Alabama Signs Another #1 Ranked Recruiting Class Under Nick Saban
Death, taxes, and Nick Saban signing the best recruiting class in college football. Those seem to be the three certainties in life as Nick Saban begins his eighth season as head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide.
The 2014 National Signing Day lacked drama as it concerns the top spot in the rankings. Alabama locked up a number one recruiting class weeks ago and has continued to pad its cushion over the closest competitor, which for a while was Ohio State.
But that’s becoming the standard every February.
When Signing Day comes to a close on Wednesday night, Saban will have inked his fourth-straight #1 class and his sixth in seven years, according to the Rivals team rankings. What he’s been able to accomplish in Tuscaloosa has blown away all of his peers or predecessors in the modern era of recruiting (which I’d consider tightened NCAA scholarship limits and the explosion of 24-hour recruiting coverage).
You have to put his success into perspective to fully appreciate what’s happening at Alabama. Let’s do that by simply looking at the five years prior to Saban’s arrival to a fan-filled tarmac in December of 2006, since that’s as deep as the Rivals’ archives reach.
Pre-Nick Saban Alabama
From 2002-2006, Alabama’s finished recruiting ranked 30th, 49th, 24th, 18th, and 11th, in that order. Granted, those five years included three coaches and program-threatening NCAA sanctions, but anything inside the top 15 would have called for a celebration.
Since recruiting is considered the lifeblood of college football, Alabama had clearly hit rock bottom on Signing Day 2003. One month after an upset loss to Auburn and a shocking departure to Texas A&M by Dennis Franchione, newly-hired Mike Price would spend the first month of his four-month tenure trying to hold together a recruiting class.
When the dust had settled, Alabama had signed a 17-player recruiting class, which included as many 2-star recruits (4) as it did 4-stars (4). That 49th-ranked class finished behind football powerhouses Rutgers, Kansas, and San Diego State.
This isn’t to say those players weren’t worthy of wearing the Alabama jersey. In fact, it’s probably the exact opposite. The guys in that ’03 class probably believed in the University more than most people during that tumultuous era. But the days of digging and scraping for that type of player have passed.
Mike Shula had the most success on the recruiting trail during that five-year period, culminating with the 11th-ranked class and two 5-star players in 2006.
Alabama Recruiting Since 2007
Saban’s first class at Alabama will easily go down as his worst, but he still managed to land the 10th best class in the nation despite spending two seasons out of college football and only having seven weeks to convince players Alabama was returning to prominence.
Since that first class in 2007, Saban has signed as many 5-star players (3) in each class as the school signed from 2002-2006 combined. The only exception to that came in 2010 when the Crimson Tide’s only 5-star was Dee Milliner. All of a sudden, ‘down years’ were judged by 5-stars instead of 2-stars.
This year’s recruiting class boasts five 5-star players that come from four different states. That national reach becomes even more incredible when you consider that 15 total states are represented in the entire 2014 class.
In eight years under Saban, the Alabama brand has transformed from little reach beyond the South to one that commands respect in all corners of the country. That trend will eventually come to end, as all dynasties do, but take one look at who’s committed in the 2015 class – one that Saban and his staff haven’t completely started to focus on – and you’ll realize that the end isn’t near.
In an era of college football defined by change from conference realignment to playoffs to evolving NCAA rules, there’s one thing you can hang your straw hat on: we’ll be having the same conversation next February.