Can Anyone End Alabama's Reign Atop Recruiting Rankings?

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Can Anyone End Alabama's Reign Atop Recruiting Rankings?
Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

Nick Saban surrendered the throne as defending national champion to Jimbo Fisher in January, ending a two-year reign. Yet, the iconic Alabama head coach still hasn't relinquished his spot atop the recruiting universe.

National signing day delivered another supremely talented haul to Tuscaloosa in 2014. Saban and his staff secured signatures from a nation-high six 5-star recruits and landed America's No. 1 recruiting class for the fourth consecutive year, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

Alabama was challenged throughout by SEC rival LSU, but Saban stole top-ranked offensive tackle Cameron Robinson and elite safety Laurence Jones from Louisiana. Conference foe Texas A&M also surged in recruiting rankings but couldn't keep pace with the Tide, who capped the class off with a commitment from 5-star Auburn High School (yes, that Auburn) linebacker Rashaan Evans on signing day.

"When I was up there at the podium, I was thinking, 'Man, maybe I should go to Auburn,'" Evans told ESPN.com. "But then I really thought about it, and Alabama was the best place for me."

That sentiment rings true for many top-tier recruits these days. Saban and his staff are extremely selective when extending scholarship offers so players are often quick to pull the trigger when one comes their way.

"I've never heard anybody say they've had a bad class," Saban told ESPN.com  "I've never heard anybody say they haven't identified their needs. So I'm going to say the same thing: We had a good class and we sort of identified our needs."

Sort of?

Alabama added the nation's top-rated players at strong-side defensive end (Da'Shawn Hand), outside linebacker (Evans), offensive tackle (Robinson) and center (JC Hassenauer). The Tide signed two 5-star cornerbacks in Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey.

That's the depth that Alabama adds on an annual basis and these classes only seem to be growing stronger. The Tide's recruiting success has been the envy of every fanbase in the nation, while opposing coaches know any battle with Saban is likely to last until signing day.

With three national titles in the past five seasons, Alabama is viewed as a powerhouse program by today's teenage football standouts. When you also recognize the slew of Heisman contenders that have emerged in Tuscaloosa during Saban's tenure (Mark Ingram, AJ McCarron, Trent Richardson and soon T.J. Yeldon), it's apparent why premier prospects are pulled by the Tide.

Still, there are several squads within striking distance of Alabama in this 2015 recruiting cycle.

Texas A&M currently carries the distinction of top-ranked team in 247Sports' composite class rankings. Kevin Sumlin has expanded the Aggies' recruiting reach into SEC territory.

The team added New Orleans athlete Deshawn Capers-Smith on Sunday. Texas A&M has already made offers to 13 Georgia juniors, per Atlanta Journal Constitution reporter Michael Carvell (h/t WSB-TV in Atlanta).

LSU is always in the mix and Les Miles built momentum with an outstanding close to the 2014 recruiting cycle. The Tigers currently hold commitments from 5-star defenders Kevin Toliver (cornerback, Jacksonville, Fla.) and Maea Teuhema (offensive tackle, Keller, Texas).

Gerald Herbert/Associated Press
Saban and Miles routinely battle for recruits.

Continued out-of-state success is crucial for LSU because Alabama has proven it can pluck prospects from any part of the country.

However, Saban did lose his grips on prized 2015 quarterback Ricky Town last month. The 5-star Ventura, Calif., recruit flipped his commitment to USC and left Saban searching for alternative options.

The Trojans stormed up recruiting rankings on signing day and Steve Sarkisian may quickly have that program contending for the No. 1 spot again. A strong season on the field could return USC to its past state of recruiting dominance.

Florida Sate is surely benefiting from its championship run and Jameis Winston's Heisman Trophy season. The Seminoles' 2015 class currently ranks fourth nationally and the team aims to close in on several key commitments in the coming months, most notably top-rated defensive tackle Trent Thompson (Albany, Ga.) and coveted running back Jacques Patrick (Orlando, Fla.).

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Urban Meyer could be viewed as Saban's greatest contemporary recruiter. Ohio State landed a top-five class in 2014 but currently holds only three commitments—one 4-star prospect—for next year.

Alabama's 2015 class already features six 4-star recruits. Five-star defensive end Mekhi Brown is the latest Georgia product to pledge his allegiance to the Tide.

"Hopefully next year's class can be even better than what Alabama has coming in this season," Brown told Bleacher Report earlier this month.

Miles, Meyer and Sumlin will spend the next year searching for the optimum 2015 class. Still, history suggests their efforts may again fall short of what Saban has in store on signing day.

All star rating and recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.com unless otherwise noted.

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