Four years ago, Mike Shula was inking what would be his final class as the Alabama head coach. Four years and a coaching staff removed, where are they now?
On that day all attention nationally was focused on super recruit Tim Tebow. Bama lost out to the Florida Gators for Tebow but Bama fans were still pretty darn happy to get the highest rated lineman in the country in five-star rated Andre Smith.
Smith started his first game at the capstone and became a three-year starter, earning All-SEC honors and the 2008 Outland Trophy. Smith opted to enter the NFL draft after his junior year and was drafted sixth overall by the Cincinnati Bengals.
After a lengthy contract holdout he promptly broke his foot and spent his rookie season mostly watching from the sidelines. He did rotate in and out for some time late in the season.
Bama signed three other offensive lineman:
David Ross from Homewood, AL played a good bit in 2008 but lost a battle for the starting center job last year and played sparingly in '09. Ross will once again figure prominently in position battles this spring.
Brian Motley is like Ross in that he has been on the cusp of starting several times but has not quite knocked down the door. His final chance will begin this spring.
Offensive tackle Taylor Pharr, a four-star prospect, failed to make a move and has remained a distant backup and attrition candidate.
The backup plan for losing Tebow was a lesser known player by the name of Greg McElroy. The freckle faced kid from "Texi-fornia" spurned Texas Tech to sign with the Tide.
All he did was lead Alabama to an undefeated 14-0 season and the SEC and national championship. (Snore....). In his first season as starter he threw for 2,508 yards, third most in school history. In that span he only threw four interceptions. One has to wonder what his encore will be?
Bama signed two four-star wide receivers:
Mike McCoy was a surprise starter his sophomore season and went on to start two seasons before losing his job to Darius Hanks. McCoy did perform admirably in relief of an injured Julio Jones early during his senior season but only played sparingly after that.
Earl Alexander redshirted his first year and was in position for significant playing time in 2008 but injuries cut his effectiveness. As the talent level increased, his playing time dropped more in 2009.
Alexander enters his senior season with the Tide buried on the depth chart. Alexander is a big target and seniors have been known to come out of nowhere to have big years. Hopefully this will be the case with him.
Four-star running back Terry Grant was Mississippi's Mr Football. Grant went on to lead the Tide in rushing after a redshirt year and broke a UA freshman record with eight rushing touchdowns.
After the 2007 season, Grant's carries dropped as he fell further down the chart behind bigger, stronger running backs. Grant has also suffered numerous injuries that have hampered his career. Grant finished up the 2009 season injured.
Tight end Preston Dial stepped up his junior season to have a steady role on the offense at H-back, a combination of tight end and fullback. His playing time may go up even more his senior year with the departure of Colin Peek.
Four-star athlete Justin Woodall signed on the dotted line and became a two-year starter at safety for the Tide, finishing up in 2009. He will likely get a shot in the pros via a free agent contract.
Another defensive back, Marquis Johnson, had an up and down career until his senior year, in which he improved dramatically and played a huge role in winning the national title. Johnson may also get a look from the pros.
Defensive lineman Milton Talbert was signed to play in the speed based Joe Kines defense. He never found a place in Nick Saban's defense, which uses much larger players. He has never played significantly.
Nine players who signed did not remain with the team.
Four-star athlete LaBronski Hutchins inexplicably dropped out of high school before he even graduated, eliminating any possibility of a college career.
A quick look around the Internet produced a MySpace page BAMA BOY$KING KILLA “BABY!" This appears to be the same guy but you never know with this sort of thing. If that is the case, he remains in his hometown of Alexander City, AL.
Hutchins did garner one of the SEC's most "redonkulous" names awards from deepsouthsports.net, calling him the “Polish LeBron James of Football.”
Marcus Udell was a four-star prospect who did not qualify. He eventually found himself at Middle Tennessee State University where he played nickle back and recorded 23 tackles and seven interceptions in 2009.
Wide receiver Jake Jones, the son of legendary Bama player Joey Jones, injured his knee before ever seeing the field and was placed on medical scholarship. Jones enrolled this winter at the University of South Alabama to attempt to resurrect his career under his father's tutelage.
Defensive back Andy Davis from Briarwood Christian quit the team in 2007 and showed up at Samford where he has played steadily since.
Alex Stadler, a massive 6'6”, 300 lb four-star rated offensive tackle, quit the team in 2007 and transferred to the Liberty Flames, a I-AA school.
Defensive back Tremayne Coger quit the team in 2008 and transferred to Jacksonville State where he once again was buried on the depth chart at defensive back but did switch positions and play at running back in 2008.
Linebacker Charlie Kirschman, a nice sized linebacker out of Ponte Verda, Florida, was famous mainly for being the teammate of Tim Tebow. Many wondered if his signing was an attempt by Mike Shula to make inroads to the now famous quarterback. Kirschman never threatened to start but did graduate and bugged out after the 2008 season.
Linebacker Charlie Higgenbotham blew a knee during his senior year at Mountain Brook. Alabama had already accepted a verbal commitment from him and they honored it.
Despite the physical setback, “Higg,” as he was often called by fans, played in 24 games for the Tide as the second string linebacker. He wasn't the kind of athlete Alabama was bringing in under Nick Saban but his tenacity made him a fan favorite and well liked by the coaching staff. Higgenbotham transferred to South Alabama to play for his old high school coach Joey Jones for his final year.
The 2006 class was caught in transition from one coaching staff to the next. Alabama was also in transition from second and sometimes third-rate in the SEC to the best team in the country. Attrition was high, but for those that stuck it out to the end, a ring and championship were the reward.