Passing on Smelley may be a mistake

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 29, 2005

The Tim Tebow sweepstakes is finally over. The winner is Florida, and the loser is the University of Alabama.

The quarterback that both of the schools coveted for the last few months has finally made his decision and now the Earth can continue to spin on its axis.

The world can go on now that Tebow has made his decision.

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Or at least that's the way his decision has been depicted by media within the states of Alabama and Florida.

But headlines aren't nearly as comical as listening to fans on sports talk radio.

In this day in the age of sports talk radio, it's a scream to hear Tide and Gator fans endear themselves to an 18-year-old kid that they wouldn't know from Adam's housecat if he didn't consider playing football at their beloved school.

Whether Tebow made the right decision or not or whether Florida will prosper because he decided to join the Florida nation won't be known for at least five years.

Having seen the Nease High quarterback play against Hoover, I was impressed with him as a high school player. I'm not so sure he's the equivalent to the second-coming.

Just from reading about the recruitment of Tebow, Alabama coach Mike Shula put his best line forward to woo the Tebow family.

But it was all for nothing.

Does this mean that Shula can't recruit a high-profile prospect? Maybe so. That may be proven on Feb. 1 as to whether the No. 2 overall prospect, Huffman's Andre Smith, decides to play for the Tide or not.

Should Smith pass on Alabama, it could mark for a disastrous recruiting season for the Tide.

And the questions will be a plenty if the Tide fans on Smith, too.

One question that is already being asked is why would Alabama not recruit one of the state's best quarterbacks in its own backyard.

Chris Smelley grew up an Alabama fan in the shadows of Bryant-Denny Stadium and was Crimson and White through and through.

But when it came time to turn up the recruiting heat, Alabama was on simmer while South Carolina and Ole Miss were on high.

Smelley's coach Stephen Hooks told me almost a month ago that his quarterback would not be attending Alabama because Shula and the coaching staff eased off the gas.

Having seen Smelley play against Brantley in the Class 1A semifinals, that may prove to be a big mistake.

Although he did play for a Class 1A team, Smelley proved to most that he could be a winner on the field against some of the best Class 1A schools in the state.

Although Smelley and company could not beat the Bulldogs on that November night in the state semifinals, a strong Brantley defense could not shut stop Smelley from throwing for 563 yards and three touchdowns.

Now Smelley is heading for South Carolina to play for one of the greatest offensive minds in modern day college football. If Smelley fails at South Carolina, it certainly won't be due to poor coaching.

Don't be surprised if Tide fans reflect back in two to three years that Shula and the coaching staff whiffed on Smelley.

If there was any player Alabama should have pursued more aggressively it would be Smelley.

Kevin Taylor is sports editor of The Greenville Advocate. Call him at (334) 382-3111 ext. 122 or e-mail