Auburn, Alabama play the recruiting game

…Four-star Alabama commitment LaMichael Fanning is on the move again, transferring from Auburn High to Harris County (Ga.) — the school he originally enrolled in as a freshman. The object of attention from both Alabama’s Nick Saban and Auburn’s Gene Chizik, Fanning is leaving amidst rumors that he was being harassed by students and the community for choosing to attend rival Alabama. AHS head coach Tim Carter denied that was the reason for his relocation.

“He has some family situations that are going to need to be attended to back in Harris County,” Auburn athletic director Clay McCall said. “He and his mother will be going back. You have to put family before the sport you play, and this is a situation where family needs to come before football.”

The 6-6, 275-pound defensive end played at Harris County as a freshman before going to Callaway (Ga.) for his sophomore season and Auburn during his junior year. All three high schools are within about 55 miles of each other.

Fanning played sparingly during AHS’s state semifinal run last year — mostly on passing downs — and recorded two sacks. He was expected to play a bigger role on defense and be fully integrated into the team’s schemes this season after coming into the spring much stronger and more focused. He’s currently a very raw prospect but is intriguing college coaches because of his high ceiling.

Auburn was the only other school Fanning considered when he committed to the Crimson Tide, and playing time could be had next season as the Tigers likely will start four seniors on the defensive line this fall.

…Does N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien wish he would have stayed at Boston College? Following three sub-.500 seasons with the Wolfpack and changes in the school’s administration, O’Brien realizes that he needs to win — and win this season. While he’s not a believer in “make or break” seasons, O’Brien realizes that 2010 may be the most important year in his coaching career.

“I don’t think there’s ever a make-or-break season,” O’Brien said. “But the situation has changed. The chancellor I came here with and the athletic director I came here with are no longer here. Things have changed a lot.

“How that's going to affect our situation won't be solved until the chancellor and new AD decide what direction — or if there's a new direction — they want to go in.”

O’Brien almost certainly has to take the Wolfpack to a bowl game this season if he is to return in 2011. Going bowling at least should give him a year with new athletic director Debbie Yow overseeing the operation.

N.C. State went 5-7 (2-6 ACC) last season, and the 61-year-old O’Brien is 16-21 overall and 9-15 in ACC contests in Raleigh. With quarterback Russell Wilson and a defense that should be solid with the return of linebacker Nate Irving, a bowl game shouldn’t be too much to ask.

…Georgia’s offensive line, which was the subject of ridicule last season, will get a boost in 2010 with the return to health of junior left tackle Trinton Sturdivant. Sturdivant, who started all 13 games at the position as a true freshman in 2007, is healthy and ready for the season opener after missing most of the last two years with left knee injuries.

His return obviously will bolster the line, though the unit played better later in the season as it gelled. With the unit returning all five starters, will Sturdivant get his starting job back?

It appears that senior Clint Boling will likely be moved to either right tackle or right guard, spots that he has played at before. Either Josh Davis or Chris Davis would then head to the bench.

Obviously there’s always concern for a player who misses essentially two years of action, but the Bulldogs would boast a deep line if Sturdivant is able to stay healthy the entire season.

…USC filed its appeal on Friday with the NCAA’s Infractions Appeals Committee in an effort to have certain penalties against the football program overturned and reduced. The Trojans accepted their bowl ban for 2010 but would like the two-year postseason ban to be reduced to just this season, and they asked that the scholarship reductions in football for the 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 academic years be reduced from 10 to five each year.

The penalties assessed to USC have clearly had an immediate effect on the football program. I noted this week about the possibility of losing five-star offensive tackle Seantrel Henderson, and it seems as if four-star quarterback Max Wittek of California — the Trojans’ top signal-caller recruit for 2011 — may also be having second thoughts, with Washington and rival UCLA now mentioned as being possibilities for Wittek’s services. Wittek was supposed to be on USC’s campus Wednesday for a camp but didn't arrive until Thursday, raising eyebrows because of his tardiness. Three-star quarterback Cody Kessler has already committed to Lane Kiffin and Co.

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