February 23, 2008

The numbers game

It's now 190 days until Alabama opens the 2008 season against Clemson in a nationally-televised clash at the Georgia Dome, but the countdown that many die-hard Crimson Tide fans are watching is kept on the roster, not the calendar. Simple math shows that a certain amount of attrition must accompany the offseason in the Alabama football program, and the roster watch began immediately after signing day.

Given that 32 players signed letters of intent with the Crimson Tide on Feb. 6, it's a relative certainty that the full NCAA allotment of 25 will qualify and enroll this fall. Under NCAA rules, no more than 85 players can be on scholarship, which means the number of returning scholarship players waiting to welcome the newcomers must be at 60 when fall practice opens.

So what is the magic number where offseason attrition is concerned? Allowing for a slight margin for error, it appears to stand at seven at the moment. That number, of course, is based on information that has become public. Coach Nick Saban's next press conference - probably to come just before spring practice begins - might include a few housekeeping announcements regarding the roster that just haven't come to light yet.

A brief summary of what has come to light:

  • The two most recent names to surface in the attrition discussion come with entirely different sets of circumstances. B.J. Stabler exits in triumph, while Jeremy Elder - barring reinstatement -will exit in turmoil. The former, plagued for most of his career by chronic knee pain, told the Mobile Press-Register he is physically unable to continue his career, and that he will graduate from UA this summer. The latter has returned home to College Park, Ga., while a charge of first degree robbery works its way through the legal system. Unless charges are somehow dropped, his playing days at UA have all but ended.

  • The addition of Georgia Tech transfer tight end Colin Peek, who told BOL in early January that he will be on scholarship, tightens the attrition picture by one click.

  • Although he is still listed on the official roster at Rolltide.com, offensive lineman Cody Davis will go on medical scholarship, a move that was reported on BOL some time ago.

    And now a couple of notes from the Department of Unknowns:

  • Defensive back Chris Lett's medical condition, reportedly diabetes, may prevent him from competing at the college level. He was unable to practice for almost the entirety of fall camp last year, and was subsequently redshirted. Saban's last public comment on Lett's status, in December, was that nothing had changed with the defensive back from Pensacola.

  • Linebacker Ezekial Knight had his second heart-related hospitalization in January, and the University has not commented on his future, citing privacy laws. One of the bright spots on the Tide's defense last season, Knight's future remains in doubt for the time being. Both he and Lett would have to be considered possibilities for medical scholarships, which would remove them from the 85-man roster. More on the status of both should be learned when spring drills commence.

  • Rumors of players transferring have not materialized, although it won't surprise if the period between A-Day and the summer break produces some news on that front. While some players appear far more likely transfer candidates than most, BamaOnLine.com won't speculate on specific names until such intentions are clear.

    Some rumors can be refuted with specifics, however, and BOL has chased a pair of them to at least a temporary grave this week. Last week there was talk of wide receiver Will Oakley's departure, as well as chatter that running back Roy Upchurch is leaving the Capstone. Upchurch remains enrolled at UA, and BOL has confirmed that Oakley has every intention of returning for his senior season. Published reports of running back Glen Coffee considering a departure also remain unsubstantiated.

    So how does the current roster look based on all of the above? Today, BOL subscribers
    BOL eligibility tracker

    A few footnotes on the eligibility tracker:

    *** Elder is not included on the tracker due to his indefinite suspension.

    *** Only scholarship players are included on the tracker.

    *** We will add a permanent link to the tracker on the front page of BOL next week.

    *** As they are the only two as yet enrolled, Corey Smith and Chris Jackson are the only two freshmen on the tracker at this time. New signees will be added when it's determined which of them will enroll.

    *** Thanks to former BOL staffer Matt Scalici, who did nearly all of the legwork on this new feature prior to his recent departure from the staff.

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