Posted by Jerry Hinnen
A new Kentucky signee who was asked to take a "grayshirt" by Alabama -- delaying his enrollment until January of 2013 and not joining the Crimson Tide until that spring -- has told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he feels Nick Saban and his program "did me wrong."
Three-star running back recruit Justin Taylor of North Atlanta High School committed to the Tide in early 2011 but suffered a knee injury at the start of his high school season. In January, Taylor was informed by Saban that he would not be able to sign with the Tide on National Signing Day as planned, though Alabama would honor the scholarship offer if he was willing to delay enrollment. Taylor elected to accept a late offer from Kentucky instead and signed with the Wildcats yesterday.
“I knew I wasn’t going to Alabama when I met with Coach Saban at my high school a couple of weeks ago,” Taylor told the AJC. “When Coach Saban came down, I just had this feeling in my heart. I prayed about it and God told me … and I know this sounds kind of crazy … but God told me that Alabama was not the place for me.”
Saban told Taylor the revocation of his original offer was due to his torn ACL, but North Atlanta head coach Stanley Pritchett (a former South Carolina star running back) believes otherwise.
“If you look back on it, you see that it was a numbers game, that Alabama really wanted [Taylor] to sit out because of the numbers,” Pritchett said, referring to the SEC-imposed limit of 25 signees per class. “It kind of makes you mad, but you also feel good that he didn’t go there. Because if he had gone to Alabama, he would’ve probably just have been another number.”
Alabama's final class included 26 signees, one of which "back-counted" to the 2011 class, putting the Tide at exactly 25 players for 2012.
Taylor was not the only longtime Tide commitment asked by Saban to grayshirt; Prichard (Ala) defensive tackle Darius Philon signed with Arkansas despite donning an Alabama hat at his school's signing ceremony. Two of Philon's teammates told the Mobile Press-Register that Philon had been asked to grayshirt last week. Philon had switched his commitment from Auburn to Alabama last September and had not visited any other schools since committing. He underwent knee surgery following the high school season.
Philon refused to speak to the media following the signing ceremony and has yet to make any public comment. Taylor, however, was less shy about his feelings regarding the Tide.
“The way they talked to me, they respected me … but as far as pulling the scholarship, I think they did me wrong," he said. "I was the No. 7 to commit, that’s all I’ve got to say. I was committed to them for a year. They could’ve handled it better.”
Given that Saban's method of "handling" injured commitments appears to be simply finding players he likes better and forcing those commitments to deal with the consequences, we're inclined to agree.
For video of Saban discussing his No. 1-ranked class on the CBS Sports Network's Signing Day special, click here.
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