September 30, 2011

Future RBs on Tide's radar

Sophomore RB turning heads

OXFORD | College coaches have swarmed to Oxford, Ala. over the last year to see 2012 recruits Kwon Alexander and Trae Elston, but it may be sophomore running back Racean Thomas who ends up being the most talented prospect on the team.

"Racean is a good athlete, a well-trained athlete," Elston said. "He's got way more than I had my sophomore year. He's already built up with his size. He's a heck of an athlete. He can do all of these flips and all that. He's just very explosive."

The 5-foot-11, 195-pound star is already being compared to some of the great running backs that came from the state of Alabama.

"He's the best running back I've ever coached, and he's still a sophomore," Oxford head coach John Grass said. "He's got a chance to be really good.

"It's hard to make a comparison. The people around here, this part of the country and this part of the state, remember Cadillac (Williams). That's who I've heard a lot of people say he reminds them of."

Through the first five games, Thomas is averaging close to 100 yards per game, and Grass believes that if the word is not out on his star running back yet, it will be soon.

Early in the process, the Oxford native has received the most interest from the two in-state powerhouses, Alabama and Auburn. Thomas visited Tuscaloosa for the Crimson Tide's opener against Kent State.

"I liked it," he said. "It was a good experience for me. That was the second game I've been to besides the one last year against Ole Miss. I enjoyed it. I like the campus, and I like the atmosphere.

"I talked to Coach (Nick) Saban at the Ole Miss game, and I talked to him at the Kent State game. It was me and Ulric (Jones), and he said he's looking forward to seeing us play and visiting for some more games."

It's too early to name a favorite for Thomas, but he's come away impressed with what he's seen from Alabama on his two visits and plans to come back for another game soon.
"I really like the way they prepare for a game and the way they prepare during a game," Thomas said. "It's fun to watch them play, and I love the way the crowd reacts to the game. They're really into the game."

2013 RB grew up AU fan, likes the Tide

Growing up, Decatur, Ala. running back Josh Matthews was an Aubun fan. However, that didn't stop him from visiting Tuscaloosa for Alabama's win over Arkansas last weekend and pulling for the Crimson Tide.

"My dad was an Auburn fan for awhile, and I came up like that," Matthews said. "Now, with the whole recruiting process, I'm more of like wherever I go I try to like that team. I never thought being an Auburn that I would have so much fun at Alabama, but I went down there and just had a blast."

Matthews, a 2013 prospect, is beginning to pick up interest from another of SEC schools, including Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and Mississippi State. He believes the UA coaching staff may be close to offering.

"I haven't really gotten an offer yet, but it seems like some of these teams are interested, and I'm just going to these games and getting to know these coaching staffs a little bit better," Matthews said.

On his visit to Tuscaloosa, the in-state running back got a chance to get know some of the coaches on the UA staff. It was the first Alabama game he had ever been to at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

"That was my first Alabama game," Matthews said. "It was a good experience. I loved it. I loved how they ran the ball. I loved how they use the backs. I just enjoyed watching how physical they were, the team as a whole. I loved how it was a family feel down there.

"On like a first down, the crowd goes crazy, and it's just amazing after a touchdown how much the crowd is into it. I loved seeing that. The crowd made it even better."

Matthews missed the first two games of his junior year because of a hamstring injury and is just now getting back to 100 percent. In his first game back, the 5-foot-9, 210-pound back rushed for over 136 yards and a touchdown on just seven carries.

Reach Greg Ostendorf at [email protected]

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