TUSCALOOSA, Ala.— After Alabama’s 11-2 season—hardly a down year, but a disappointment by the Tide’s astronomical standards—some started wondering if Nick Saban might have lost a step.
The new-wave, hurry-up offenses were all the rage in the SEC and running roughshod over his historically dominant defense.
But Saban showed on Wednesday that he’s still got it and got it big.
Alabama pulled in a No. 1 signing class, according to all four major recruiting outlets (Scout, 247, ESPN, Rivals). The class contained six 5-stars, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. And while the majority of the 26-man class was committed long before Feb. 5, Saban and Co. went out with a bang, snagging 5-star outside linebacker Rashaan Evans away from his hometown Auburn Tigers.
The most impressive part of the class is not just the sheer volume of 4- and 5-star talent brought in, but the way in which that talent fits in to Alabama’s team. The class meets every major need Alabama had and positions it well to return back to the college football mountain.
AJ McCarron left the Tide as one of, if not the best, quarterbacks in school history? No worries, Alabama likely found his replacement and then some.
Former Florida State backup Jacob Coker will have a chance to come in as a junior and take over the starting job. He drew rave reviews from coaches and scouts, despite losing a fall competition to eventual Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston.
And 4-star quarterback David Cornwell got to campus in January. Cornwell, rated by 247 Sports as the fourth-best quarterback prospect in the country, could redshirt in 2014, back up Coker in 2015 and take over in 2016 with three years of eligibility left—just like McCarron did.
Alabama struggled to find a consistent No. 2 cornerback last year and its No. 1 graduated. Saban went out and got the Nos. 2 and 3 cornerbacks in the country to join an impressive crop from the 2013 class as well.
Tony Brown is already in Tuscaloosa and competing with the track and field team. In-state Marlon Humphrey will join him in the summer, and the two will be dual-sport athletes set to shine in college football.
How about the defensive front, which struggled to get a constant pass rush?
Da’Shawn Hand is rated the No. 5 overall prospect in the country. He’ll be joined by three defensive tackles and two JUCO defensive ends, guys who already have experience at the college level.
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Evans is expected to play in the Jack linebacker spot, which almost exclusively rushes the passer or plays the run. And 4-star outside linebacker Christian Miller has the potential to be great as well.
And the most impactful group may be the offensive line, which signed five linemen, four of which are 4-star or higher.
Cameron Robinson is the top tackle in the country and looks ready to play right away. JUCO Dominick Jackson could play inside or outside on the line. They're joined by a pair of Midwestern prospects, Ross Pierschbacher and JC Hassenauer, whose names are as tough and nasty as their playing style.
So while the perception may be that Saban is slowing down—he did turn 62 in October, after all—the 2014 recruiting class might be Saban’s way of saying that he's still king.
All recruiting and rankings information courtesy of 247Sports.