Nick Saban and his staff have a handful of critical battles they hope to win before wrapping up Alabama's 2014 recruiting class.
Nick Saban is known as one of the best closers on the recruiting trial, and he is zeroing in on a handful of the nation’s top recruits with national signing day one week away.
The Tide already have a monster class in place, with nine standouts already enrolling earlier this month and another 15 players verbally committed. However, Saban’s full attention will be on landing four players who have earned 5-star ratings from 247Sports.
Which players will Tide fans be closely monitoring on Feb. 5?
*All recruiting rankings courtesy of 247Sports
Saban has landed a 5-star prospect from the state of Florida in each of the last three years, and he will try to extend that streak by luring 5-star Miami defensive end Chad Thomas away from South Florida.
Thomas, who is committed to hometown power Miami, is among the Tide’s official visitors on the final weekend before signing day.
Thomas also visited Florida State last weekend, but it will take a monumental effort for either the Tide or the ‘Noles to pull him away from the Hurricanes.
However, given the Tide’s recruiting prowess and Saban’s ability to land touted players down the stretch in recent classes, expect Alabama to put the full-court press on Thomas in hopes of landing his signature on national signing day.
Marlon Humphrey has been heavily linked with the Alabama program even before he burst onto the scene as one of the top players in the 2014 class.
As ESPN’s Alex Scarborough details, his familial ties to the Capstone are well-documented. However, considering Humphrey is a lockdown corner from nearby Hoover, his importance to the Tide’s 2014 class becomes magnified.
Florida State and UCLA are schools trying to land the top prospect from Alabama. In particular, the Seminoles' history of success with two-sport athletes is appealing to Humphrey—who is also a standout in track.
Saban’s history of being hands-on with his defensive backs is another factor likely to fuel his relentless pursuit of Humphrey.
The fallout from last November’s epic Iron Bowl ending has carried over onto the recruiting trail.
Alabama and Auburn have battled for a handful of prospects in recent months, and the recruitment of 5-star linebacker Rashaan Evans is the final frontier for the Tide and the Tigers in the 2014 cycle.
Considering Evans hails from Auburn, Saban will have his hands full trying to beat out Gus Malzahn for the 6’3”, 220-pounder.
However, given Saban eventually won out in the battle for fellow Auburn native Reuben Foster last season, there’s no reason to think he can’t repeat the same trick a year later with Evans.
Alabama has made a concerted effort to reload in the trenches with its 2014 class—with half of the 24 pledges slated to line up along either the offensive or defensive lines.
Even though the Tide have six such commitments from defensive linemen, Saban is hot on the trail of Elizabethtown (Ky.) 5-star defensive tackle Matt Elam.
The 6’5”, 372-pounder is down to Kentucky and Alabama and he will announce his decision on Thursday, according to Matt Scalici of AL.com.
While the pull to play for his home state school will be strong, these are exactly the type of recruiting battles that Saban has routinely won in helping turn the Tide’s program into a modern day dynasty.