February 5, 2007

REIER: Talent-rich stretch will produce

What it lacks in scenery, Interstate 10 makes up for in high school football talent. And if Nick Saban's initial recruiting effort at Alabama is any indication, Crimson Tide assistants will soon know the stretch of hardtop from Florida to Texas better than a Greyhound bus driver.

If all goes according to plan, Saban's first freshman class will include signees from Pensacola, Mobile, Houston and San Antonio. Given the recruiting makeup of the Tide's new coaching staff, New Orleans and others will join the list in the very near future.

It starts in Bobby Bowden's backyard, where Kevin Steele worked the local talent as a member of the Florida State staff before accepting an offer to coordinate the Alabama defense. With NCAA rules allowing seven coaches on the road at one time, some schools keep their coordinators on campus. However, it doesn't appear as if that will be the case with Steele, who was honored as the nation's top recruiter by Rivals.com in 2005.

Head west from Tallahassee and you'll enter a region that has been very good to the Tide in recent years.

Despite serving as the whipping boy of choice for some Alabama fans during the Mike Shula era, former offensive line coach Bob Connelly was a solid recruiter -- and most of his best work took place in the Florida panhandle.

In nabbing Tallahassee tailback Roy Upchurch, Ft. Walton Beach natives DJ Hall and Glen Coffee and Pensacola products Keith Brown (via Gulfport, Miss.) and Mike Johnson, Connelly landed five players who saw game action as either true or redshirt freshmen.

Saban certainly understands the importance of Connelly's former areas of responsibility, and that's why Lance Thompson, whose presence on this staff has everything to do with his ability to recruit, was tabbed to cover Pensacola west to Mobile.

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!