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July 20, 2009The first of three pending transfers by Alabama football players became official Monday when wide receiver Chris Jackson signed scholarship papers with Georgia Tech, the school to which he originally committed as a recruit from McDonough (Ga.) Henry County High two years ago.
"I was just hoping to get the chance to come back and play for Georgia Tech," Jackson told BamaOnLine.com. "I'm pretty excited right now."
Jackson met with second-year Tech head coach Paul Johnson Monday morning. The meeting lasted barely 10 minutes, according to Jackson, but that was more than enough time for Johnson to give Jackson the opportunity to play.
Jackson made six tackles in a special teams role as a freshman for the Crimson Tide last season, but was unable to crack the playing rotation at receiver. He was switched to defensive back for Sugar Bowl preparations, then back to wide receiver for spring drills. Jackson said he holds no bitterness toward UA and counts his experience at the Capstone as a valuable one.
"Great coaches, great fans, and great players," he said. "Alabama gave me the chance to experience big-time college football and I learned a lot from it. It wasn't so much about playing time - mainly, I just wanted the chance to play closer to home and give my family a better chance to see me play."
Jackson changed his commitment from Tech to Alabama after then-Yellow Jackets coach Chan Gailey resigned, and enrolled early for spring practice in 2008. News that Jackson had been granted permission to seek a transfer from UA broke last week, along with similar intentions for linebacker Brandon Fanney and defensive back Alonzo Lawrence.
Neither Fanney nor Lawrence has enrolled at another school as of yet.
With Southeastern Conference Media Days - the unofficial start to the college football season in the South - commencing this week, Alabama roster news has made headlines as UA coach Nick Saban approaches his first formal meeting with the media in months. Between transfers, late qualifiers, grayshirt candidates and other factors that affect compliance with the 85-man roster limit, talk of attrition has run high. The stage was set in February when UA signed 20 more recruits (29) than it lost in departing seniors (nine), creating speculation as to how Saban would make the math work.
A few other notes to recap the latest on the attrition topic:
*** One reported transfer possibility - that of freshman running back Jermaine Preyear - was refuted by the Mobile native's mother in a Mobile Press-Register interview.
"I know that's not true," Cynthia Preyear said.
Preyear's former high school coach, Mobile Davidson's Fred Riley, could not be reached for comment. However, South Alabama, where Preyear was said to be headed, recently accepted a transfer from Memphis running back Brandon Ross and is unlikely to take on another, according to a source close to the Jaguars' fledgling program. Preyear himself was unavailable for comment as players, under team policy, are not made available for media interviews at this time of year.
Preyear (5-11, 205 pounds) signed with UA in 2008, but deferred his enrollment until January of this year due to a shoulder injury. He participated in spring drills but did not factor in the A-Day game. While Preyear may have no current plans to transfer, it would not be surprising if further attrition that may precede fall camp came from the running back position. The Crimson Tide figures to have a minimum of eight running backs on scholarship in fall camp - Mark Ingram, Roy Upchurch, Terry Grant, Jeramie Griffin, Demetrius Goode, Ivan Matchett, Preyear and freshman Trent Richardson. The number could swell to 10 if incoming freshman Eddie Lacy qualifies and enrolls, and if versatile signee Mike Marrow practices with the backs.
*** If the transfer plans of Fanney and Lawrence become reality as Jackson's have, further UA attrition news could be minimal depending on other factors. If signees Kellen Williams and Kendall Kelly defer their enrollments for injury reasons, UA may have as few as 20 incoming freshmen on scholarship. Among several signees who underwent offseason surgery, those two face the most challenging recovery. That number would not include Lacy or Darrington Sentimore, whose academic statuses are still pending.
*** It should be noted that in the absence of summer media contact with the program, Saban's plan for maintaining the roster reveals itself over a lengthy course of time. While the fall camp roster may not take its final public shape until just before camp begins, the steps to comply with NCAA rules are taken well in advance of that. An NCAA rule requires that universities settle on scholarship renewals for returning players by a July 1 deadline, essentially the date by which schools must have a contingency plan for all possibilities regarding roster numbers. Still, factors outside that rule - including incoming signees and players who opt to transfer or otherwise end their careers - can have an affect on the 85-man roster long after July 1.
*** The only offseason transfers confirmed to date by Saban have been those of kicker Corey Smith (West Virginia) and linebacker Prince Hall (Central Washington). Other reported offseason attrition has included linebackers Jennings Hester and Charlie Kirschman, and offensive lineman Evan Cardwell. Neither Saban nor UA officials have confirmed the departures of any of those three, however.