Recruiting Rae

Bowden pays visit to Alcoa star

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By Stefan Cooper
Sports Editor
Blount Today

Nick Saban called. Bobby Bowden made a personal appearance Tuesday.

The Alabama and Florida State coaches, respectively, would both like to have Alcoa senior Rae Sykes’ signature on the dotted line on national signing day next month. Bowden, who visited with Sykes in the Alcoa locker room on Tuesday, still
has a chance, along with Tennessee coach Phil Fulmer. The Crimson Tide isn’t an option.

Sykes narrowed his choices to Florida State and Tennessee some time ago and the All-State defensive end said he has no plans to change his mind.

"Alabama gave me a call (Monday)," he said. "They were telling me about the new coaching staff and wanting to get me to
come down for a visit, but I was already booked."

Sykes said he’ll visit Tallahassee later this month, saving his last official for Knoxville the week before signing day.

"I guess when I get to see both of the schools, something will jump out at me," he said.

While recruiting rules prohibited Bowden from commenting on Sykes, it’s no secret the Florida State skipper is hoping that something is former Alcoa star and current Seminole freshman Brandon Warren, who’ll serve as Sykes’ escort during his visit.

Warren caught 28 passes for 301 yards and a score in 2006, securing freshman All-American honors at season’s end.
"We hadn’t had a tight end catch that many passes in a year," Bowden said. "When (Warren) came in, we had to change our strategy. Here’s Brandon at 225 (pounds), starting, and he could fly."

The Seminoles are making an all-out push for Sykes. Florida State tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator John Lilly accompanied Bowden on Tuesday. It made an impression the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Sykes said, but, until he’s sure, he’s keeping his options open.

"There’s no favorite," he said. "Everybody’s been telling me, ‘Oh, you know. You know.’

"Really, I’m serious. I haven’t made up my mind."

The pursuit of Sykes is taking on all the intrigue that surrounded the Vols and Seminoles recruitment of Warren a year ago. The former Mr. Football, who’d given an early verbal commitment to the Seminoles, was bitterly torn between his home-state school and the sunny climes of the Florida panhandle as recruiting wound down.

Warren announced his final decision only days before signing, his choice of the Seminoles prompting fierce backlash from Tennessee fans on area talk radio.

That said, Sykes said Warren has advised him to make up his own mind.

"He doesn’t tell me I should go here or go there," the Mr. Football finalist said. "He said he’ll make sure he shows me a good time when I come down. Other than that, he said it’s up to me.

"From his personal experience, he told me to just wait it out, make sure it’s what I want and don’t let the pressure get to you. What Brandon went through was a lot of help."

Tennessee was close to having not only Warren a year ago but Sykes and fellow Tornado Dustin Lindsey as well. Lindsey, now at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, committed to the Vols last summer, well ahead of any declaration from Warren.

"Brandon, Dustin and I all sat down and said that if Brandon went to UT, I would go to UT also," Sykes said.

While the Vols and Seminoles await a decision from Sykes, another Tornado star has also narrowed the field. Running back Chris Shiverdecker made an official visit to Kentucky over the weekend and said the Wildcats made him feel at home.

"I like the facilities and the players," the 2006 Mr. Football said. "I feel it could work out well. I felt like I was already on the team."

Kentucky quarterbacks coach and recruiting coordinator Randy Sanders will visit Shiverdecker later this week. If the Wildcats put an offer on the table then, he’ll take it, Shiverdecker said. Area Division II powerhouse Carson-Newman has already offered.

Shiverdecker said making sure his academic house is in order is top priority at the moment.

"Right now, I’ve got to take the ACT," he said. "If I pass everything, I think everything will be OK. Right now, I’m just trying to maintain my grades and stay focused."

Warren’s first season in Tallahassee was one for the books, finishing fifth among Seminoles in receiving. A professional career for the former Tornado is well within the realm of possibility after his days at Florida State are done, Bowden said.

"I think he could go and be great as a slot receiver," he said. "He’s going to get a little bit bigger, too. He’ll probably be about 250 when he leaves."

A valid question he’s often asked, the 77-year-old Bowden said, is will he be there to see Warren off.

"I do get it every time I visit a (high school) practice," he said. "They ask, ‘Coach, are you gonna stay? Are you gonna stay?’
"I’d rather do this (coach) than retire, as long as my health is good. I know I have to win more games for Florida State, though."

The Seminoles finished 7-6 in 2006, concluding Bowden’s 30th season as coach with a 44-27 trouncing of UCLA in the Emerald Bowl.

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