National Signing Day goes swimmingly for Alabama

National Signing Day goes swimmingly for Alabama
February 6, 2014, 11:00 am
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Barring one surprise, Alabama had a mostly uneventful National Signing Day. All of the players who committed eventually signed and faxed in their National Letter of Intent. Just another boring day in Tuscaloosa, where a phenomenal recruiting class was assembled.

Sometimes the Crimson Tide make it look too easy.

The recruiting class that Alabama head coach Nick Saban and his coaching staff assembled finished ranked No. 1 in every major poll including 247, Rivals, ESPN, you name it. Alabama got the top-ranked class for the fourth year in a row, and it has been ranked first for months. The class has six five-star recruits, 17 four-stars, with 16 players in the Top 247 recruits. Many of these signees are No. 1 in their respective state or position like Marlon Humphrey, or No. 1 in the country like Cam Robinson was at one point and Da'Shawn Hand was on Rivals.

Appearing in his first official press conference since the Sugar Bowl loss to Oklahoma on Jan. 1, Saban had accomplished his goals. The man in the crimson blazer seemed relaxed today, smiling and joking with the media, his on-again, off-again crush. For the first time in two years, Alabama isn't defending a title, and while the pressure to win is still massive, there is a feeling of a new start from Saban.

AJ McCarron and C.J. Mosley are gone, Lane Kiffin is on the staff, and a gaggle of talented high-schoolers are about to arrive. And for once, he didn't look ahead to next year's recruiting class; he was satisfied with the day's results.

"This day is the accumulation of a lot of hard work and a lot of time spent by a bunch of people," Saban said. "We recruit as a team here and we're very pleased with the character and quality of the people that we're able to attract here."

With the 19 signees putting pen to paper today, eight players have already been on campus, working and getting conditioned by the coaching staff. The early enrollees made a sacrifice to skip the second half of their senior year in high school to join Alabama early, but the majority of them said it will pay off in the long run. This trend of early enrollment allows Saban to lock down these recruits, while also providing a general idea of how many players Alabama can sign on National Signing Day.

"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."

Saban also credited his current players for helping out with recruiting. Most notably Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster who was pivotal in convincing former Auburn High teammate Rashaan Evans to sign with Alabama over his hometown Auburn University - the shock of the day.

"Our players do a great job with connecting with these young players so they feel at home here," Saban said. "It's important that they integrate into the team so they understand the 'Bama way."

The Crimson Tide not only landed its targets, the signees fill needs that the team has. Alabama needed a replacement at quarterback for AJ McCarron and got FSU sophomore transfer Jake Coker, along with four-star early enrollee QB David Cornwell, who both committed well before National Signing Day. As a transfer, Coker doesn't get a star rating, but he does count toward the total signee amount in this year's class.

The other glaring needs for Saban's team were at cornerback and the offensive line. Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey, both five-star cornerbacks, will set up shop in the secondary, helping returning cornerback Deion Belue handle the increasingly fast, consistently tough offenses of the Southeastern Conference.

Offensive linemen Cam Robinson, Ross Pierschbacher and J.C. Hassenauer and two others enter as freshmen and Robinson, along with top-ranked junior college lineman Dominick Johnson, are expected to compete for starting jobs. The line was a need for Alabama and it signed a group of linemen on which it can build the foundation to yet another fantastic line.

"We thought we needed linemen on both sides of the ball," Saban said. "We felt we were thin there last year in both of those areas.

"We're pleased with the size and athleticism of the guys that we got on both sides of ball on the line."

But the No. 1-ranked, best-on-paper recruiting class doesn't matter now; nor does the amount of stars a player has when he arrives in Tuscaloosa. That signee, the hotshot senior from high school, who was probably the best player in his area, maybe his state, is now a freshman on one of the best college football teams in the country. And the amount of stars that precede a name on a roster has no meaning to Saban once a player is in crimson.

"Once you're on campus, you're a zero star," early enrollee linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton said.

The time for celebration ended when the final player sent in his fax. The 2014 season starts today.

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