26 March 2010
With the news coming in on Wednesday that a Darius McKeller has been granted a medical scholarship, it's time once again to take a look at the scholarship numbers situation on the Alabama football team.
As always, we'll kick things off with 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.
- At the conclusion of the 2009 season Alabama had 67 scholarship football players set to return for the 2010 season.
That meant that when the Tide returned home from California with a national title in hand there was room for 18 new players to join the team. But you can forget that number, because things simply aren't that easy.
The following Monday, January 11, saw eleven new players begin their academic careers at Alabama. They are:
Cade Foster, Jalston Fowler, John Fulton, Brandon Lewis, Chad Lindsay, Darius McKeller, DeMarcus Milliner, Anthony Orr, Austin Shepherd, Phillip Sims, Petey Smith
So if you add those eleven guys to the mix, Bama's scholarship total jumped to 78. That number didn't last long, though, as later that same afternoon junior Butkus Award winner Rolando McClain announced that he would forgo his senior season and enter the NFL.
So January 11 saw Bama's number climb from 6 to 78, and then drop back to 77.
That number held steady for all of four days, until January 15. On that day junior cornerback Kareem Jackson made public his intention to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft.
So Bama's scholarship total dropped to 76.
The next important day in this cycle was February 3 - National Signing Day. On that day the eleven guys who enrolled early signed their letters of intent along with 18 more players.
If you add the 11 guys who enrolled early and the 18 additional guys who signed on National Signing Day, you obviously get 29 - which is four too many under the NCAA rule that limits any one signing class from exceeding 25. This is where it gets fun...
If a player enrolls for the spring semester, and the school did not enroll a full class of 25 for the prior fall semester, a player can count towards the previous year's total. While the Tide did bring in a full group in the fall of 2009, three of those players were able to count towards the 2008 signing class.
What that means is that three members of the 2010 signing class can count towards the 2009 limit of 25. So pull any three guys from the list of early enrollees and count them towards the 2009 class. For the sake of ease, I'm going to make those three guys Darius McKeller, Anthony Orr, and Petey Smith. Why those three? Because those three guys actually signed as a part of the 2009 class, but deferred their enrollment until 2010.
So with those three out of the mix, that leaves Bama with 26 guys trying to squeeze into 25 spots. Word came out on Wednesday that McKeller suffered a severe wrist injury prior to the beginning of spring practice, and that injury has ended his football career at Alabama. So, essentially he does not count towards either the 25 or 85 limit because he was never enrolled during a competitive season.
What that means is that any one of the other early enrollees can count towards the 2009 class. I'll go with junior college transfer Brandon Lewis, though it really doesn't matter which guy you choose to count that way. With McKeller no longer a part of the class, that means that Bama had 28 squeezing into 25 spots. With three guys counting towards 2009's class, that leaves just 25.
With seven of those 25 already on campus, that means that Bama has to find room for 18 more guys before fall practice begins. The last time we checked in with the overall total, as of January 15, the number of returning guys was 76. Add 76 and 18 and you get 94, which is nine too many.
During his press conference just prior to the beginning of spring practice Coach Saban announced that senior running back Terry Grant had left the team due to injuries, and he would finish his graduate degree on a medical hardship scholarship. During the same press conference, he announced that Travis Sikes was also leaving the team, but I do not believe that Sikes was on scholarship.
So remove one guy (Grant) from the total, and you've got 75. Add the 18 guys expected to enroll this summer, and you get 93. I'll do the math for you, and tell you that is still eight too many.
It is my understanding at this time that junior tight end Chris Underwood is not, and has never been on a football scholarship. The University doesn't make a list of scholarship players public, but it is my understanding that Underwood's family has been paying his way since he enrolled, so he would not count towards the total of 85 scholarships.
If you remove Underwood from the list, that takes the current number down to 74, and the number set for August down to 92.
Seniors (11) - Earl Alexander, James Carpenter, Luther Davis, Preston Dial, Darius Hanks, Greg McElroy, Brian Motley, Taylor Pharr, David Ross, Milton Talbert, Chavis Williams
Juniors (21) - Mark Barron, John Michael Boswell, Josh Chapman, Marcell Dareus, Nick Gentry, Brandon Gibson, Demetrius Goode, Robby Green, Jeramie Griffin, Jerrell Harris, Dont'a Hightower, Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Phelon Jones, Chris Jordan, Marquis Maze, Alfred McCullough, Brad Smelley, Courtney Upshaw, William Vlachos, Alex Watkins
Sophomores (16) - Undra Billingsley, Michael Bowman, Glenn Harbin, Star Jackson, Nico Johnson, Barrett Jones, Dre Kirkpatrick, Robert Lester, Tyler Love, Kerry Murphy, Trent Richardson, B.J. Scott, Damion Square, Chance Warmack, Michael Williams, Rod Woodson
Freshmen (16) - Jonathan Atchison, Kenny Bell, Chris Bonds, D.J. Fluker, Kendall Kelly, Eddie Lacy, Mike Marrow, A.J. McCarron, William Ming, Brandon Moore, Kevin Norwood, Tana Patrick, Darrington Sentimore, Anthony Steen, Ed Stinson, Kellen Williams
Early enrollees (10) - Cade Foster, Jalston Fowler, John Fulton, Brandon Lewis, Chad Lindsay, DeMarcus Milliner, Anthony Orr, Austin Shepherd, Phillip Sims, Petey Smith
Expected enrollees (18) - Deion Belue, Ronald Carswell, Corey Grant, Alfy Hill, Adrian Hubbard, Brandon Ivory, Harrison Jones, Arie Kouadjio, Wilson Love, Keiwone Malone, Dequan Menzie, C.J. Mosley, Nick Perry, Blake Sims, Brian Vogler, DeAndrew White, Jarrick Williams, Jay Williams
Obviously 92 would still be seven too many, so something still has to give. What could happen?
- Players can transfer. Some guys will leave the program due to a lack of playing time or a personal situation that leads them to move closer to home.
- Players can simply move on with their life. Bama has several players who have already earned their degree that aren't likely to see playing time in 2010. With the NFL not an option for these guys, they might simply decide to move on.
- Players can be moved to a medical hardship scholarship. This allows them to remain on full scholarship, but it effectively ends their football career at Alabama. This has already happened with Terry Grant and Darius McKeller and could happen with other guys who are struggling to remain healthy during the spring.
- Players can be asked to leave the team. That, apparently, happened prior to the 2009 season with Alonzo Lawrence and Jermaine Preyear. It's technically incorrect to say that they were kicked off of the team, but that is essentially what happened.
- Players can fail to qualify academically. Bama had zero players with academic problems in the fall semester, so this is unlikely. However, studies have continually shown that collegiate student-athletes perform better academically during their competitive season. So while this is unlikely, it is a possibility.
- Players can get into off of the field trouble that causes them to be kicked off of the team. These situations are wildly unpredictable, but they unfortunately do happen. They happen less frequently in a well-disciplined program, but they do happen.
Those are six situations that could effect guys on campus. For the 18 guys expected to enroll in the summer there are other situations:
- Academic qualification won't be known for certain until these guys graduate from high school and then make it through the NCAA Clearinghouse. Word didn't come out about 2009 signee Quinton Dial heading to junior college until well into the summer last year.
- Members of this class could choose to defer their enrollment. We didn't find out until the media guide was released in August of 2009 that Petey Smith would not be enrolling until January.
The number doesn't have to be at 85 until the first day of classes during the fall semester. Having said that, the Tide coaching staff will know long before then how things will work out. In fact, the NCAA requires that a player be notified by July 1 if his scholarship is not going to be renewed. Obviously the player can opt to leave between that date and the beginning of school, but the staff will have their numbers in place by that day.
It's very likely that we won't know anything until closer to the season, but we'll continue to keep an eye on things. It is unlikely that we'll see any more attrition before the close of spring practice, so the numbers aren't likely to change before A-Day on April 17.
After that, though, is when we will start seeing the numbers change. At the close of the spring the writing will be on the wall for several guys, and we'll likely see a trasnfer or two. There are a few players who have struggled to stay healthy during their career who are also struggling to stay healthy this spring. If things don't improve by the A-Day, we will likely see those guys moved to a medical hardship scholarship. With the spring semester nearing an end just a few weeks after the close of spring practice, this is when the rumors will run the most rampant.
The good news for you is that we won't adjust our numbers until we're certain that a guy has actually left the football team. If the rumor becomes persistent enough that we think it bears mentioning, then we'll let you know about it. But if rumor always became fact Terry Grant would not have been a part of the 2009 football team. Remember that when the rumors start this May - especially when they involve Star Jackson, who is almost certain to be involved in a number of rumors.
We'll update you on the overall numbers situation when the situation changes again. Until then, it looks like the magic number is 7.
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