- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
TideNation recruiting writer Greg Ostendorf brings you another edition of The O-zone, a confidential look inside Alabama recruiting. Get the latest updates from the gridiron and the hardwood as it pertains to the Crimson Tide.
UA visits Foster
Alabama is looking to add another wide receiver in this class, and the top option is still ESPN 150 star Robert Foster (Monaco, Pa./Central Valley). The Tide made it clear that he was a priority when UA assistant coach Mike Groh traveled up to Pennsylvania over the weekend to pay him a visit. According to Central Valley head coach Mark Lyons, Groh spent the day with Foster at school, took in his game that night, and the two grabbed a bite to eat afterwards. At this point, Foster is considering Alabama, Ohio State and Pittsburgh and plans to take official visits to all three schools before he makes a decision. Distance is not thought to be a major factor in Foster’s decision.
“It was a great visit,” Lyons said of Groh’s stay. “I know their staff. I know Robert is real comfortable, and it says a lot about Alabama and Coach Groh because honestly, Robert’s thinking highly about them.”
On the road again
Coach Groh wasn’t the only Alabama coach on the road during the bye week. Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart was in his home state of Georgia to see defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, the nation’s No. 1 player. Across the field from Nkemdiche was ESPN 150 linebacker Trey Johnson. Although he’s committed to Auburn, Smart has continued to recruit the four-star and wants to bring him to Tuscaloosa on a visit. Johnson already has plans to visit Ohio State and USC. The Tide’s Lance Thompson was also in Georgia on Friday to check on safety Vonn Bell. Bell didn’t disappoint. The ESPN 150 star scored four touchdowns with Thompson looking on. He’s planning to visit Tennessee next weekend when the Vols host Alabama.
Alabama continues to show interest in in-state cornerback Jonathan Cook (Spanish Fort), but with numbers tight this year, the Tide haven’t been able to offer him a scholarship yet. Sources say there are concerns with whether or not he will qualify, and cornerbacks Jalen Ramsey, a USC commitment, and Marquez White, a Florida State commitment, might be higher on Alabama’s big board. UA still feels good about its chances to flip White, and it could happen sooner rather than later. There’s also the chance that either Cook or White could end up playing on the offensive side of the ball for the Tide one day. UA wide receiver Christion Jones played defensive back in high school before moving to offense. His former coach is now coaching Cook at Spanish Fort.
Stealing a Tiger
ESPN Watch List offensive lineman Andy Bauer committed to Missouri in April, but since then, he has picked up major offers from schools like Alabama and LSU. When the Tigers host Alabama on Saturday, Bauer may actually be pulling for the Tide. Although he remains committed, sources close to him say it might only last until the end of his junior season at which point he will re-open his recruitment and consider other options. The top option looks to be Alabama at this point, and the feeling is mutual. The 6-foot-6, 304-pound lineman is one of the Tide’s top offensive line targets for 2014. He plans to visit Tuscaloosa in November for the Auburn game.
“Alabama is a school I feel really strongly about,” Bauer said.
Healthy and open
ESPN 150 tight end O.J. Howard, Alabama’s top-rated offensive commitment, has missed the majority of his senior season due to an MCL sprain and a partially torn ligament. Howard said he was ready to go this past weekend, but the team didn’t need him to play. He’s set to return this Friday when Autauga Academy travels to Lowndes Academy. As for his recruitment, Howard remains committed to Alabama, but that doesn’t mean he’s done with visits. Sources say he reached out to the Florida coaching staff about possibly attending the LSU game this past weekend. The trip fell through, but Howard would like to still visit The Swamp when the Gators host South Carolina next weekend.
9hDerek Tyson and Tom VanHaaren