Recruiting Central Notebook: Bama’s Saban Meets With Top Bay Area Kids at USF Satellite Camp

By Chris Torello, Spectrum Sports
Last Updated: Saturday, June 10, 2017

On Saturday USF head coach Charlie Strong is hosting a Satellite camp on the USF campus in Tampa. He welcomed in close to 300 football players to receive guidance and coaching from staff members from Alabama, Appalachian State, Liberty University, Marshall, Toledo and USF.  

Drills were run from 11 a.m. to roughly 1:45 p.m. with individual drills followed by one-on-one competitions.

 At any of these satellite camps there is opportunity for college and high school coaches to come together with recruits and meet up for a few minutes. It’s a true “wheel ‘n’ deal” situation with handshakes and head nods galore from the first whistle to the final one.

And it was just about the final whistle when the show really began.

 The back gate at the Frank Morsani Football Practice Complex opened and in came a team of red shirts ahead of Alabama head coach Nick Saban. His plane had been delayed and would shorten his already short schedule at USF.

Saban walked onto the field, shook hands with Charlie Strong. The two joked about coaching and Saban was overheard saying “Today I get to watch you coach.” Then Saban turned to his staff members who had been at the camp from the start and pointed to the USF equipment shed behind the field. That was the signal to clear the area and get all of his recruiting targets in order for meetings.

Here is what went down:

 Armwood Gets Two Meetings

Saban shook hands with Armwood head coach Evan Davis and 2018 All Purpose Back Jerome Ford (3-star recruit; 19th in nation at his position; 150th best recruit in Florida). The three walked over to the equipment shed. As Davis shared with me following the meeting, Saban “officially” offered Ford. To clarify, Ford had indeed been offered by an Alabama coach back on June 8.  “Coach Saban wanted (Jerome) to know that he would like him at Alabama and sees him coming in and really being a weapon,” said Davis. “Saban wants him in to compete and work.”

 Next up for Saban was Armwood 2018 Wide Receiver Warren Thompson (4-star recruit; 25th best wide receiver in the nation; 27th best recruit in the state of Florida). Thompson has always liked Alabama and Saban showed him a lot of respect both at USF as well as when Thompson visited Tuscaloosa earlier this year. Alabama offered Thompson back on February 25th.  Those close to Thompson feel that he does not have Alabama in his Top 2 or 3 and that the “Big 3” of Florida, FSU and Miami are the prime schools on the receiver’s radar. 

Wharton’s Man of the Hour

After parting ways with his two Armwood Hawks targets Saban turned his attention to one of the hottest names in the 2019 recruiting class: Wharton Cornerback John Dixon (3-star recruit; 40th ranked recruit in Florida for 2019). In a span of four days (June 5-8) Dixon received offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Oregon. Saban was very determined to have his chance with Dixon. He was quite animated during their meeting and Dixon left feeling like he had just met with a rock star. I spoke with Dixon and he told me “With all that is happening, with all of the offers, it’s all just overwhelming when it comes to all the outside noise from people congratulating me. But it’s a blessing and it’s humbling.”

Dreadnaught Dreamin’ of Crimson

There were two big targets who Saban wanted to meet with more than anyone else, according to two independent sources. One of them was Lakeland 2019 Offensive Lineman Deyavie Hammond (4-star recruit; 16th best recruit in Florida for 2019). It was back on May 23rd that Hammond verballed to Alabama, calling it his dream school. Deyavie was wearing a crimson colored “ALABAMA” shirt. He was there for one reason: To talk with Coach Nick. There were five meetings with Bay Area players for Saban, but this one had to be the most feel-good one to watch. Deyavie was all smiles ear-to-ear. He was very engaged with Saban, going back and forth in conversation, while the other recruits were mostly just listening. This meeting lasted rough ten minutes – longer than the other ones. Halfway through Deyavie stopped Saban so the two could take a photo together. A cool moment to be remembered come Signing Day 2019.

 Save The Best For Last

The final young man that Saban met with at USF was the highest rated recruit in the Tampa Bay area. And that is Berkeley Prep 2018 Offensive Lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere (4-star recruit; 6th best offensive tackle in the nation; 12th best recruit in Florida for 2018). This was “the big one” quoted by one of the Alabama coaches on hand. Saban embraced Nicholas mother before the three began to talk. Saban was very engaged with mom while Nicholas listened. During the month of May Nicholas had two visits with Alabama coaches, so this was a chance to make an impact from the head of the program. All of the top schools are in on this kid. It is going to be a fun summer and fall for his recruiting. As of now, the schools on him the most, in no particular order, are: Florida, Notre Dame, Auburn, Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson.

And then Saban left. Thirty minutes with five recruits and then out the door.

The USF Satellite Camp continues on Sunday and will feature Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen. Charlie Strong worked with both while at the University of Florida.

As always, see you on the recruiting trail!