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Wednesday, December 19, 2012
The O-zone: Fitting the pieces together

By Greg Ostendorf

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.

Staying home? 

ESPN 150 wide receiver Robert Foster is set to make his decision on Friday between Alabama and Pittsburgh. Many people believe the Pennsylvania native is leaning toward staying close to home and playing for the Panthers, but don’t count out the Crimson Tide just yet. His father wants him to play at Alabama so he can one day play for a national championship. He also enjoyed his official visit to Tuscaloosa during the season, so much so that he nearly committed the week after. More than anything, he felt comfortable when he was in Alabama. The news of wide receiver Eldridge Massington’s commitment to UCLA late Tuesday night could also be an indicator that the UA staff feels a little more confident about Foster than they’re leading on. Foster indicated to ESPN’s Jared Shanker this week that he’s already made up his mind. He’s just waiting to go public with the decision.

Spot available

Sources say that ESPN 150 tight end Josh McNeil will not qualify for Alabama, which opens up a scholarship for the Tide to offer in the 2013 class. McNeil visited LSU over the weekend, but it’s more likely that he ends up going the junior college route. There were academic issues before he committed but Alabama took a chance on him, hoping he get it resolved by going up to Milford Academy in New York. With McNeil now off the board, the Tide have turned their attention to Arkansas tight end commitment Hunter Henry. Henry says the UA coaches have been by to see him nearly every week for the last month. He took his official visit to Alabama in November and plans to take one to Arkansas in January.

Safety help

Originally, Vonn Bell was expected to make a decision shortly after his season ended. After the season dragged on all the way to the state title game, that plan has changed. The ESPN 150 safety wants to now take official visits to all three of his finalists -- Alabama, Ohio State and Tennessee -- before he makes a commitment. Had Bell announced already, it would have more than likely been Alabama, but he wants to meet the Volunteers’ new coach and make one more trip to Ohio State. The Tide still remain in great shape, but just in case, they offered in-state athlete Nate Andrews, a Minnesota commitment. Andrews is projected to play cornerback for the Golden Gophers, but Alabama offered him as a safety. Antonio Conner is also in play, but he’s expected to sign with Ole Miss. He will announce at the Under Armour All-America Game.

Read: Tide, Vols offer athlete Nate Andrews

Future protection

Alabama has seen two offensive line targets commit elsewhere in the last week. First, ESPN 150 lineman David Dawson decided to recommit to Michigan despite showing some interest in Alabama, and on Tuesday, David Knevel of Canada chose Nebraska over the Tide. However, the top target for Alabama, Laremy Tunsil, is still on the board. Tunsil will take  his official visit to UA in January and likely wait to decide on signing day. If things don’t work out with him, another option is Florida State commitment Austin Golson. The in-state tackle also plans to visit Alabama in January. Sources say he actually favors the Tide over the Seminoles, but he’s waiting to see what Tunsil does first. The dark-horse school could be North Carolina.

Committed to Saban

Former Alabama assistant coach Jeremy Pruitt was one of the Tide’s top recruiters on staff. He covered the Mobile area as well as the northern part of Florida. Last year, Pruitt played a significant role in the recruitment of T.J. Yeldon and Chris Black, among others, and this year, he’s served as the lead recruiter for top commitments such as Derrick Henry and DeMarcus Walker. Although he talked to Pruitt the most on staff, Walker said he’s committed to Nick Saban. The four-star defensive end is firm with his commitment to Alabama and can’t wait to enroll in January. The one recruit who Pruitt’s decision might affect the most is ESPN 300 defensive back Marquez White. Once considered a possible flip to Alabama, he’s now firm with his commitment to the Seminoles.

Introducing the class: DeMarcus Walker