Alabama capped off the 2013 college football campaign by losing consecutive games for the first time in five years, but that frustrating finish hasn't prevented head coach Nick Saban from cleaning up on the recruiting trail.
The four-time national champion is busy assembling yet another impressive crop of playmakers. His efforts have helped Alabama rise to No. 1 in the first edition of 2015 ESPN recruiting rankings.
The Crimson Tide edged out SEC rival Texas A&M and surprising Penn State atop the list, which arrives nearly 10 months shy of national signing day. Alabama added pledge No. 10 on Monday when cornerback Montrell Custis flipped his commitment from Kentucky.
Saban began building this class last February, when 4-star Texas defensive back Deionte Thompson jumped on the bandwagon. Dynamic Alabama running back Desherrius Flowers and 5-star Georgia defensive end Mekhi Brown soon followed with pledges while they were still sophomores.
Despite all the premier pickups, Tide fans may still be lamenting about the prospect who got away.
Ricky Town, a 5-star quarterback from California, committed to Alabama in August. However, he changed his allegiances to USC shortly after the arrival of new Trojans head coach Steve Sarkisian.
Saban and new offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin remain in search of a quarterback in this class.
Texas A&M rates second in ESPN rankings. The Aggies started hot with nine commitments before the end of February, but pledges have stalled since then, allowing Alabama to surge past its new conference rival.
Penn State, listed at No. 3, has been on fire under the direction of first-year head coach James Franklin. The Nittany Lions have landed 12 prospects since Feb. 15, including 4-star defensive tackle Adam McLean (consensus No. 1 player in Maryland) last weekend.
LSU and Florida State round out the top five, respectively.
In comparison, 247Sports' composite team rankings offer a slightly different view of the upper recruiting echelon. The site has Penn State leading the way, with Alabama, Texas A&M, Clemson and Tennessee following behind.