Dennis Pillion dubs them “Alabama’s $4 million recruiting class,” an allusion to Nick Saban’s handsome salary.
“Ahhh. That’s more like it.” – The Alabama fan base.
For about 14 months now, Crimson Tide fans have rejoiced in the hiring and arrival of Nick Saban as their head coach as if someone had found a way to reincarnate Bear Bryant. And why not?
After all, this wasn’t just a football program with more money than God buying itself a high-profile football coach. This was restoring order to the universe, righting old wrongs (Auburn winning six straight Iron Bowls, no National Championships for Alabama in 15 years). This was Andy Dufresne escaping from Shawshank Prison, only as the Tide fans stood rejoicing in the downpour with outstretched arms, outsiders were lining up to point and laugh.
And then Wednesday rolled around. Signing Day. Julio Jones day. And around 11:30 a.m. Jones committed to the Tide. At 2 p.m. Gadsden City linebacker Jerrell Harris pulled an Andre Smith and donned a Houndstooth hat at his signing day press conference.
That’s when it started dawning on people how good this class really is. Alabama had long had verbal commitments from stud prospects like Vigor’s Burton Scott, Mountain Brook offensive lineman Tyler Love, Mark Barron of St. Paul’s, Melvin Ray, Courtney Upshaw, Michael Williams. Then came commitments from Star Jackson, Devonta Bolton, Chris Jordan, Donta Hightower, Barrett Jones, Alonzo Lawrence, Mark Ingram, Glenn Harbin. Saban locked up top prospects early and often, as is his habit, and when the last round of blue chippers – Jones, Harris, Marcel Dareus – said they wanted to be part of the class that returned the Crimson Tide to its glory days, the total body of work was outstanding.
It’s not just the few individual talent that makes this class special. The depth is truly overwhelming. Guys like Ray or Upshaw would have been the crown jewels in previous classes, but this year rivals.com gave higher rankings to eight Alabama signees. The Crimson Tide hauled in a ridiculous 19 four-star prospects by rivals. Last year, with only a month on the job, Saban signed 10 four-stars. In the four recruiting classes before that combined, Alabama signed 23 four-star prospects, and that includes guys like Mike Ford, Marcus Udell, and Chris Felder who never enrolled. This year’s class may have to ask players to greyshirt because too many of them are in good shape academically.
Even if you look past the fact that Alabama is bringing in nearly as many four-star and higher players this fall as it has in a four year span from 2002-2006, there are plenty of reasons to be fired up about the future in Tuscaloosa. In addition to being the most talented class Alabama’s had since services like rivals.com and scout.com started tracking such things, the 2008 group is by far the most versatile.
Players like Scott, Williams, Barron, Bolton, Kerry Murphy, and Chris Jordan could contribute just as easily on offense or defense. In fact, we likely won’t know until fall practice where some of these players will line up. Figuring out where to play your freakishly athletic horses is always a better problem than scratching your head wondering who in the world could play outside linebacker for you.
Oh, and just one more thing for the fans of other schools. The fact that Alabama signed so many top-notch prep prospects means that other schools did not. Auburn coaches and fans are busy claiming that the Tigers got who they wanted, that star rankings don’t mean anything, etc. Which I suppose is the only thing a coach or a fanbase can say when they’ve been completely owned. Auburn offered scholarships to 15 players that ended up signing with Alabama. No player offered by Alabama signed with Auburn. Tell me again fans, which school “got the players they wanted?”
But as a whole, teams that sign top classes win a lot more games than teams that don’t, and the 2008 Alabama team will be a whole lot more talented than the 2007 one. The scary part will be if Saban can continue to be as successful at recruiting in future classes as he was in this one. Then the Tide really will be back on top.
It’s about time.
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