Chizik, Saban in waiting game for prized prospects

Published 10:40 pm Tuesday, February 3, 2009

MONTGOMERY — Auburn’s Gene Chizik and Alabama’s Nick Saban have done all the heavy lifting in lining up recruiting classes, leaving them with little to do but wait and hope.

Both Chizik and Saban are awaiting official announcements from a number of their top targeted prospects, who won’t tip their hands publicly until Wednesday’s national signing day — when high school players can start signing letters of intent with their college choice — or later.

“That’s a little bit unnerving coming down to the wire,” Chizik said Tuesday afternoon. “In most cases even though they do the press conference situation, you usually have a pretty good feel whether it’s you or not. That’s not 100 percent of the time. It can become very nerve-racking as signing day goes on, for sure.”

Saban appeared likely to follow up the nation’s top class with another group rated in the Top 5 by some recruiting services and could climb even higher with a strong finish.

Alabama was still hoping for pledges from several top national prospects, who aren’t revealing their choice until the afternoon. Those include Pensacola, Fla., running back Trent Richardson and Gadsden cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, who were both also considering Florida and Texas. Richardson has given the Tide a nonbinding verbal commitment but has continued visiting other schools. rates Richardson the No. 2 running back prospect (sixth overall) and Kirkpatrick the top corner (No. 11 overall). tabbed Kirkpatrick the fourth-best prospect.

Wide receiver Rueben Randle of Bastrop (La.) High is expected to announce for either Alabama, Auburn, Oklahoma or LSU. He is rated the second-best prospect overall by Rivals and considered the consensus No. 1 receiver despite playing quarterback as a senior.

Generally the top-rated player in Alabama’s class is 6-foot-7, 350-pound offensive tackle D.J. Fluker of Foley High School. Linebacker Nico Johnson of Andalusia has also committed to playing for the Tide.

At Auburn, Chizik has had only about six weeks since his hiring to fill out and maintain the class started by coach Tommy Tuberville’s staff. He also made a run at some of the nation’s top recruits and attempted to capitalize on relationships built by his new assistant coaches at their former schools.

“The reality is that we’re here at Auburn,” Chizik said. “We’re one of the best programs in the country and have been. It would just make sense that we’re going to go after the best players in the country. That’ll never change as long as I’m here. It shouldn’t be any other way.

“Obviously if everything checks out as far as character, grades and everything, we’re not going to take a back seat to anybody.”

Chizik’s first class, ranked among the nation’s top 20, figures to be heavy on linemen and running backs and receivers with a couple of quarterbacks.

The Tigers are expected to sign quarterback Tyrik Rollison, who was initially recruited by new Auburn assistant Curtis Luper for Oklahoma State. Rivals rates him the nation’s No. 2 dual-threat quarterback. Alabama’s Mr. Football, quarterback Clint Moseley, has also said he would sign with the Tigers.

Auburn was still awaiting word from a number of recruits, including Oklahoma running back David Oku, who had committed to Tennessee. Rated the nation’s No. 2 all-purpose back by Rivals, Oku has indicated he might not announce a decision until after signing day.

Linebacker Tana Patrick of North Jackson High School in Stevenson was considering both Auburn and Alabama among other schools.

Both schools have signees who have already enrolled and can participate in spring practices.

Linebacker Eltoro Freeman and running back Onterio McCalebb have already signed and enrolled at Auburn. McCalebb was rated the No. 4 overall prep school prospect by and the top running back.

Offensive lineman James Carpenter, a junior college transfer, is in classes at Alabama.