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Monday, March 18, 2013
Notebook: Spring practice attracts recruits

By Greg Ostendorf

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- With ideal weather and Alabama returning to the practice field, it was the perfect weekend to bring in some top recruits.

The Crimson tide took advantage and hosted prospects from across the Southeast for the opening practice.

Cajun flavor

Six Alabama players taking the field Saturday hail from the Pelican State including wide receiver Raheem Falkins, an early enrollee.

Based on the recruits who were on campus, the pipeline from Louisiana to Tuscaloosa could continue in the future.

Speedy Noil
Speedy Noil is emerging as Louisiana's best wide receiver in the 2014 class.
On Thursday, New Orleans St. Augustine teammates Leonard Fournette and Jermaine Roberts visited UA Thursday. Fournette is considered one of the top running backs in the country, and Roberts, an ESPN Watch List cornerback, picked up an Alabama offer last month.

“It went great at Alabama,” Roberts said. “I really enjoyed myself up there. What stood out to me was the work ethic that the players have and how hard the coaches push their players.”

During his visit, Roberts met with Saban. When the coaching staff offered the 5-foot-9 defensive back, they told him it was rare for Saban to offer a smaller player for that position.

“I had a great time sitting down and talking with him,” Roberts said. “He don’t offer players that he doesn’t see at his camp or that he hasn’t seen play in person, so he said he was taking a chance on me by offering me. That really impressed me.”

Fellow Louisiana native, 2014 safety Mattrell McGraw (River Ridge, La./John Curtis), visited Tuscaloosa Saturday for the first day of practice. On his trip, McGraw received an offer from the Tide, an offer that hinges on how he can play the cornerback position.

It was his first visit to Alabama, and it was easy to see why so many prospects from his home state were choosing the Tide over LSU.

“Alabama is the top program in the SEC,” McGraw said. “You have LSU and you have Alabama. I can definitely see why a lot of guys choose Alabama. When I went up there, I had a great host. They have great facilities. They have a great style of football. Coach Saban is a great coach, and it’s not that far away from home.”

Louisiana’s 2014 class also includes elite offensive tackle Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe), wide receivers Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr) and Cameron Sims (Monroe, La./Ouachita Parish), defensive back Laurence Jones (Monroe, La./Neville), and defensive end Gerald Willis III (New Orleans/Edna Carr), the brother of Alabama freshman Landon Collins.

In-state offer

McGraw wasn’t the only recruit to receive an offer over the weekend. Linebacker Gavin Bryant (Jackson, Ala./Jackson) has seen his recruitment take off the past couple of weeks, and Saturday he added an Alabama offer, directly from Saban.

“It was pretty good,” Bryant said. “… [Saban] was telling me I was a good player, to keep my grades up and play hard. It felt good. It felt like a kid getting a new toy.”

During his visit, Bryant measured in at 6-foot 1/2, 223 pounds. Saban said he has the ability to play either inside or outside linebacker.

The little-known prospect also holds offers from Kentucky, Louisiana-Lafayette, Memphis, South Alabama and South Carolina. He grew up a fan of the Tide.

Bryant has trips scheduled to Memphis, South Alabama and Kentucky the next three weekends.

Monday visitors

Alabama will get back to work on Monday, and top quarterback target David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./Norman North) is expected to be on hand for practice. He visited Tennessee on Saturday before making his way to Tuscaloosa. He also might make a stop at Auburn before heading home.

The UA coaches will also host junior college offensive tackle Dontavius Blair for Monday’s practice. He’s originally from Anniston, Ala.