Signing day came and went without Alabama ever being threatened to fall from its place atop the college football recruiting pecking order. Coach Nick Saban and his staff in Tuscaloosa received national letters of intent from 19 players on Wednesday, not including eight early enrollees who arrived on campus in January. The Crimson Tide’s 27-man signing class marks the third consecutive year in which it finished No. 1 in the ESPN Class Rankings.
All told, Alabama signed a college football best 19 ESPN 300 athletes, the most since Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa in 2007. His first recruiting class finished a lackluster 17th nationally, according to ESPN. But given a full calendar year to crisscross the recruiting trail, Saban and his staff thrived. From 2008 on, Alabama never failed to finish lower than third in the ESPN Class Rankings, becoming the only program in the country to do so.
“I’ve never heard anybody say they’ve had a bad class,” Saban said. “I’ve never heard anybody say they haven’t identified their needs.
“So I’m going to say the same thing: We had a good class and we sort of identified our needs.”
Alabama entered Wednesday with 18 signed recruits from the ESPN 300, including five of the top 15 — offensive lineman Cameron Robinson (West Monroe High, La.), defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va.), cornerback Tony Brown (Ozen, Texas), athlete Bo Scarbrough (Tuscaloosa County, Ala.) and cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala.).
“I think the way recruiting is set up now is guys make decisions early, which is helpful,” Saban said. “Most of the guys know what they’re going to do today, which is also helpful to us — being able to manage the numbers and get the best players.”
The Crimson Tide won a local recruiting battle Wednesday with the signing of Auburn native Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala.), the No. 52 overall recruit and second-ranked outside linebacker. Auburn was one of the other finalists to land Evans.
“When I was up there at the podium, I was thinking, ‘Man, maybe I should go to Auburn,’ ” Evans told ESPN.com. “But then I really thought about it, and Alabama was the best place for me.”
The SEC once again dominated the recruiting landscape with seven of its member programs occupying the top 10 classes in the country, including three of the top four overall. LSU, which signed the No. 1 overall prospect Leonard Fournette (St. Augustine, La.) and the No. 1 wide receiver Malachi Dupre (John Curtis Christian, La.), finished second to Alabama. Texas A&M finished fourth behind national champion Florida State of the ACC.
Saban’s haul of prospects in Tuscaloosa was by far the most impressive, however. Of the 15 five-star recruits, the Tide signed five. Of the top four recruits in the state of Alabama, the Tide signed three. Fourteen of Alabama’s signees ranked among the top five prospects at their position nationally.
“I can’t really comment much about the rankings, guys,” Saban said, “because I really do think the most accurate way to be able to rank any recruiting class would be three years down the road because I think the challenge for all these young men that got recruited today, wherever they’re going, is to be able to stay focused on what they need to do to improve as players and do the things that they need to do to become very effective college football players, and it is a challenge to go from high school to college.”
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