RECRUITING UPDATE: Saving Reuben Foster (Updated)

With national signing day now just two days away, the madness will soon be tucked away for another year. Every year we think we’ve seen it all, then every year we’re amazed all over again.

Two years ago Brent Calloway’s recruitment stole the show. The long-time Bama commit turned to Auburn via an apparent high school coach and blood-thirsty AU staff, then turned back to the Tide.

We also had Cyrus Kouandjio, committing to Alabama for an eternity only to take a visit to Auburn the weekend before without his parents. Signing day saw the big offensive lineman make an inexplicable flip to the Tigers, committing at his school without submitting his papers. Days later he reneged and signed with Alabama.

This year’s story has been Reuben Foster, of LaGrange, GA. Then, ironically, after his mother’s job change…suddenly…of Auburn, AL.

People change jobs and locations for all kinds of reasons, but when your son is the #1 linebacker prospect in the nation, and the defensive player of the year in the state of Georgia as a junior, you landing a job in the city where a rival college is recruiting your son is always going to raise an eyebrow or two. It just is.

Alabama fans had long been wary of the seemingly shady recruiting tactics of Trooper Taylor and crew. These kinds of storys seemed to keep surfacing with Taylor standing in the wings. As an illustration, if somebody stole the Dorito’s, Taylor’s fingers always seemed to be orange.

Things came to a head on Foster’s recruitment last summer when the long time Bama commit (since July 2011) suddenly had a change of heart. But how it happened is where the weirdness kicked in.

On July 12, 2012, Reuben Foster held a press conference in the cafeteria of Auburn High School, releasing a 150 word statement about the decision. The statement was almost word-for-word with the statement released by TJ Yeldon in December 2011. Yeldon de-committed from Auburn to enroll early at Alabama. The carefully worded statement was seen as a shot across the bow of the Alabama football program, orchestrated by a twisted coaching staff willing to use the kids they recruited as their pawns.

Pictures of the Auburn logo tattooed on his forearm hit the internet, and it was thought the bush-league antics of Auburn football had once again prevailed. But once the coaching staff exposed themselves as the sham that they were throughout the course of the 2012 season, Foster’s recruitment took another turn.

After the firing of Gene Chizik, Foster drifted back into the land of the de-committed. Still thought to be an Auburn lean, his recruitment continued by several schools, including Georgia and Alabama.

Foster had visited Tuscaloosa in mid-January, and the weekend before last he spent in Athens. Last weekend, however, is where it got weird again.

On his official visit to Auburn, rumors began spreading like wildfire that Foster had an altercation with a current Auburn player who used racial speech aimed at the prep star. Foster then cut his visit short and drove…where?…to Tuscaloosa, where he spent the rest of the weekend with current and upcoming players.

At 6:00pm tonight, all of the drama is scheduled to come to an end. Reuben Foster is scheduled to announce his final decision. Who knows where he’ll end up, though many think Alabama (again) is now the strongest possibility.

But one thing is for sure: The player once referred to as a young Rolondo McClain bares a lot of striking resemblances off the field. Wherever he ends up, there better be structure.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban can look Reuben Foster in the eye and tell him he’s got twenty players just like him. That’s not to say Foster can’t be the best amoung that twenty, but the worst thing that can happen to Reuben Foster is for him to end up at a school that needs Reuben Foster more than Reuben Foster needs the school.

The player that has been at that wrong end of puppeteering for almost two years needs saving. In that regard I’m reminded of the words within an old Jars of Clay song, Fade To Grey:

“It’s in despair that I find faith
Summons the night to bow down to day
When ignorance is bliss
Won’t you save me from myself”

Reuben Foster desperately needs someone to save him from himself. Give him the right environment and he’ll be making NFL money in three years. Give him the wrong one, and this wildly talented player’s drama could end in tragedy.

Of the schools mentioned, which school and coaching regime has been proven in the last six years to give him the best shot at that structure and the NFL payoff that awaits? You know the answer. But in the weird recruting saga that is Reuben Foster, who knows how it’ll end.

UPDATE – 2/04/13

Looks like Reuben has chosen to Roll with the Tide…

…again. :)

(Follow ITK on Twitter for Bama news, commentary and smack.)