Lose Trent Richardson, Dont'a Hightower, Dre Kirkpatrick and Mark Barron to the NFL? No worries. In come the reinforcements. While lofty recruiting rankings don't guarantee future success, they're a pretty good indicator when it comes to Saban's teams. All four aforementioned Alabama players were four- or five-star prospects in Saban's top-rated 2008 and '09 classes. So, too, were 2011 NFL rookies Julio Jones and Mark Ingram, and returning stalwarts Barrett Jones and Robert Lester. So sit back and watch over the next two to three years as several of Saban's 2012 crown jewels -- defensive back Landon Collins, running back T.J. Yeldon, athlete Eddie Williams and others -- work their way into the rotation, gain the necessary experience and eventually become the cornerstones of another title contender, just like their predecessors. Detractors can't even break out the oversigning complaint this year because new SEC rules reigned in Saban. "Alabama has become the gold standard in terms of dream schools for kids," said Rivals.com National Analyst Mike Farrell. "It used to be Florida, or USC before that. But when we ask [class of] 2013 kids what's your dream offer, the answer is usually Alabama."
"Alabama wins with defense and a strong running game, so it's no surprise the Tide has beefed up on the defensive side and added two excellent tailbacks," Rivals.com Southeast analyst Keith Niebuhr said. "Alabama did particularly well at linebacker, where all five commits are four-star players, and each will bring a unique skill set to Tuscaloosa. "Up front, the Tide added to a solid group by landing two four-star defensive tackles. The offense scored big with five-star tailback T.J. Yeldon, one of the most athletic players in the class, and Kenyan Drake, a true speedster. "The Tide also did extremely well at receiver and defensive back. Collins is the headliner. All in all, this is another stellar Tide class, which is what we've come to expect."
Saban said there were virtually no surprises, unlike a year ago. He admitted there were challenges with the SEC's new 25-man cap on signees; Saban said 26 players signed with one back-counted toward the 2011 class. "We couldn't send out a lot of scholarships on a maybe because if too many guys decided to come here we would have gotten penalized," Saban said. "It worked out well from that standpoint the fact we had a lot of guys commit to us a long time ago. To stick with those commitments was also a positive thing for us in terms of our management in recruiting this year."
Before the ink could dry on the University of Alabama's 2012 signing class, coach Nick Saban already was thinking about the future. Thursday, the hunt begins for the class of 2013, but Wednesday was all about welcoming a new group of players into the Alabama program. By the time the sun rose on signing day, Saban had his entire commitment board filled out. The rest of the day was spent watching the plan unfold. "We knew exactly pretty much what we were going to get," Saban said when he addressed the media Wednesday afternoon. "We didn't have any surprises. All of those things shook out in the last 24 hours."
On Feb. 1, this recruiting class resembles Alabama's star-studded class in 2008 -- Saban's first at Alabama -- that brought the likes of Mark Ingram, Don't'a Hightower, Julio Jones, Marcel Dareus and Mark Barron to Tuscaloosa. That group was the foundation that led to two national titles in the past three seasons. Can this group have as much success? "I say this every year, recruiting is not an exact science," Saban said. "No one knows how these players will develop in the future." True, but this year's class still will be expected to produce similar results. Taylor said that's not added pressure, it's just the reality of playing at Alabama. "We expect to come in and work hard," Taylor said. "We expect to go in compete and play harder and out-physical anyone. We expect to play Alabama football. It's up to us to live up to those expectations.
The Crimson Tide addressed their greatest needs, filling holes at defensive back and wide receiver. Alabama struggled to replace Julio Jones in 2011, with no player catching more than 56 passes or four touchdowns last season. Next year, they'll face a similar problem when they have to again replace their top receiver, Marquis Maze. But this year they signed four 4-star or 5-star athlete/wide receivers, the most of any school in the nation, adding options for AJ McCarron on offense. McCarron improved throwing downfield last year, completing nearly 56 percent of his attempts of more than 15 yards in Alabama’s final six games (nearly 41 percent in team’s first seven games), and should have more chances to go vertical in 2012 with a deeper receiving corps. Alabama also signed the top safety and No. 2 cornerback of the 2012 class to help replace three secondary starters in Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron and DeQuan Menzie. Alabama had a historically stingy secondary in 2011, allowing the same number of completions (seven) as they made interceptions on passes of 20 or more yards. Recruits Landon Collins and Geno Smith should fill in nicely for the Alabama backs that graduate or enter the draft.
After helping the Crimson Tide land yet another highly-touted recruiting class, Alabama assistant coach Jeremy Pruitt has been named the Recruiter of the Year by recruiting service 247Sports, al.com has learned. In a statement to 247Sports, Pruitt thanked his fellow coaches at Alabama for helping him pull in a number of the Tide's top signees in 2012. "This recognition should really go to our entire staff and to the University of Alabama," Pruitt said. "I appreciate it, but I think you can look back at the last four or five classes here to know that I just have a small part in the recruiting process. When you are at a place like Alabama with our history and tradition, and you combine the fact that your head coach is the best in the country, high school players are excited to have a chance to play for the Crimson Tide."
"I knew I wasn’t going to Alabama when I met with Coach Saban at my high school a couple of weeks ago," Taylor said. "When Coach Saban came down, I just had this feeling in my heart. I prayed about it and God told me … and I know this sounds kind of crazy … but God told me that Alabama was not the place for me." Taylor ended up picking Kentucky instead of Ole Miss after a whirlwind courtship within the last few days. North Atlanta coach Stanley Pritchett, who is also Taylor’s guardian and a former SEC and NFL running back, was in favor of signing on Wednesday rather than waiting on Alabama’s promises for next year. "We trusted the coaches at Kentucky," Pritchett said. "We felt comfortable with them, and they promised to take care of Justin. I think everything turned out well, ultimately. I wanted him to go to college right now because when you’re the first person in your family to graduate from high school, you don’t need to be sitting out. You never know what might happen in December or next year at Alabama. "I wanted Justin to go ahead and get started in college, and I’ve always told him that. But I was going to support him with whatever decision he wanted to make."
Go back and take a look at the top classes of 2008. There are a lot of hyperlinked names that won’t ring a bell, even among the teams that are playing well. Alabama may have won the BCS Championship, but the three players highlighted are wide receiver Julio Jones, who played like a five-star player, offensive lineman Tyler Love, who played in two games last year, and athlete Burton Scott, who transferred to South Alabama.
"My brother played free safety at the University of Akron, and due to him getting shot, his career was ended. He's living through me right now," Travell Dixon said. Travell hadn't played a down of football at Miami Norland High entering his senior year there, and only played at the behest of Yamari. Because he played for only one year, he had no scholarship offers from Division-I schools despite leading the Dade County area in interceptions with seven in his only prep season. "He knew how good I could be. Growing up as a child, going back to pre-school, they would ask what I wanted to do when I grew up and I told them a firefighter," Dixon said. "He told me, 'Don't tell them that. Tell them a football player.'" Dixon said his brother was shot in the abdomen while celebrating in Cleveland what was expected to be the next step in his football career - the Canadian Football League. "Wrong timing," Dixon said. "Got shot, and was paralyzed for three months. He's living through me now. It happened three years ago. Now he's better - he's walking, he can run, and we train together. We do a lot of things together now. It's a testimony story. ... (The bullet) went somehow, in and out, but by the grace of God he's here."
What happened this season basically boils down to this: Alabama was attracting quality recruits the way Jed Clampett attracted oil in the final weeks of recruiting, and at the end it had strong reason to believe (quite probably meaning non-publicized commitments) it could add two highly-rated out-of-state defensive linemen. Under the old rules, Alabama would probably have signed them, along with Justin Taylor and Darius Philon, and had 28 names Wednesday rather than 26. That wasn't an option this season because of the new SEC rule. So those players were given an option, prior to National Signing Day, to grayshirt and defer enrollment. Ultimately, both chose not to do so, and signed with other programs in the SEC. Taylor, an Atlanta running back, signed with Kentucky and Philon, a defensive lineman from the Mobile area, signed with Arkansas, thus joining others who have made the trek from Alabama to Fayetteville recently. If you view the SEC rule in one way, that's a successful result. The kids got the chance to choose the bird - or the scholarship - in hand. Two of the teams trying to catch Alabama in the SEC race added good players. That was, to some degree, the intent. If you're Nick Saban, you look at it differently. Players who wanted to come to Alabama didn't get the chance to do so. That, in Saban's mind, is unfair, not so much to Alabama as to the player. "We actually took away an opportunity to sign with Alabama for a couple of young men," Saban said. "We couldn't sign them. I don't see how that's good for the league."
Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Illinois confirmed to ESPN.com that they have given out four-year scholarships to this class. Ohio State and Nebraska also confirmed on signing day that they are giving out scholarships that no longer have to be renewed annually. Purdue, Indiana and Minnesota are still awarding one-year renewable grants. "We went and made them four-year scholarships and we'll see where that all goes with the NCAA and some addendums with how you'd lose a scholarship," Michigan coach Brady Hoke said. "Obviously you quit football, you're not going to be on scholarship."
In the spring of 1996, Gators coaches tried to salvage the quarterback who had arrived in 1995 as one of the most hyped recruits in Florida history. Sabelhaus' play at the McDonogh School in suburban Baltimore had convinced recruiting analysts that the 6-foot-6, 225-pounder was one of the top high school quarterbacks in the nation. Recruiting publications in 1994 and 1995 frequently listed Sabelhaus above future NFL quarterback Brock Huard and above a 6-4, 215-pounder from San Mateo, Calif., named Tom Brady. Sabelhaus was a Parade All-American. When he signed with Florida in February 1995, Sabelhaus seemed the obvious heir apparent to Danny Wuerffel. As the 1996 spring game approached, Sabelhaus needed help. Florida coach Steve Spurrier had spent months trying to alter Sabelhaus' sidearm delivery. The experiment was a disaster. Sabelhaus' personality was a poor match for Spurrier's needling coaching style. By that point in spring practice, Sabelhaus worried so much about throwing a spiral that he couldn't concentrate on which receivers ran which routes. Hypnotism felt like the last-ditch effort it was. Sabelhaus recalls the person doing the hypnotizing was a student. Sabelhaus never fell into a trance, but he faked his way through one to make his hypnotist feel better.
James Franklin got an iPhone for Christmas. Eventually, the Vanderbilt football coach will migrate everything from his old BlackBerry to the new phone, but for now, both phones dangle from clips on his belt and buzz constantly. "My wife makes fun of me," Franklin said. "Even if I'm in my boxers, I have both of them hanging off the waistband." He has to. A recruit might call, and that call might come during a period in which NCAA rules forbid Franklin from calling back. So Franklin clips the phones to his skivvies, and he rarely misses a call. He can't afford to. At Vanderbilt, which has been to five bowl games in 122 years of football, Franklin must work harder than his fellow SEC coaches to lure recruits who can not only handle the prestigious school's rigorous curriculum but also play well enough to lift Vanderbilt -- which won four games in two seasons before Franklin won six in 2011 -- from its usual spot as the SEC's Signing Day cellar-dweller.
For me, skipping the Senior Bowl wasn't even an option. Some people were telling me that I was already a projected first-rounder and didn't have anything to gain, but I didn't see it like that. I wanted to get back out on the field; I wanted to play one last game with four of my Alabama teammates; I wanted to further prove myself to NFL scouts.
Alabama junior outfielder Kayla Braud (Eugene, Ore.) and sophomore utility player Jackie Traina (Naples, Fla.) have been selected for the "Watch List" for the 2012 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America announced Wednesday. Now in its 11th year, the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award, given by the National Governing Body for softball in the United States, is designed to recognize outstanding athletic achievement by female collegiate softball players across the country.
Trustees at the University of Alabama are considering a plan to improve cell phone service inside Bryant-Denny Stadium during football games. School officials have reached an agreement with Verizon Wireless and AT&T to install 715 cellular antennas inside the stadium.