Saturday, February 6, 2010

Alabama Recruiting Review: A Look Back At Nick Saban's First Class

Alabama's 2007 recruiting class was signed shortly after Nick Saban arrived in Tuscaloosa. While this class was not on par with the Tide's classes the next two seasons, it provided a foundation for building the Alabama national championship season with players like Rolando McClain.

To get a better look at this class, I contacted Roll 'Bama Roll for their insight.

Q: Nick Saban was hired in the middle of the 2007 recruiting season. Was he able to hang to most of the class set up by Mike Shula? Did he grab any big names late?

A: Saban held on to his fair share of the Shula recruits, but there was a significant amount of turnover. Saban and company pledged to honor the commitment of any current commitment so long as they did not look around, and while several prospects agreed to do that, many others simply went their own way.

When all was said and done, about one-half of the class would not have signed with Alabama had the Shula regime remained in place.

Q: Who was the biggest surprise of this class?

A: The biggest surprise was undoubtedly Kareem Jackson. He did not get a single offer coming out of high school, and even after a year of military school he still drew almost no interest from BCS conference schools. When he committed to Alabama, even most Tide fans didn't have the slightest clue about him, and more than a few questioned if he was legitimately an SEC caliber prospect.

Of course, though, Jackson started from day one on campus and became a key feature of two elite defenses before leaving early for the NFL Draft.

Q: What about the biggest disappointment?

A: The biggest disappointment to date would likely have to be Kerry Murphy. Most considered him the state's top prospect in 2007, and he spent much of the year with a consensus five-star rating. Unfortunately, Murphy didn't qualify out of Hoover, and once again failed to qualify out of Hargrave.

He finally made it to UA in his third year -- and in all fairness, he has been very impressive at times and still likely has a bright future ahead of him -- but things haven't gone anywhere near like what we expected.

Q: ranked this class 22nd nationally, while ranked it 10th. Why do you think there was such a discrepancy and which one got it right?

A: As for the discrepancy itself, who even knows with the good ol' recruiting "experts"? In any event, though, it seems relatively clear that Rivals had a more accurate evaluation of this class. Several signees from that class quickly washed out in Tuscaloosa, and on the whole there have just been very few impact players produced to date.

Rolando McClain and Kareem Jackson turned out to be great players, but only one other player from that class has since became a starter (Marquis Maze) and honestly he has had quite a bit of struggles in his own right.

Q: How will this 2007 class be remembered?

A: Unless a lot of players really step up in the next couple of years, it won't really be remembered at all. Instead, people will just remember that being the class that brought us Rolando McClain and Nick Saban, with all of the real results coming in 2008 and beyond.

Q: Alabama has brought in two top rated classes the last two years. What has changed recruiting wise with Nick Saban entrance to Tuscaloosa?

A: Everything has changed, really. Saban has devoted much more time and effort to recruiting -- and demanded the same of his staff -- and even the camp system has changed under Saban. Truth be told, the recruiting efforts of the Saban regime have nothing in common with what we saw with Shula.

Q: Besides the state of Alabama, where else do the Tide recruit heavily.

A: Good question. Traditionally, Alabama has gotten nearly all of its players from the state of Alabama and Alabama's border states. Under Saban, however, that traditional notion is changing.

We didn't sign a single prep player in 2010 from the state of Mississippi or the state of Florida -- probably the first time that has happened in decades -- but in turn we have increased recruiting efforts on the state of Georgia and have expanded into areas that we have never before had a recruiting presence (Texas, Virginia, Carolinas, etc.).

It's not that we aren't recruiting the old traditional strongholds, but clearly Saban is expanding the recruiting base.

Q: What player are Alabama fans most excited about for the 2010 class just signed?

A: We had a thread on the blog about that the other day, and truth be told most signees were thrown out there by at least one person. It's a very deep class with a lot of highly-touted signees, so realistically you could make an argument for quite a few people.

I would probably cast my stone with either [DeMarcus] Milliner or [Phillip] Sims, but again you could make a valid argument for a lot of guys. For an outside-the-box choice, though, keep your eyes on Chad Lindsay.

My Thoughts on Alabama Recruiting:
I agree with Roll 'Bama Roll that this class is largely forgettable outside of McClain, but it was an important foundation for the past two seasons success.

The arrival of Nick Saban has turned recruiting upside down for the Tide and thus had effects on schools like Auburn and the rest of the SEC.

Saban set out to dominate the state of Alabama in recruiting and did that in 2008 and 2009. Now with the success of national championship, he can go into other states and successfully recruit top talent.

A big reason for Alabama playing two straight years in the Georgia Dome to open the season was to gain a foothold in the state of Georgia for recruiting. That paid off with five signees in the 2010 class.

It doesn't look like the Tide is going to slow down anytime soon on the field as long as they continue to recruit like they have as of late.

Thanks again to Roll 'Bama Roll for their insight.

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