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The Morning After: National Signing Day 2010

With the ink fully dried and National Signing Day 2010 relegated to the history books, we can begin to make some preliminary observations on the recruiting landscape. With that in mind, I offer a few thoughts in the immediate aftermath of signing day:

To begin with, the quality of this class should be apparent from the outset. No it was not ranked number one like the previous two classes were, but even so it's hard to meaningfully distinguish the quality of this class from the previous two. Simply put, we followed up back-to-back number one recruiting classes with a consensus top five recruiting class... life is grand, eh? And for those a bit "disappointed" at our class, well, I would say that you've lost your mind, but that would wrongly assume that you had a functioning brain to begin with, now wouldn't it?.

Objectively speaking, if you were given the ability to design a recruiting class from top-to-bottom, exactly what would you want? Well, to begin with, you would want a lot of highly-talented players, and then to make matters better you would also want to fill all of your position needs. Moreover, you would like to have a class full of players that have generally displayed good character off the field and sound academic performance in the classroom. And with all of that established as an objective baseline, clearly our recruiting class fits that bill to a tee.

Admittedly there were a few disappointments in the past week, but frankly there was nothing that should have any lingering effects for the Tide. It was painful to see such an incredibly talented player like Keenan Allen go, particular in the manner that he did, but to be frank the more we found out about Allen and his situation, quite frankly the more relieved we all should have been (and I was) to see him go elsewhere. While disappointing in the short term, in the grand scheme of things it was probably good for us that the 737 carrying him did not land at Tuscaloosa Regional. Likewise, adding someone like James Stone or Shon Coleman would have certainly been nice on National Signing Day, but we are clearly already loaded on the offensive line -- with more top-end players on the way in 2011 -- and losing them doesn't have any material impact on us moving forward one way or the other. They both had legitimate reasons for bypassing Tuscaloosa, and in both cases you could make a defensible argument that they likely made the smart decision given what they hope to achieve in their collegiate careers. In any event, again, while there were a few disappointments, nothing that happened over the course of the past week should have any real, negative impact on the Tide moving forward.

Relatively minor disappointments notwithstanding, this class on the whole largely presents nothing but positive news for Alabama. Consider the following:

  • For the third year in a row, Alabama continued to have an effective lock on in-state recruiting, despite the fact that under the leadership of Gene Chizik our in-state rivals experienced an undeniable resurgence on the recruiting trails. Despite increased successes, however, Alabama largely fended off the attacks from Auburn. With the exceptions of LaDarius Owens (an Auburn legacy) and Craig Sanders (a player who only ended up at Auburn because of a concern over whether or not he'd ever get on the field at Alabama), we signed every other in-state player that we offered, including a player out of Opelika. And this was done even though Auburn generally had much more playing time readily available to incoming freshmen.
  • Continuing a very positive recent trend, the size of our recruiting base continued to expand. Traditionally Alabama has focused almost all its recruiting efforts on the state of Alabama and our border states, but under Nick Saban we have seen an expansion of that base. For the second year in a row, we took a top player out of the state of South Carolina, and we also took a top player out of the state of North Carolina. The state of Texas yielded us three players, we took a top player from the state of Maryland, and we nabbed arguably the top quarterback recruit in the country out of the state of Virginia. It should be recognized that all of these players -- Sims, Fulton, Kouandijo, Hill, Lindsay, White, etc. -- are players that traditionally we would never get (or that would ever even consider us), but with the continued expansion of the recruiting base under Saban, many more players are now available to us than ever before.
  • We came into this class with four need areas: defensive back, wide receiver, kicker, and punter, and we filled all of them and then some. The lack of quality cornerback recruiting was the dirty little secret of Saban's recruiting to date at Alabama, but that was completely changed this year with Alabama signing three very talented cornerbacks, and arguably the top defensive back class in the country. Likewise, we signed two of the nation's top kickers and punters -- plus garnered another good placekicker prospect in the form of an invited walk-on -- and the haul at receiver was highly impressive. Simply put, in terms of filling needs, this class filled them all. 
  • Taking advantage of a trend, we took full advantage of early enrollees. We have, by my count, eleven players already on campus, many of which came very highly-touted. While it may have made for a boring signing day, in terms of helping win football games, the effect of those early enrollees cannot be overstated. Just think... instead of holding press conferences and playing hat tricks, our guys were making pizzas this morning with Scott Cochran... now who is in the better position to contribute in 2010? Simply put, our early enrollees are in an immeasurably better position to contribute to our team in 2010 because of their early arrival, something that is particularly important when you consider that we will likely need some of them to perform right away (see Milliner).

Simply put, this recruiting class should clearly be considered yet another success under Nick Saban. Unlike what we experienced in the aftermath of our last national championship in 1992, recruiting did not take a nosedive in the weeks after. We continue to recruit at an elite level, and we will reap the benefits of that recruiting success for years to come. This recruiting class does wonders to establish the permanence of our current standing.

In the years to come, expect more of the same that we saw this year. As a general rule for the next few years, we will bring in relatively small classes -- likely a good bit smaller than what we have seen 2008-2010 -- but they will feature loads of high-end players. As scarce of a commodity as a firm Alabama offer has been the past three years, it will only be even more scarce in the years to come. Simply put, you're going to have to be one hell of a prospect if you legitimately expect to land a commitable offer from the Tide.

And to close, of course, the recruiting cycle never really ends. Hell, it does not even take a break. Our staff has spent the overwhelming majority of its recruiting time the past several weeks focusing on the 2011 class, and the benefits are already showing. We already have commitments from two players who look to be among the state's (and the nation's) best in Marvin Shinn and Brent Calloway, and we will add two more in the next ten days with commitments from Spencer Region and Reese Dismukes. Moreover, the younger brother of Arie Kouandjio, Cyrus Kouandjio, could arguably be the top recruit in the country next year, and it's no real secret as to where he will be headed. Demarcus Milliner's younger brother Pat looks to get a spot as well. Assuredly more will follow.

Again, the recruiting cycle never really ends, there isn't even a temporary pause... you merely change the names and continue fighting a continuous battle. Fortunately for Alabama, however, there also seems to be no end in sight for our success on the recruiting trails.