For the first time since 2010, the Crimson Tide didn’t have the top recruiting class in the country. In fact, Alabama didn’t even finish in the top 5; it was No. 7.
To make matters worse, Georgia — led by former Alabama DC Kirby Smart — rallied on Signing Day and finished No. 1. The Bulldogs’ 2018 class is considered one of the best of all time, finishing third in cumulative point total (323.31) behind Florida’s 2010 class (324.62) and Alabama’s 2017 class (323.87).
That has Alabama fans worried that Saban’s dominance might be coming to an end. But should they be? Absolutely not.
Here are 5 reasons Alabama shouldn’t be worried about Georgia’s recruiting title.
1. Alabama is fresh off a 7-year streak of top classes
2018: Georgia No. 1
2017: Georgia No. 3
2016: LSU No. 2, Ole Miss No. 5, Georgia No. 6
2015: Tennessee No. 4, LSU No. 5, Georgia No. 6
2014: LSU No. 2, Texas A&M No. 5, Auburn No. 6
Georgia’s recruiting title was certainly an impressive haul of players. But let’s not act like Alabama didn’t have a 7-year stretch where it finished with similar classes.
Just last year, in fact, the Tide’s class scored slightly higher.
Over that 7-year period, the Tide signed 32 5-star prospects — or 4.6 per year. Now, the number of blue chip prospects has taken a slight dip — they lost six 5-stars while only adding two in the 2018 class — but the roster is still one of the most talented in the nation.
The streak was unprecedented. There was no way it could last. That doesn’t mean Alabama won’t be right back up there next year, however.
2. The Tide didn’t have the numbers available for this class
Leading up to Signing Day, Nick Saban had mentioned multiple times that this class wasn’t going to take in as many players as usual. The four previous classes consisted of 29, 25, 24 and 26 prospects — an average of 26. That’s significantly higher than the 19 players signed in this class.
That doesn’t mean there wasn’t quality. It just wasn’t the usual amount that fans are used to seeing. To further this point, let’s compare the 2016 class to this year.
In 2016, Alabama only finished with 17 of the 25 players being ranked a 4 or 5-star prospect That’s only 68 percent of the class. This year’s class saw 14 of its 19 commitments rank in that same tier (either a 4 or 5-star prospect). That’s 73.7 percent of the class.
In one instance, the Tide finished with the No. 1 class in the country. In the other, they didn’t even finish in the top 5. That’s the sort of impact that six extra scholarship players can have on your ranking.
3. Coaching losses played a major role in down year
Alabama is used to having to replace coaches. But that doesn’t mean the impact isn’t felt when it happens.
The Tide had recently lost both coordinators — DC Jeremy Pruitt and OC Brian Daboll. In addition, they lost DBs coach Derrick Ansley — who was considered one of the team’s top recruiters.
This is only a year after losing two other OCs — Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian — along with Mario Cristobal (OL coach/assistant HC) and Billy Napier (WR coach).
That’s a lot of turnover, and it’s a major reason the Tide had a relatively down year in recruiting. In fact, let’s take a look at the average rating — and the number of 5-star prospects — from the past eight classes under Nick Saban.
- 2018: 92.78 (2)
- 2017: 93.76 (6)
- 2016: 92.54 (3)
- 2015: 93.73 (6)
- 2014: 93.65 (5)
- 2013: 93.25 (6)
- 2012: 93.40 (3)
- 2011: 92.19 (3)
Like was mentioned before, Alabama’s limited available space played a role. That’s evident by the fact that there were two classes — 2016 and 2011 — that were ranked No. 1 with lower averages than this year’s class.
Yet again, it’s important to take note of the 2016 class. That’s the one that followed the departure of Smart and Mel Tucker — two of the team’s most important recruiters.
Like this year’s class, that group didn’t feature as much star power. There were only three 5-stars compared to the Tide averaging 5.7 in the three previous years.
Despite the coaching turnover, Alabama still bounced back the following year with its best class under Saban.
4. They still addressed major needs
Alabama needed to address two key areas with this class — the secondary and the depth at edge rusher. Needless to say, they did an excellent job addressing both.
Alabama lost six of its top seven players from a secondary that helped them field the No. 6 pass defense in the country. Included in that group was Minkah Fitzpatrick — a former 5-star prospect and projected top 10 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The good news is the Tide managed to replace that talent with another rare breed. Patrick Surtain Jr. — the No. 6 overall high school player — brings similar size (6-1, 199), athleticism and instincts. He’s actually the highest-rated defensive back Saban has signed. In addition to Surtain Jr., Alabama brought in four more highly recruited players in the secondary.
The Tide also managed to address any depth issues at edge rusher. Last year, the Tide saw several key pass rushers — including Christian Miller, Terrell Lewis, Anfernee Jennings and Rashaan Evans — miss time with injury.
In order to combat that problem, Alabama landed reinforcements with four new edge rushers. The group is led by Eyabi Anoma — the No. 1 weak side defensive end in the country — but the other three additions are valuable to the depth as well.
Anoma is the highest-rated defensive player Saban has signed.
5. Nick Saban is still in charge
At the end of the day, Alabama shouldn’t be worried about Georgia’s impressive haul — or anyone else’s for that matter — because they still have Saban.
He’s proven time-and-time again that he is the best in the business. Since 2008, Saban has finished with the No. 1 class 7 out of 11 times — and he has yet to bring in a class that wasn’t one of the two best in the SEC.
The gap may be closing, but the Tide still sits at the top.
Source: Saturday Down South