NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The decision seems to have been made. Well, sort of.
“I'm still thinking about it but I'm leaning towards playing football,” ESPN 300 tailback Cornelius Elder said when asked whether he would play football or basketball in college.
The decision hasn't come easy. Elder, who goes by the nickname "Corn," seemed intent on playing basketball this spring and summer while football scholarships piled up. Instead of participating in summer football camps to grow his name, Elder was playing basketball on the AAU circuit. His best basketball offer came from Murray State, so now he's thinking football first and, maybe, basketball second.
“I'm not really sure,” Elder said, perhaps still holding out hope for that elusive elite basketball scholarship offer. “I've been talking to a lot of schools that said I could play both. That could be an option. Or I could just play one. It just depends on the school.”
This weekend Elder will visit Georgia Tech, one of the schools that has offered him a football scholarship with the potential to play both sports. Vanderbilt and Ole Miss have said he is welcome to give two sports a try. UCLA seems open to the possibility. Recruiters there have said they'd like Elder to talk to Bruins basketball coaches on an upcoming official visit, which Elder said he'll take at a date to be determined.
Another school has also suggested Elder could play both sports in college. It's a school that has certainly caught his attention.
“It's Alabama,” Elder said. “It's a great school, a great tradition. Coach [Nick] Saban is a great coach. It's No. 1 in the country.”
Elder has scholarship offers from most of the schools he's considering. Alabama, however, has yet to extend an official invite. He is hoping for as much when he visits Tuscaloosa on Sept. 29 for the Ole Miss game.
“It would be pretty big,” Elder said of a potential offer. “Just saying that you got offered by the No. 1 team in the country. Coach Saban will probably go down as one of the best coaches in history. It would be a great honor.”
If Elder and Alabama indeed end up together, it would likely signal the direction of Elder's on-field play. At 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, he'd likely move to defensive back, probably cornerback.
Ensworth coach Ricky Bowers believes Elder could easily play both, especially based on his play this season.
“He's much better than he was last year,” Bowers said. “I think the game has slowed down for him even more. He can see better than I think he could last year. I think he's running to score. I don't think he's running to get a few yards, which is usually a good indicator of confidence.”
Physically, Elder would likely be more suited to football if he hadn't been so consumed by basketball. A summer's worth of working out would have surely added mass to his frame. But Bowers isn't worried about that. He thinks basketball has helped his star athlete.
“I fundamentally believe and philosophically believe that kids are better athletes when they compete consistently ... I think that sort of training of competition is critical,” Bowers said. “I think part of the reason he sees so well is because of his basketball experience. He anticipates where the ball is going to go because of basketball.
“I've coached other kids that are equally fast but don't anticipate as well. That's because they're not as well trained as competitors. That comes from playing in the backyard, playing in pickup games, playing basketball and baseball or whatever.”
Sophomore teammate Rico McGraw, who already has nine scholarship offers, knows Elder's strengths well. He has seen them often on the practice field.
“His elusiveness. His speed. He's a great teammate. He's my guy,” McGraw said when asked what makes Elder special. “When the lights are on the brightest, that's when he plays the biggest.”
That has been the case this season. Elder has gained 988 yards and 18 touchdowns in five games. Yet McGraw said there's more to Elder, who has become a leader -- albeit a soft-spoken one.
“I really appreciate playing with Corn ... He helps me on the field and off the field,” McGraw said. “With this recruiting process, he helps me a lot. It's good to have a player like Corn with me in this situation.”
Perhaps Saban will think the same.