December 6, 2011

Ward meets with Saban, sets UA official

MONTGOMERY | While team Alabama's linebacking corps at the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Game is getting the lion's share of attention, sporting three University of Alabama commits, one linebacker on the Mississippi squad stands out on the Crimson Tide's radar.

Channing Ward, a 2012 linebacker/defensive end from Aberdeen, Miss., spoke with UA coach Nick Saban last week and plans on visiting the Tuscaloosa campus next month.  Ward said the two talked about his future and what it will take for him to make it to the Capstone.

"We just talked about what they have planned for me if I come there for school," Ward said. "We talked about working hard and keeping up with my grades."

Ward wouldn't name any frontrunners in his recruitment, only saying that he would keep things as-is until taking official visits to Mississippi State on Jan. 13 and Alabama on Jan. 20.

The senior defensive end has offers from Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss. He said he plans to make his verbal commitment at the Under Armour All-American Bowl.

"I like Alabama because they're a winning program," Ward said. "They have great coaches around, are family based and just a great school."

Ward said he sees himself fitting into the Jack linebacker position, currently occupied by Courtney Uphsaw. The two are similar in size, Upshaw at 6-foot-2 and 265 pounds and Ward at 6-foot-4, 250 pounds. Both possess a quickness that belies their size, allowing them to play on the ground at defensive end, or standing up outside at linebacker. Ward's coaches at Aberdeen High School trust his athleticism so much that several times they moved the mammoth defensive end out to cornerback to cover smaller, faster wide receivers.

Ward, who racked up 20 sacks this season, attended the Alabama-LSU game in early November and said that he thinks the Tide deserved another shot at the Tigers, this time for the BCS National Championship.

"It's going to be a crazy environment," he said. "They give you the two top teams in the nation, no matter what conference."

The Crimson Tide won't be the only one getting a shot at redemption. Last year, the Mississippi All-Star team lost in overtime to Alabama in Mobile. While the media may want to pay attention to Ward's open recruitment, he wants to focus on practice this week and getting another shot at Alabama on Saturday.

"It's important for us to bounce back," Ward said. "We've got a lot of talent on the team, we just have to stick together."
Reach Alex Scarborough at [email protected] or 205-722-1093. Follow him on Twitter at @Alex_TuscNews.

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