A mere four days ago, our 2008 recruiting class had just become finalized and the rave reviews were starting to pour in. Now, after the highs and lows of the National Signing Day melodrama have been dampened by time, the class looks no less impressive than it did at first glance. It is simply the best class in the country, and is almost unanimously regarded as such.
I, for one, just simply cannot get over just how good this class is and how much possibility stands before it. The research has been done in the past, and the fact of the matter is that there is a very high correlation between current recruiting success and future wins, so it is extremely attractive in the regard that both Scout.com and Rivals, Inc. rated it as the number one class in the country. But even if you don't believe in recruiting rankings, there is simply nothing not to like about this class. We signed an incredible amount of good football players; nearly every single prospect we signed was hotly pursued by all of the nation's top programs. And most of them can actually play several positions, thus giving us flexibility. Moreover, most are big and agile, yet they generally display great overall speed. Further, unlike many classes under Dubose and Shula, there seems to be the potential for very few academic casualties, and far from there being a lot of character cases, the prospects that we have collected carry themselves quite well and generally have very long reputations as hard workers. There is simply nothing to not like about this class. I firmly believe that is the best class we have garnered at Alabama since 1991, the class that ushered in the likes of David Palmer, Sherman Williams, Sam Shade, Curtis Brown, Kareem McNeal, Jon Stevenson, Andre Royal, and others.
The credit for this recruiting boom, short and simple, must go directly to Nick Saban and the staff that he has assembled in Tuscaloosa. Saban has a long history of an uncanny recruiting prowess -- four of the five classes he signed at LSU were consensus national top three classes --
and I expected him to do well at Alabama, but I would have never in my wildest dreams expected this kind of success this soon. Once you look at the numbers, what he was able to do was simply nothing short of amazing. Prior to this season, we had never finished higher than 15th in the Scout.com team rankings, and never higher than 10th in the Rivals, Inc. team rankings. In a mere twelve months, Saban somehow catapulted as to the number one recruiting class in the country according to both measures, and what is more is that we were number one by a landslide. Delving further, consider this: In the six year stretch from 2002-2007, we signed a grand total of 22 players that were rated as four stars or higher by Scout.com, but we signed 20 players that were rated as four stars or higher this year alone. That one statistic alone tells the tale.
Even when you look at things in a much more qualitative sense, what Saban did with this class is truly unbelievable. Literally, we signed almost every player that we went after, and I say that in all seriousness. A handful got away -- Tyler Edwards, Robert Quinn, and T.J. Bryant were the main ones -- but as a whole we literally inked essentially every player that we put on the full-court press. Moreover, we needed to re-assert ourselves in Mobile, a traditionally Alabama-bound bastion of athletic talent that has unfortunately held no luck for the Tide in recent years. I expected Saban to slowly make in-roads into the city before fully turning it back into a 'Bama town, but he did that in a matter of months. We got all of the top talent out of Mobile, and those other schools that had raided it so well the past few years were left out in the cold. LSU, the same school that snatched away the likes of JaMarcus Russell and Corey Webster, did not land a single prospect out of the greater Mobile area this season. Julio Jones from Foley was arguably the best player in the nation, and they couldn't even get him to visit Baton Rouge. Several other top prospects, like Vigor's Burton Scott, or the highly talented group from St. Paul's, never had anything more than a mild passing interest in the Bayou Bengals. In a mere matter of months, nearly a decade of the Mobile blues were erased and our dominance in the area was re-asserted.
And as for Auburn, well... it will take another column completely devoted to that subject alone in order to fully open that can of worms.
Keep in mind, now, no one should be deluding themselves about our current situation. We were not very good last year, and we are most likely not going to be all of that great next year. Yes, we have a ton of supremely talented players coming in, but even great freshmen are nevertheless still just freshmen. We still have a lot of glaring weaknesses, and this one recruiting class will have trouble filling many of those weaknesses in the interim. However, we should all take note that this type of high-level recruiting is going to be the norm as long as the Nicktator resides in Tuscaloosa, and that is what we should ultimately be taken away from this National Signing Day. Our problems will not go away overnight, but recruiting prep talent at this level is the lifeblood of a successful program, and if we can continue doing this our return to the national scene is very near.