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Alabama Solidifies Recruiting Dominance with Best Class Ever

Adam Kramer@kegsneggsNational College Football Lead WriterFebruary 4, 2021

FILE - Alabama head coach Nick Saban leaves the field after their win against Ohio State in the NCAA College Football Playoff national championship game in Miami Gardens, Fla., in this Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, file photo. The National signing day period begins Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Have you had enough yet? 

Are you tired of the same ol' team with the same ol' coach with a roster of superhumans winning pretty much every football game it plays in?

More specifically, are you tired of Alabama? 

If you are, and you live outside the state, it seems highly probable this would be the case. Given the run of national championships—headlined by the team's most recent conquest of college football—that's understandable.

Although if you were searching for some sort of end to the dominance, well, the following bit of news probably won't sit well. As we say farewell to a bizarre and unique national signing day, thanks largely to COVID-19, Alabama is poised to stay on top for the foreseeable future.

"Not only is this recruiting class the best in 2021 by a good margin," Bud Elliott, 247Sports national recruiting analyst, tells Bleacher Report, "it is actually the highest-rated of all time as currently comprised."

Sure, we've done this before. This isn't a theme new to Alabama under Saban. 

Since he touched down in Tuscaloosa in 2007, dating back to the days of Mark Ingram and Julio Jones, Saban has turned its football facility into a football factory—an assembly line that acquires talent, develops talent, loses talent (to the NFL) and then repeats the cycle. 

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It sounds simple, although no team has been able replicate such a formula quite like this. And no matter how many assistant coaches leave, the assembly line keeps churning. 

On Wednesday, Alabama secured the commitment from the nation's No. 2 running back, according to the 247Sports composite rankings. No drama. No over-the-top announcement. No massive parade to celebrate the moment. 

In fact, it was rather anticlimactic. When Camar Wheaton, a 5-star out of Garland, Texas, announced his decision shortly after breakfast, Saban added yet another piece to what is a historic class.

Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

Consider that a little less than 12 months ago this was not the narrative. After closing out the 2019-2020 season without a trip to the College Football Playoff, Alabama started slow on the 2021 recruiting trail. 

In spring and summer, however, the class took shape before exploding across the back half of the year.

In a class that features an absurd seven 5-star players, it's hard to know where to start. Although it's hard to start anywhere else but the offensive line, which has been a constant since Saban arrived.

JC Latham and Tommy Brockermeyer, the top two offensive linemen in the class of 2021 and two of the top five players overall, are both in. They are joined by Terrence Ferguson, the nation's No. 2-ranked guard. James Brockermeyer, Tommy's twin brother and the nation's top-ranked center, also committed. 

This is how to rebuild an offensive line, which doesn't need to be completely rebuilt, in one cycle.

The offensive success Alabama has enjoyed over the past few seasons also culminated with unbelievable success when it comes to recruiting wide receivers: Jacorey Brooks (No. 2 WR), Agiye Hall (No. 5 WR), JoJo Earle (No. 6 WR) and Christian Leary (No. 10 WR) all committed. 

Saban also replenished at quarterback, signing Jalen Milroe. The No. 4 dual threat is an interesting piece to a depth chart with both talent and youth.

Defensively, Alabama added Dallas Turner, the nation's top weak-side defensive end and the No. 8 player overall. Ga'Quincy McKinstry, the nation's top cornerback, also signed with the Tide. 

Other highlights include Deontae Lawson (No. 3 ILB), Damon Payne (No. 4 DT), Keanu Koht No. 3 WDE), Monkell Goodwine (No. 6 SDE) and Kadarius Calloway (No. 4 ATH).

We could go on. Of the 27 commitments, 23 were rated as 4-star or 5-star players. As much as Alabama has set the standard with classes like these, this surpasses anything Saban has ever put together. 

That is not to say what happens next is necessarily a given. This is just the start of a four-year process. But as we've seen at Alabama before, one class can have that much of an impact.

The 2017 class featured quarterbacks Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones, wideouts DeVonta Smith, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs III, running back Najee Harris along with offensive linemen Jedrick Wills and Alex Leatherwood.  

Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

This class, accompanied with the others that came before and after it, helped build a new chapter of Alabama football—a philosophy built around points and offense that undoubtedly helped shape what happened this year.

Many of these players, of course, will now have to be replaced in offseason. This is a byproduct of Alabama's success, although it's not unusual. It wall fall on the rest of the roster that has waited for its time to play to make that possible.

And yes, we've now seen how exactly Saban sells players on this concept. We witnessed firsthand how a roster loaded with 5-stars is assembled. A video that leaked this week that has since gone viral allowed us to hear what the greatest head coach of all time says to promising high school players.

The most amazing part? None of it felt the least bit surprising. It was honest and fair. It was a celebration of all the teams that have allowed him to make such a straightforward pitch. It was a victory lap, for certain, although everything was delivered in a way one might expect.  

The Saban behind the curtain is the one you would expect to see—one who doesn't make promises about playing time or expectations. And it has worked brilliantly.  

As Alabama celebrates a national championship on the field and now one in recruiting, Saban's message feels that much more powerful. Until he decides to retire, which by no means feels imminent, the sport runs through him. 

This, like the team's recruiting success, isn't new. But every once and a while, we are reminded of the history and the greatness—whether you've had enough of it or not—that is transpiring.  

The 2021 recruiting class, while both potent and historic, also isn't a surprise. Saban has made the impossible expected. Football brilliance is no longer expected; it's assumed. 

This is what the machine does. And now, a group of some of the nation's most gifted athletes join three other classes consisting of players at one point regarded as some of the nation's most gifted athletes. The assembly line churns in earnest.

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