Saban On Signing Day

What have you done for me lately? Alabama football fans would likely agree that Nick Saban and his new Crimson Tide football staff did pretty well to land a recruiting class of about two dozen. Saban said he was pleased with the new Bama players and gave credit to his staff and others for a job well done. But he suggested that it could get better.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban met with the media mid-afternoon on signing day when Alabama announced a roster of 24 new Crimson Tide football players.

Saban said, "We're very pleased with the players we were able to attract in a short period of time: 30 days, 18 on the road. That speaks volumes for what our staff was able to do." He also gave credit to University President Dr. Robert E. Witt, Athletics Director Mal Moore, members of the faculty and football staff, and to current players for having done an excellent job.

"Everyone contributed to a very condensed version of what a recruiting year will be like," Saban said.

He pointed out that he and his staff had been able to have such a brief relationship with current players that it would be difficult for those players "to know enough about us to be good recruiters for us, but they did an excellent job."

Saban said, "In recruiting, the most important thing is develop relationships. What we were doing this year was developing contacts." He explained that in developing relationships, prospects are given the reasons to choose a college. "In developing contacts," he said, "we were just trying to change their minds.

"We can only improve."

He said, "Some of the work we put in this month will hopefully pay dividends later."

Regarding the difficulty of having so little time to recruit, Saban said that his most difficult recruiting year at LSU had been the first year. And in that year, prior to the 2000 season, he was hired in early December, giving him about a month more than he had at Alabama.

He said, "We were as systematic as it could be under the circumstances. We had three coaches, then five, then seven, then nine, and now we have eight. We spent a tremendous amount of time when we couldn't be on the road making evaluations of our teams needs as well as the players we would try to recruit. Because of all the commitments at that time, it was a little more difficult to get the results we wanted. In recruiting, I think it's numbers. The more you have on your board, the better chance you have to be effective. If you want to get two offensive linemen and you have five on the board your chances are pretty good. If you have only two, the chances aren't as good."

Saban was asked if the considerable commentary on the circumstances of his coming to Alabama and other controversial issues played into recruiting. The coach, who made a wry observation regarding "off the record" comments, said, "In most circles we were received in a positive way. We tried to be positive. We were judged on the full body of work, 30 years, not two weeks and a day."

Saban has been away from the recruiting scene for a couple of years while serving as head coach of the Miami Dolphins. He was glad to be back at it, he said.

"I like recruiting," he said. "I like relationships, I like young people, I have respect for high school coaches. High school coaches make people better, and that's one of the things I like about the profession. I find recruiting enjoyable and invigorating."

As to the new group of Tiders, Saban said, "We're very pleased with the class. It satisfies some needs." He pointed out the need to add "size" and said there were "10 up front players (six defensive linemen and four linebackers), which is an area we had targeted."

Predictably, he said he would not predict which would be most likely to contribute as freshmen.

Saban said, "All these guys have to develop. Some will develop more quickly than others. It's not all about physical ability. It's a tough adjustment when you have been used to having been the star player and getting all the attention in recruiting. Then you come in and you're on the bottom of the totem pole and have to work your way up. Some adjust to that easily and for others it is a tough adjustment. Maturity is a factor. There are a lot of people here to support them. Part of it is how they accept that support.

"How they are ranked and rated kind of speaks for itself. When you buy a puppy dog, you don't know if it's going to grow up to be a good hunting dog or not. Some do and for whatever reason some don't. What they have done so far is the reason for their rating so far. We have to do the things to help them develop for the future."

Asked about potential redshirts in the class, Saban said, "We don't premeditate redshirting anyone. That would be as unfair as saying who is going to start next year. We recruited these guys because they are going to compete and they will have that opportunity. I have no problem playing freshmen. We have played a significant number of freshmen in the past. You hope you don't have to play a guy before he's ready, but sometimes it can't be helped."

Although "Grayshirt" is a relatively recent term and more widespread in the past few years, Saban has been familiar with the practice for many years. He said, "This is my first experience with that. It's a relatively new term. If it's for the development of the player it can be a positive thing. Even as far back as when I was Ohio State we had a player who was hurt in the California all-star game. It was better for him to wait until January to start so he would have five years to play four."

Saban said he and his staff would take a few days off. But there is more work to be done. He said he has some staff work to complete. The players on campus have been lifting weights, but they'll go into the off-season program beginning Monday. The staff will also have to "establish and organize our systems offensively, defensively, and on special teams."

And in the spirit of the day, Saban addressed future recruiting. "I believe you have to recruit every day," he said. "We need to catch up on next year's recruiting. There are schools that had over 50 players visit last weekend…juniors. We've had a few juniors visit and we'll have a junior day in the near future. But we haven't had time for that because we've been so busy getting this class."


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