Could Alabama's 2014 Recruiting Class Be Best of Nick Saban Era?

Tyler Donohue@@TDsTakeFeatured Columnist IVDecember 25, 2016

Even after three national titles, several Heisman Trophy candidates and more than a half-decade of recruiting dominance at Alabama, Nick Saban isn't letting up. The Crimson Tide are approaching the final stretch of a quest for three straight BCS championships while stockpiling prospects in a 2014 recruiting class that could be among Saban's best.

The four-time BCS champion and sure-fire Hall of Famer is building momentum in his seventh season at the helm of America's No. 1 college team, both on the football field and the recruiting trail.

"He’s a winner, and he has a plan. There’s no stone left unturned," said JC Shurburtt, the national recruiting director for 247Sports.

Saban has secured the nation's No. 1 recruiting class three years in a row, according to 247Sports composite rankings. His squad is again on pace to finish ahead of the pack when national signing day arrives.

His current crop of incoming players remains unfinished but already features four 5-star recruits (offensive tackle Cameron Robinson, defensive end Da'Shawn Hand, linebacker Christian Miller and athlete Bo Scarbrough). The haul of elite recruits is staggering.

Based on 247Sports rankings, the Crimson Tide hold commitments from the nation's No. 1 high school offensive tackle, No. 1 JUCO offensive tackle, No. 1 defensive end, No. 4 pro-style quarterback, two top-10 outside linebackers, two top-10 inside linebackers and the top two center prospects.

These athletes will add to an Alabama roster loaded with elite talent. Many of the current Crimson Tide contributors are destined to suit up on Sundays, while the depth chart is littered with former high school All-Americans.

Reps are hard to come by in Tuscaloosa, even for veterans. Still, Shurburtt believes this class could produce several immediate impact players.

"Da'Shawn Hand is definitely a guy that will be in the mix, so is Cameron Robinson," he said. "Bo Scarbrough is also physically ready to compete, depending on what position he plays."

Saban's policy is simple. If a player is worthy of playing, he'll play, regardless of age.

"Even when the team is loaded top to bottom, Alabama has shown its not afraid to play freshmen," Shurburtt said. "That's a big selling point."

Hand, a coveted pass-rusher from Woodbridge, Va., announced his intentions to join Alabama last Thursday, spurning offers from Michigan and Florida. His commitment pushed this class to unparalleled heights in this recruiting cycle, as chronicled by 247Sports writer Chris Nee.

Alabama has undoubtedly assembled America's top 2014 recruiting class, although Shurburtt is quick to point out that LSU is perhaps the one team with a possibility of surpassing the Tide atop the rankings if things fall the Tigers' way perfectly. In the grand scheme, might this be the best group Saban has landed during his tenure in Tuscaloosa?

Shurburtt maintains there is still work to be done.

"To call this his best class ever, you really have to wait for it all to play out," he said. "It would be hard to see this class having the potential that the 2008 class showed. That was Saban's signature group of signees."

The 2008 haul was headlined by 5-star wide receiver Julio Jones, who now ranks among the NFL's top receivers, and several other eventual high draft picks, including Mark Barron, Marcell Dareus, Mark Ingram and Dont'a Hightower.

Nick Saban's Recruiting Record at Alabama
Class5-Stars4-StarsNational Ranking
2008Three14No. 3
2009Four11No. 2
2010One13No. 5
2011Four14No. 1
2012Four15No. 1
2013Six15No. 1
2014 (in process)Four14No. 1
Top Remaining 2014 Targets5-Star CB Marlon Humphrey5-Star RB Leonard Fournette5-Star DE Lorenzo Carter
247Sports

It's important to note that Alabama isn't done when it comes to putting the finishing touches on a special recruiting class. Saban's squad remains in the mix for 5-star prospects Leonard Fournette (running back), Marlon Humphrey (cornerback), Matt Elam (defensive tackle) and Lorenzo Carter (defensive end).

"If Saban is able to land Humphrey and a guy like Fournette, then you have to consider this one of his greatest classes in terms of talent and promise," Shurburtt said.

Programs from across the country are in pursuit of Alabama's remaining targets, but that's never stopped Saban before. From his run in Baton Rouge to the present-day dynasty in Tuscaloosa, Saban has always stood above the rest on the recruiting trail.

"He lays out a plan and executes it unlike anyone else," Shurburtt said. "LSU was the best at creating a comfortable atmosphere for recruits when he was there, and now it's Alabama. It's a systematic approach that holds the entire staff accountable. It pays off every year."

 

All quotes were obtained firsthand by B/R college football writer Tyler Donohue unless otherwise noted.

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