It has come down to this: Alabama currently has 29 commitments (2 will count against the scholarships for last year), we’re on the cusp of possibly taking the #1 spot on both Scout.com and Rivals.com, and Mike Huckabee said “Roll Tide Roll” on CNN (with Rocky Top and something about Bulldogs).
Obviously, a MNC from Scout and Rivals won’t land us a trophy or that mystical #13. But, it will give this program something it needs desperately; a shot on the arm. Yes, we’ll have the people who say “stars don’t mean anything!” and “You had an average star rating of #.## in 200-whatever! Look what you did with that talent!” I don’t care about that, because I know that we’re bringing in better players today than we were the last few years. Besides, that whole “well so & so was a 2 star” argument can pass for a dismissal of one or two prospects, but it can’t discount 25+.
Think about it, the highest rated Shula recruits never really got to Tuscaloosa. Chris Keys was a major headache, and Mike Ford couldn’t qualify academically (so he joined the Big East). I don’t mean to knock Shula’s recruits, because he certainly brought in some quality players, and found a few surprises (Javier Arenas is the best example). But Saban is getting more players that qualify compared to Shula, and I think that is going to be something that helps to “change the tide” if you will.
Moving forward, I would like to briefly add onto what I believe are a few of the key story lines for Alabama.
1. Alabama has overcome the LSU/Auburn pipelines in Mobile of the past few years
Even though there is still one recruit left to be determined in that area, Alabama has done extremely well in one of the biggest recruiting hotbeds of the southeast. Saban was the one to build such a strong Mobile to LSU connection, and he seems to be regaining it for Alabama, with a lot of help from Lance Thompson. Auburn has had success there over the last few years, which has been very useful for Tuberville’s Tigers on the football field. I mean just look at the list: Burton Scott, Mark Barron, Destin Hood, Ivan Matchett, Glenn Harbin, Robert Lester and Jermaine Preyear.
2. Alabama is slowly starting to reach recruits outside the southeastern U.S.
As you may have heard, Mark Ingram (RB from Michigan) committed to Alabama on Tuesday. While he wasn’t a 5-star back being offered by USC, ND, and Texas, we got a fairly talented legacy to move from the midwest to the southeast. Add that with Damian Square of Texas and one of the nation’s best Kickers in the nation out of West Virginia in Corey Smith. Are we going to beat USC, ND, and Texas for all of these national recruits? I doubt it, but we’re making some important strides….. it is a process after all.
3. We’re going against better teams for recruits than we have in the past
This might be where some of that whole “Stars don’t matter” mindset comes into play. I believe that a better judgment of a player’s potential doesn’t have to do with an inane formula or stars, it has to do with who else wants you. I know it sounds overly simplistic, but it isn’t a bad line of thinking. Yes, you’ll get a 2-star that’ll be a big time hit, and you’ll have a 5-star flame out. But, it’s usually a safe bet that most of the top players recruited by some good programs are going to be quality players.
4. It’s one more unifying cause for Alabama fans
People call us overzealous, delusional, and downright crazy. I think it’s a passion and connection to a unified thought that few people can understand. For so long we’ve had to be split down the middle over previous head coaches, even though we’ve tried our hardest to be united behind them as if there were no issues at all. Take Mike Shula; Alabama fans tried so hard to love this man (many still do to be honest), but it just never seemed to click. With Saban, Bama fans are showing a levels of fandome we haven’t seen in Tuscaloosa for a long time.
5. Alabama is back to being a name amongst prospects
I think this line speaks for itself.
Now the biggest issues become who qualifies (most should), who goes to play baseball (Destin Hood?), and what do we do with the ones that leave us over the 25 level mark (no Hope Scholarships for Alabama). Plus, let’s not forget that Florida is a Rivals Top 3 (much lower on Scout) and Georgia is a very solid Top 10 class as well (with teams like LSU and Auburn not too far behind). I’m not planning to win 4 SEC titles, but I am expecting to start being more consistent against the top teams in the conference from now on. It’s either keep up or go home in the SEC, and I think we’re finally starting to keep up.