Roy Exum: Saban Wows Bell’s School

Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

There was a funny story in the Sunday editions of the Atlanta Journal Constitution that bore the headline, “Nick Saban Makes People Cry,” and by Monday it appeared that fans of Alabama’s national championship football program may soon be the ones weeping with tears of joy. The Bleacher Report website predicted yesterday that Vonn Bell, the object of Saban’s affections, was leaning towards signing a scholarship with the Crimson Tide.

Bell, a delightful mainstay on a Ridgeland program that advanced to the finals of the Georgia Class 4-A state championship chase, is among the top-rated senior football players in the country and, as a 5-star defensive back, can literally join any college football program he wants.

It has long been believed his three finalists are Alabama, Ohio State and Tennessee.

Up until now the humble high school All-American has been mum but the Bleacher Report claimed on Monday there is a 40 percent chance Bell will choose Alabama on National Signing Day, a 35 percent chance he will go to Ohio State and still a 25 percent chance he will join Tennessee and new coach Butch Jones. Bell was in Tuscaloosa on Saturday for the gala celebration for this season’s national champions.

The Atlanta story, written by the newspaper’s recruiting guru Michael Carvell, originated last week at Ridgeland High School in Rossville where the now-fabled Alabama head coach paid a personal visit to Bell earlier last week. “Yes, it was unbelievable,” Ridgeland coach Mark Mariakis said of the visit and confirmed Saban drew wide-eyed stares and the adoring tears of a rock star.

“It was a state of disbelief that Coach Saban was in our school. It was a frenzy. We had to strategically go down the hall at certain times, meeting teachers, and going from Point A to Point B. Coach Saban was as professional and classy, and handled it as well as anybody could’ve. I know he’s used to it,” the high school coach told Carvell.

“Once one kid or teacher saw him, the text messages and tweets started flying. The next thing you know, little heads are poking outside of classrooms. And it was hard to tell the kids not to come out and get autographs when the teachers were coming out and getting autographs,” Mariakis laughed, later explaining how he himself was thrilled when Saban spent time drawing the X’s and O’s of the game in the football office after winning a third national title in the past four years.

Saban, who is very much a hands-on head coach, works with the Crimson Tide secondary and, as he explained to Mariakis what he would do in certain defensive situations, he carefully told Bell what the responsibilities of a safety or a cornerback would be in different schemes. The Bleacher Report’s predictions may be true but Ohio State’s Urban Meyer is also a masterful recruiter and Bell has grown up as a Tennessee fan.

He and his family actually live in Ooltewah but Bell attends the Georgia school on a provision that allows a student whose parent teaches at a school the opportunity to attend there. Vonn’s mother is a guidance counselor at Ridgeland and he was even chosen as a member of the Journal-Constitution’s “Super 11” before it was discovered – too late – he lives in Tennessee instead of Georgia.

You must also remember there are two weeks left before athletes can sign binding letters of intent. Any commitments you read about are non-binding and, while some college programs respect a student-athlete’s right to make his choice early, others try mightily to get high school seniors to change their minds.

Alabama is having a sensational recruiting year, so much so that Alabama assistant coaches are now telling early commitments they will be “grey-shirts,” enrolling next January rather than being counted among this fall’s recruiting numbers. Obviously, this approach doesn’t sit well with some athletes and there is a greater chance they might decommit before Feb. 6.

According to the popular Bleacher Report, the nation’s No. 1 prospect, defensive end Robert Nkemdiche of Loganville, Ga., was believed to be heading to Ole Miss, where his older brother Dexter now plays but, after a totally unexpected visit to Florida over the weekend, Nkemdiche said, “Really all schools are even for me right now. No school has been kicked down or anything, but I just have to see the other schools and compare them. Florida, Ole Miss and LSU are all battling for that top spot.”

According to the Rivals recruiting website, Florida is having the best year thus far and is followed by Notre Dame, Alabama, Ohio State and LSU. Rounding out the Top Ten are Michigan, Southern Cal, Texas  A&M, Georgia and Ole Miss.

But, again, there are still two weeks before National Signing Day and, as history has shown repeatedly, just about anything can happen between now and then.

royexum@aol.com

Ridgeland's Vonn Bell
Ridgeland's Vonn Bell

Funding For The ISIS Conflict

Since it seems inevitable that the United States  will once again beinvolved in a Middle East conflict that will never have any resolution, may I present an idea about the funding for this engagement  that has not been bantered?     Despite the fact that no Middle Eastern country will commit troops to fight ISIS, considering that ISIS is much ... (click for more)

The Republican War On Public Schools

Today’s education summit and its focus on Common Core is just a minor skirmish that ignores the major battles being waged by Republicans in their on-going War on Public Schools. This administration’s education policies feed fat cats while starving students and teachers. Out-of-state corporations and in-state segregation academies are pilfering, plundering, and profiting from the ... (click for more)

Woman Stabbed Multiple Times On Cleveland Avenue Early Thursday Morning

A woman was stabbed multiple times early Thursday morning. At approximately 3 a.m., Chattanooga Police responded to 2104 Cleveland Ave. for a stabbing. Officers located a black female in the roadway suffering from multiple stab wounds. The victim was transported to a local hospital by HCEMS for her injuries and is in stable condition. Investigators have not been able to ... (click for more)

City Council Taking Applications From Those Interested In Serving On City IDB

The City Council is taking applications from those interested in serving on the city industrial Development Board (IDB).   There are four vacancies on the board that has been in the news for its controversial approval and re-approval of $9 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for developers of Aetna Mountain. Resumes are due by Sept. 29.   ... (click for more)

Hill, Wolfe Help Central Hand East Ridge First 6-AA Loss

On Tuesday, Central dropped its first District 6-AA volleyball match to Hixson. Two days later the Lady Purple Pounders did the same to East Ridge. With Rebekah Hill and Skyler Wolfe leading the rebound from Tuesday’s loss, Central swept East Ridge 3-0 and remained in the hunt for their second straight district championship. Set scores were 25-14, 25-16, 25-22. “The ... (click for more)

Lee Davis A Successful Runner Among Other Things

Lee Davis grew up in Philadelphia, went to college at Elizabethton College in Central Pennsylvania and graduated from law school at Boston University. He also became a pretty good runner during that time. Davis is a high-profile attorney in Chattanooga who does something physical every day.   He doesn’t train like he once did and he doesn’t even like to talk about ... (click for more)