For our purposes, Alabama had the finest recruiting class in the nation. This does not require a turbo-powered abacus to figure out.
Consider that the Crimson Tide, winner of three of the last four national championships, knows something about personnel decisions when it comes to recruiting. But that is subjective, to some extent.
Objectively, consider that Alabama is the only program in the nation to sign six five-star players – linebacker/defensive end Jonathan Allen, linebacker Reuben Foster, tailback Derrick Henry, wide receiver Robert Foster, tight end O.J. Howard, and defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson.
The Crimson Tide is the only team in the nation to sign 14 of the Scout.com top 100.
Alabama signed three men who are number one in the nation at their positions – Howard, Reuben Foster, and Robinson.
Reuben Foster is the number two player overall and Robinson the number five player overall, making Bama the only team in the nation to sign two of the top five.
Alabama signed 25 men, but Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban indicated there is a possibility there could be another signee in this class. Seven of the 25 enrolled early and will participate in spring practice.
Those seven are quarterback Cooper Bateman, offensive tackle Leon Brown, wide receiver Raheem Falkins, tailback Derrick Henry, offensive lineman Brandon Hill, tight end O.J. Howard, and quarterback Parker McLeod. (Alabama had also previously announced that quarterback Luke Del Rio and defensive back Jai Miller were also early enrollees as walk-ons.) The Crimson Tide had eight players in enroll in the spring of 2012, nine in 2011, 11 in 2010 and four in 2009.
Wednesday’s signees are linebacker/defensive end Jonathan Allen, athlete Anthony Averett, defensive back Jonathan Cook, wide receiver Robert Foster, linebacker Reuben Foster, offensive lineman Grant Hill, defensive back Eddie Jackson, running back Tyren Jones, linebacker Walker Jones, defensive lineman Dee Liner, running back Alvin Kamara, long snapper Cole Mazza, defensive lineman Darius Paige, defensive lineman A’Shawn Robinson, defensive back Maurice Smith, athlete Ardarius Stewart, running back Altee Tenpenny, and linebacker Tim Williams.
By position, the Crimson Tide add to their roster four running backs, three defensive linemen, three linebackers, three defensive backs, three offensive linemen, two quarterbacks, two wide receivers, two athletes, one tight end, one long snapper and one defensive lineman/linebacker.
The players come from 13 states – Alabama (7), Georgia (3), Florida (2), Louisiana (2), Tennessee (2), Texas (2), Arkansas (1), California (1), Maryland (1), Pennsylvania (1), New Jersey (1), Utah (1), and Virginia (1).
Some other notes about the recruiting class:
Nine players participated in the Under Armour All-America Game – Cooper Bateman, O.J. Howard, Robert Foster, Reuben Foster, Grant Hill, Alvin Kamara, Dee Liner, Maurice Smith, Tim Williams.
Five players participated in the U.S. Army All-America Bowl game – Jonathan Allen, Derrick Henry, Tyren Jones, A’Shawn Robinson, Altee Tenpenny.
Three members of the Parade Magazine prep All-America team – Jonathan Allen, Reuben Foster, Derrick Henry.
Eight members of the USA Today’s 2011 All-USA High School Football Team – Jonathan Allen (2nd), Robert Foster (1st), Reuben Foster (1st), Derrick Henry (1st), Grant Hill (1st), Dee Liner (1st), A’Shawn Robinson (2nd), Tim Williams (2nd).
Alabama Coach Nick Saban thanked all of those who had been a part of “the culmination” of the outstanding recruiting class, beginning with assistant coaches and including the administration of The University and the athletics department, the faculty, the players on campus, and the fans.
Saban said, “I think everybody probably always will say that ‘We really like the guys that we got.’ ‘We had a good recruiting year.’ But I think it's hard to make predictions about the guys you recruited today, and where they will be two or three years from now.
“We certainly like the guys that we got. They've shown a lot of potential to this point. They've been very successful in their production and performance. We feel like we have a really good character class, which is important to us, and we got a lot of guys who are the size and speed we want to play the positions we recruited them for. In some cases, we recruited athletes.
“But this class is not about rankings that really can't get verified any way in the future. Just like when you buy a stock today, you can't really verify where it's going to be two years from now.
“The character we talk about, the commitment to a standard of excellence, the work ethic, the relentless quest to improve that these guys need to be able to enhance their development is very important to this group becoming a great recruiting class. That gets determined by their performance and how they develop down the road, which we're responsible for. That's what we're here for. We're here to help them to that. We're pleased with the class academically, athletically, and from a character and attitude standpoint.”
Saban said he was not anxious about signing day and that every player who had committed to the Crimson Tide signed with Bama. He also addressed the numbers situation by pointing out that even though “newspapers” might report on 42 players to watch, a team can sign only 25 a year.
He did say that the information age plays a role in Alabama being able to recruit nationally, adding that the five-hour drive from Tuscaloosa continues to be the Tide’s primary recruiting base.
One of the biggest battles of the recruiting season was for linebacker Reuben Foster, ranked by Scout.com as the number one linebacker in the nation and the number two overall player in the nation. He committed to Alabama early, then committed to Auburn, and finally signed with Bama. On Wednesday Foster apologized to Auburn fans, Georgia fans, and even Alabama fans for the way he handled the recruiting process.
Saban was forgiving.
“We really think Reuben's a good person and Reuben has a good heart and is certainly a good football playerl,” Saban said. “I think that he really felt bad in some ways maybe by the way he handled his recruiting. I also think that all the media attention sometimes can affect these guys in maybe not the most positive way.
“At the same time, I think Reuben would like to please everyone. I think that he learned in this process that that's very, very difficult and probably impossible to do. I think that's probably what he feels bad about.
“Because he does like to please you is one of the reasons why he is a very good competitor. Some of these things that turn out to be or appear to be not good qualities, actually can be very good qualities if channeled in the right direction. I think Reuben came here because he wanted the structure, he wants to get it right, he wants to do things the right way and we want to help him do that. I think he's got the right heart and right character to do it.”