Stuart McNair

Despite distractions like national championship game, Alabama coaches gather stars

Alabama follows 2015 national football championship with being credited by Scout as having nation’s best 2016 football recruiting class

One wonders how Alabama managed to have the nation’s number one football recruiting class…again. After all, as Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban explained, the Bama coaching staff had to get its recruiting work done around extra games that a lot of teams didn’t have.


There was Alabama having to take an extra week to go to Atlanta and defeat Florida to win the Southeastern Conference championship. Then Bama had to go to Dallas to stomp Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl, thus earning a spot in the College football Playoff. Then it was off to Arizona to earn the National Championship with a win over Clemson.


Alabama didn’t sign one prospect from Glendale, Ariz., in spite of having that presence in the desert.


But Alabama – with 17 signees on Wednesday, Signing Day, to go with eight previously enrolled at Alabama – cobbled together another outstanding recruiting class, best in the nation by a wide margin as it turned out. (Those eight early enrollees took part in four days of practice as Alabama prepared for the College Football Playoff Championship Game.)


Saban didn’t dwell too long on the hardship of him and his staff having to work around those championship events. “It’s an honor to do all those things and play the national championship, the SEC championship, the playoff game, but it certainly pushed our coaches to do the great job that they did to try to put together a really solid recruiting class,” Saban said. “I’m really pleased with the hard work that they did.”


That hard work paid off in a class of five- and four-star prospects that ranked as the nation’s best.


Saban said, "I think this class reflects some of the needs that we have. I'm really pleased that we got five quality offensive linemen in this class.”


They are junior college transfer Charles Baldwin and prep stars Deonte Brown, Scott Lashley, Chris Owens, and Jonah Williams).


“I think we got two good runners, which certainly we need,” Saban said. They are B.J. Emmons, one of the nation’s most highly-rated, and Joshua Jacobs, who was a late recruiting battle between Alabama and Oklahoma. Saban pointed out that Bama has two young players with little experience returning at running back in Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris.


Saban has always liked to have several tight ends in his recruiting classes, and he got two in Miller Forristall and and Irvin Smith.


Saban also said he is “really pleased with the quarterback prospect we have; we saw him in four days of practice. Jalen Hurts.


"We would have liked to have added another receiver to this group. That was our goal. Sometimes you don't meet your goal in terms of numbers, but we were certainly pleased with the two players (Trevon Diggs and T.J. Simmons) we were able to get at that position.


"Defensively, I think we got a great group of linebackers (Ben Davis, the nation’s number one inside linebacker; Lyndell “Mack” Wilson, the No. 1 outside linebacker; Christian Bell, Terrell Hall, and Shawn Jennings).”

In the secondary he added Shyheim Carter, Jared Mayden, and Aaron Robinson, who he called “really good cover people.”


Finally, he said, “We got some really good down guys with some really good size.” They are Raekwon Davis, Kendell Jones, Jamar King, and Quinnen Williams.


It should come as no great surprise that Saban, with all his recruiting riches, added that in addition to another wide receiver, “We would have liked to have added a defensive end, edge rusher type of guy to that group, but again, you don't get everything that you want all the time. We're really pleased with the players that we got.”


Saban professes to be unimpressed with Scout’s coronation of the Crimson Tide having the nation’s best recruiting class.


He said, "I always seem to answer questions about rankings and ratings and I say this every year: Every coach stands up and says 'We got the players we wanted and the players we needed, we had a great recruiting class,' all that kind of stuff, but I think it's more important that we get players who are committed to doing the things that they need to do to develop in your program and to grow and develop in your program, personally, academically, and athletically. Because these guys have never played college football before, and that's something that they're going to have to grow and develop into. 


"I think it's a much better barometer to look back a year from now, or look back at last year's class that happened a year ago.


“How did they develop, how many guys played, where did they contribute, and those type of things. Even when you do that... like last year. We had about a dozen guys play. We had three guys you could really call starters, some guys that had pretty significant roles on the team, and then the other dozen guys got redshirted. So even in that group, there are a lot of good players that are going to develop into outstanding players at The University of Alabama. Until it's all said and done, until these guys all grow and develop, you really don't know what kind of class you have. It's everybody's guestimate at this point as to what kind of class we really have.


“We're excited about them. We're pleased with them. But you know, you can't make predictions about these type of things. We obviously evaluate guys that we think are what we want, that have the qualities that we want, and we certainly look forward to trying to help them develop in every way so they can be more successful and have a successful college career here.”


In addition to his coaching staff, Saban thanked others. He said, "There are a lot of people in the university community who really contribute to building the team that we have and spend a lot of time helping develop relationships with these young people when they're here visiting. It starts with our administration, (Chancellor and former President) Dr. Robert Witt has always chipped in and helped us whenever we needed. Dr. (Stuart) Bell spoke every weekend at every recruiting weekend we had. (Athletics Director) Bill Battle was always there to speak and support, Jeremy Castille, who is kind of the team chaplain for us, always does a great job. (Academics Counselor) Jon Dever. Lots of people and professors in the university community come over every Saturday and do academic interviews with these people every Saturday, A-Day. Our fans, who create a tremendous atmosphere for all of these guys and see the kind of spirit and passion that we have at The University of Alabama. We certainly appreciate it. I think it reflects in a positive way on the great team of people that we have here at Alabama that really tries to create opportunities for young people to be more successful in life. That's sort of the goal of our program.”

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