NEW: Nick Saban tries to court UGA RB commit

Alabama coach Nick Saban got involved personally to offer a football scholarship to one of UGA’s top commitments a few days ago.

Nick Saban (AP file)

Nick Saban (AP file)

The new Alabama target is BJ Emmons, a 4-star running back from Morganton, N.C. He has been committed to UGA since last December. Emmons is rated as the No. 4 overall prospect out of North Carolina, and he’s UGA’s only commitment at running back for the 2016 class.

Saban called Emmons to deliver the news last Friday.

“BJ was ecstatic about it, and that’s not knocking anybody who has already offered,” Emmons’ coach at Freedom High School, Brandon Allen, told the AJC.

“But with just knowing who Coach Saban is, the presence that he has, and how he’s respected throughout the nation — he’s one of the top coaches, if not the top college coach in America. And to be offered such a wonderful opportunity, and they are all wonderful opportunities — Alabama just carries an aura to it with what they’ve accomplished.

“Since Coach Saban has been at Alabama, the resurgence he and his staff has brought back there … you think of SEC championships and national championships. Just that alone was a huge compliment to BJ.”

Allen said his star player is still officially committed to UGA, even though recruiting websites such as 247sports list him as a “soft” commit.

BJ Emmons (247sports)

BJ Emmons (247sports)

Emmons started listening to other colleges after the Bulldogs changed assistants at the running backs position last winter. Bryan McClendon switched from coaching UGA’s running backs to receivers, and Thomas Brown was hired away from Wisconsin to replace McClendon.

Here are 5 things to know about BJ Emmons:

1. Why Alabama offered: “I think more than anything, it was his style of running,” Allen said. “He’s such an explosive back. Alabama is known for their power-running game. I know that they’re opening up their offense a little more than they have in the past. They always want a tailback that they can put back there who can run between the tackles and be a physical presence. I certainly think that BJ can do those things. He has added some weight during the off-season. He’s a lot bigger than he was last year. But I think one of the biggest things that Alabama had seen was his commitment to his grades. It has gotten a lot better. You know, going into his freshman year of college he wants to make sure that he’s eligible. I think that was one of the big things that everybody was looking at – will he be eligible as a freshman? Now that they see him making that effort academically, people are starting to give him more attention than they were before. There were some questions going into last fall about where he was going to be academically. But his commitment to this year, especially this semester, has shown the colleges that he has put himself in position to be academically eligible as a freshman.”

2. The status of his UGA pledge: “He’s still committed to Georgia,” Allen said. “That’s certainly his choice on that. But I know that he is exploring other options. There is no question about that. He is going to look around out there. I know he was excited when he committed to Georgia last December. I told BJ that I’m going to support him wherever he goes. It’s his decision. It’s his and his family’s decision. I think Georgia is a wonderful avenue for sure. But now he’s getting more interest because he has shown the colleges that he can make it academically. Some of the other elite schools are coming in view. He has gained their attention. I think he’s going to certainly explore other options and see what is the best fit for him and his family.”

3. UGA coaching change opened up things: “I certainly think there were some issues there,” Allen said. “I will say this about Coach McClendon: BJ loves and respects Coach McClendon. And in the short amount of time that he has gotten to know Coach Brown, he certainly respects him a lot. In the short amount of time I’ve gotten to talk to Coach Brown, he has been a true professional. I know that he’s going to do a great job at Georgia. Did that (coaching change) play some part of it? I’d be a liar if I sat here and said ‘No.’ I think there was some uncertainty to where BJ stood in the recruiting process, in terms of the shuffling of coaches. There was a little bit of lapse there (after the coaching change). I don’t know for certain how or why exactly that lapse happened in the process of it all. But there was uncertainty there for BJ and his family with what was going on. We wanted to make sure that he was being treated fairly. After speaking with Georgia, I certainly believe everything they told me. I have no reason to doubt them. But with that happening and with other colleges stepping in, that has piqued BJ’s interest. He just wants to make sure ‘Is Georgia the right place for me? Or are there better options for me?’ When you think about Georgia, you think about the top running backs that have had come out of there. They do a phenomenal job at Georgia. They’re going to be fighting for the SEC championship every year. It’s a top-tier program. I think it’s a wonderful place, and it’s a great opportunity for any young man. But I’m going to leave this up to BJ, and I will support him with whatever he and his family decide.”

4. Meeting the new UGA coach: Thomas Brown stopped by Freedom High School this spring. “He and I talked while (he was checking on BJ),” Allen said. “It was a good opportunity to sit down and speak. I found out where everything stood with BJ. Coach Brown certainly feels very strongly about BJ, and about wanting BJ at Georgia. There was no denying that. He was a true professional. When he walked out of the room, I knew I was speaking to somebody who was a great ‘character’ coach, somebody that I felt like would be a good fit for BJ to work and learn under. If that’s BJ’s choice to go to Georgia, I think he will be playing for a great coach.”

5. This and that: Emmons is still mapping out his summer schedule, but he is tentatively planning on attending camps at UGA, Alabama and Tennessee. He has also bumped up in weight from last season, when he hit the scale at 5-11 and 208 pounds. “He went down to the Under Armour All-America combine, and he weighed in at 232 pounds,” Allen said. “He posted a 4.48 in the 40 down there laser-timed. I think he’s at 225 or 230 right now. He worked really hard on his conditioning this winter and spring.”

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