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The recruiting folks at ESPNU have their latest class rankings out, and Alabama and Florida are both in the top 5. The Crimson Tide are No. 3 and the Gators No. 4. Florida State, which beat out Alabama and LSU for top quarterback prospect Jameis Winston on Wednesday, sits atop ESPNU's latest rankings. LSU (No. 9) and Auburn (No. 10) also cracked the top 10, and South Carolina (No. 15) gives the SEC five teams in the top 15.
"Everything you've done all winter, all spring, all summer, fall camp is kind of the examination for the kind of commitment, the kind of attitude, the kind of preparation that you've made for the season," Saban said. "We're certainly looking forward to working with our players now in this camp to try to develop each and every one of them individually and collectively into the best possible team that we can have."
Crimson Tide football players reported Thursday afternoon, but Saban and his wife Terry were celebrating something far more important. They hosted their annual Nick's Kids luncheon where they distribute money collected from their foundation to help various charities and organizations. Since Saban was hired in 2007, Nick's Kids has distributed more than $2 million to more than 150 groups. "This is an emotional day for me," Saban said. "This is the thing I look forward to the most. It is part of a legacy that my family and my father tried to start back in West Virginia where no man stands as tall as when he stoops to help a child. My mother said, 'If you are ever going to do anything, continue your father's legacy of trying to help young people.' I never in my wildest dreams thought we would have the support and resources to do what we have been able to do in the last few years in Alabama."
As for the non-football part of his life, Jones has been honored for academic achievement and community service. In 2010, he didn’t take the normal college spring break vacation. Instead, he went to Haiti to help victims of the devastating earthquake. "We have problems day-to-day and week-to-week in our lives," Jones told Izzy Gould of the Tuscaloosa News bureau. "We make such a big deal about them and we think they’re so extreme. You go over there and you literally see somebody who has nothing and lives under a tin roof and a mud hut, and you think how fortunate you are to come home and have food." The experience so touched Jones that he returned to Haiti during this past spring break.
1. Alabama - This group was criticized for its play at times last year, but the Tide’s offensive line should be a strength this season. Guard Barrett Jones and center William Vlachos are 2011 Athlon Sports preseason All-Americans, while Chance Warmack and D.J. Fluker return as starters. Jones worked at left tackle during the spring after two excellent years at right guard. The question is whether the team feels better with sophomore Anthony Steen at right guard or senior Alfred McCullough at left tackle. The Tide will need a more cohesive performance after a 2010 season that saw them rank 88th nationally in sacks allowed.
Amazingly, after nearly four decades in the coaching profession, the nomadic Saban has never spent more than five consecutive years with the same team. Alabama is the 13th stop for Saban since his coaching career began in 1973, including two stints at Michigan State as an assistant and then as the head coach. During his journeys, he left after his fourth season on two occasions and departed after the fifth season three times. Next year would be season No. 6 at Alabama for Saban.