enroll 25 of them... and that's not including the three deferred enrollee guys from this year, or Phelon Jones. So if Bama does add 29 guys for next year, the Tide would be 10 spots over the limit.
Looking even further ahead, with only 13 juniors, I think you can expect that the 2010 class will be the last class of 25 for a while.
The team has the day off today, so obviously there will be no practice report. They are scheduled to be off again on Monday, and if that is the case, look for a roster analysis of the sophomore class to appear in place of the practice report.
Once practice resumes, we'll have our normal reports. Expect the flow of information out of the football program to decline steadily over the course of the next week, as the Tide begins actual game preparations for Virginia Tech.