Recruiting for Saban a Continuous Process

Twenty to 25 young men will fax paperwork to the football complex at the University of Alabama Wednesday morning to become the signing class of 2007 – Nick Saban's first group of players at The Capstone.

Ranking those kids against other groups around the Southeastern Conference and the country is inevitable, even though everyone knows the difficult task is a highly speculative one, much like picking winning stocks or forecasting the weather.

You will often here people say that they don't put much stock into recruiting rankings or how many stars an athlete has. There are stories every year of four-star flops and two-star diamonds in the rough who emerged out of nowhere to impact their teams. The Birmingham News had a story last year that was extremely complimentary to the recruiting rankings of Scout.com experts.

Alabama's class will not be ranked among the best in either the nation or the conference. Florida, Tennessee, LSU, South Carolina, Auburn, Georgia, Mississippi, Mississippi State and Arkansas were all ranked ahead of Scout.com as of Tuesday night, and the Crimson Tide was ranked 34th in recruiting nationally.

With all else being equal outside the walls of the coaches' staff meeting room, I would say the more stars a prospect has, the better. At the same time, I can guarantee you that Alabama's head coach will not be consumed by expert rankings of his class.

Nick Saban has consistently talked about being process-oriented rather than results-oriented, and that philosophy is never more relevant than this National Signing Day. Saban was asked at his last media gathering how he goes about the process of recruiting in a time compressed situation.

"That's what we've been working on," Saban said. "The process that we've always used in recruiting is we have a system of evaluation. Obviously that system takes time."

There was no clear-cut answer given because no clear-cut process on how to cram 11 months of evaluating your own team needs, evaluating prospective talent and building relationships into one month's time. It doesn't matter how hard one tries.

"We've tried to utilize as much of that as we can and we've made some progress in that area," he said, "but it's difficult to package in a year of recruiting into a one-week period of time to make all those determinations."

The difficulty was that there had to be a shorter-than-normal recruiting board for this new staff due to the time constraints. There wasn't enough time to target the number of prospects Saban will target in the future.

"I think recruiting is about numbers," Saban said. "You're going to have a good recruiting year when you have a strong number of good football players on your board, because you are not going to get them all."

So in addition to looking at the signee list of Alabama and comparing it to the signee list of Tennessee, LSU and Florida, we should also do our best to try to evaluate the process. Saban and his staff probably called ever prospect in the Southeast after they were hired, and got into the hunt on some top caliber athletes, not afraid to ruffle some feathers in the process.

They lured prospects away from other schools, and lost some that had been committed to Alabama before. And the University jet did a whirlwind tour over the past month, stopping at seemingly every airport in the state of Alabama and then branching out (often into Saban's familiar territory of Louisiana) around the Southeast.

Those close to the process seemed to be impressed, and those competing with Saban on the trail seem sufficiently wary of his ability. This recruiting class might not be viewed as a great one by outsiders, but it will be good enough to fight with the four- and five-stars. After all, Tennessee has had a top five recruiting class four out of the last six years with not much to show for it.

Saban's recruiting process has proven effective before, and should pay off for Bama in the future.


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