Just when you begin to ask questions about whether or not Saban can recruit without the assistance of Lance Thompson—he lands the best recruiting class for the second year in a row, according to Rivals.com (2nd: Scout.com, 5th: ESPNU.com).
Before I begin, I'll give credit where credit is due. Thompson did an outstanding job with the '08 class and pointing out the prospects for the '09 class. Every Rivals.com 100 recruit that Alabama was shooting for was recruited by Lance Thompson.
However, Saban's undeniable ability to recruit can not go unnoticed.
Additionally, Alabama was able to lure two recruits away from previously committed schools (4-star DE Ed Stinson from Auburn and three-star LB Jonathan Atchison from Florida State) while only losing one recruit, three-star DB Gerald West to Southern Miss.
Lastly, I believe it's a BEAUTIFUL thing that Saban snatched eight of Alabama's Top 10 recruits while 17 of the total 27 came from OUTSIDE THE STATE!
It's official: Saban is a recruiting GOD!
Personally, I believe this class is better than last year. Not because there is more or better talent, but because Saban recruited where Alabama needed it.
Alabama lost Andre Smith and Antoine Caldwell. And now? Five-star D.J. Fluker and five-star redshirt freshman Tyler Love. Who better to fill in the gaps at OL than two five-star recruits?
Additional OL recruits: Four-star Derrick Moore & James Carpenter and three-star Darius McKeller, Anthony Steen, Chance Warmack, and Kellen Williams.
Alabama unexpectedly loses Glen Coffee. And now? Five-star recruit Trent Richardson. I haven't seen this type of running back since Shaun Alexander. Put Mark Ingram in the backfield with this guy, and you'll have the perfect setup for an extremely dynamic running game. Expect this guy to make an immediate impact as soon as he steps onto the campus.
Additional RB recruits: 4-star Eddie Lacy and 3-star Mike Marrow.
Alabama loses quarterback John Parker Wilson. And now? Four-star redshirt freshman Star Jackson and four-star A.J. McCarron. I don't foresee either player starting next season due to McElroy's experience (not to mention, promising ability), but with Saban's philosophy of playing the best player at the position—I have no doubts what-so-ever at this position.
Alabama lost Nikita Stover at wide receiver. And now? Alabama reels in FOUR four-star wide receiver prospects; two on signing day. Kenny Ball, Michael Bowman, Kendall Kelly, and Kevin Norwood are outstanding additions to the receiving corps, joining Marquis Maze and SEC Freshman of the Year Julio Jones. If McElroy can add to his already proven ability to throw the ball—Alabama's offense will be virtually unstoppable.
Alabama loses defensive end Bobby Greenwood. And now? Alabama gets four-star Ed Stinson & William Ming, and three-star Anthony Orr.
The defensive line will be nothing different, if not stronger, from last year. Alabama finished the season with the second best rushing defense, T-3rd best total defense, and seventh best scoring defense. The defensive line deserves alot of credit for these stats because they utterly dominated in the trenches.
Alabama didnt lose anyone from their linebacker corps, but ohhhh did they add to it. Five-star Nico Johnson and four-star Tana Patrick will come in with an obvious desire to start. Seeing Alabama has struggled against the pass and lacked pass rushing, these two stars will inevitably give Alabama the ability to do just that.
Javier Arenas and Kareem Jackson return at cornerback, and Saban has a replacement already lined up after their departure. Five-star Dre Kirkpatrick is probably the most impressive recruit from Alabama's '09 class. Tapes of him corner blitzing are remarkable! He will definitely assist in giving Alabama a pass rush.
This is it, folks. With Alabama's ridiculously easy schedule (except Ole Miss and LSU) and the ungodly amount of talent that now rides the sidelines at UA, expect Alabama to repeat as SEC West champs and give Florida an even better run for their money at the SEC Championship.
The giant in Tuscaloosa has been awakened. Gone are the days of losing to LA-Monroe and Utah. 2008 was a warmup. 2009 is looking more and more like Alabama's year. The only question that remains—who can stop Nick Saban?