At any level, football is a sport of evolution and change, and there may be no coach that has impacted college football more than Alabama's Nick Saban, specifically in the SEC.
There's a reason the Crimson Tide are the defending national champions and are currently the No. 1 ranked team in country according to the AP Poll. Success doesn't grow on trees and it certainly isn't a bi-product of luck.
Most successful people find a formula that works for their life and then they implement it on a day-to-day basis.
This is exactly what Saban has done with his recruiting process, and it's changing college football as we know it, especially SEC football.
For a great look at Saban's method of recruiting—which highly resembles Bill Belichick's drafting strategy in the NFL—I'd urge you to check out this piece from Jamie Newberg of ESPN recruiting from back in 2011, but for now, let me simplify it for you and break it down into two keywords:
Depth and Mold.
Saban uses a simple approach to start off his recruiting process. First off, what does the depth chart look like? The kicker is, he's not just looking at this year's depth, but a few years into the future as well.
Saban figures out what his team needs in the present, but also starts stockpiling up for the future, so that when a Mark Ingram goes to the NFL, a Trent Richardson is there to replace him as the starter the next year. When Richardson leaves for the NFL, an Eddie Lacy takes over the starting job, and a freshman like T.J. Yeldon starts seeing some important snaps.
You can see this happen at just about every position, and this is how Alabama trains their players to be superstars once their time comes.
They learn under great coaches, watch great players above them, get important playing and practice time and eventually hit the field ready to go when they're the No. 1 guy.
The cycle doesn't stop, thus Alabama doesn't experience a drop-off at a position.
The ranking of a recruit does not matter as much to Saban as his intangibles do. For every position, Saban and his staff have a mold that they try to fit with their recruit.
For instance, you'll notice that most linebackers on 'Bama's roster fit the range of about 6'2'' to 6'4'' and weigh somewhere near the 240's. They are usually aggressive, downhill players that can be tough against the run, but are athletic enough to get after the quarterback and apply pressure into the backfield. It's not exact, but that's the mold Saban looks for in his linebackers, and I dare say he's had quite some success at that position.
You'll notice that many of the defensive backs are right around 6'1'', and most of them are usually very physical. Tight ends are generally tall, well over 6'5'', weigh in the mid-200's and are probably very good run-blockers with reliable hands.
Saban has found that he has success with certain types of players and positions, so he recruits players that fit those molds. This isn't a strict 100-percent rule of course, but you'll notice it more often than not.
How Saban Has Changed the SEC:
Nick Saban has almost forced other SEC schools to adopt his recruiting philosophy, mainly because if they didn't, he would run them off the field year-after-year.
You'll notice that SEC have started recruiting star players at certain positions even if they know they won't see the field for a few years. They have to mind their depth chart, because they know that Alabama won't be missing a step.
We've also seen coaches starting to recruit in the same mold to counteract Alabama. They have to recruit bigger linebackers that also have the athleticism to match up with his physical and quick running backs and tight ends. Wideouts also have to have some size and be able to get off a jam at the line, as Saban's power style of football has taken over the conference.
It's no coincidence. Like I said, football is a game of evolution.
It's all about reacting to what your opponent is doing and evolving to counter it, and that's what the SEC has had to do to keep up with Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide.