Alabama head coach Nick Saban knows NFL talent when he sees it, and since his arrival in Tuscaloosa, he has set the recruiting bar at a level the SEC has never seen before, even before scholarship limitations were set in place.
Since 2008, Saban has signed a top-three recruiting class or better with the exception of his inaugural season in 2007 when he hauled in the 10th-ranked class in the country less than a month after replacing Mike Shula as the coach in T-Town. The SEC and the entire country were immediately put on notice that the Crimson Tide was back, and back for the long haul.
From day one, Saban has, as expected, pushed the envelope in recruiting, even sparking the NCAA to conjure up new rules regulating how college coaches can contact prospected student-athletes. See the “bump-rule”. Despite the NCAA’s attempt to wrangle Saban’s aggressive recruiting tactics, the future hall of famer continued on a torrid pace in landing top-notch athletes.
Saban’s last five recruiting class rankings according to ESPN.com:
2008 – 3rd
2009 – 2nd
2010 – 3rd
2011 – 2nd
2012 – 1st
Of the last five classes, none were more important than the 2008 coup which included the likes of first round NFL Draft picks Julio Jones and Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram. They both played a significant role in Alabama’s resurgence to the top of college football’s select few of premier programs.
Here is the list of Saban’s top 10 recruits that have contributed the most to Alabama’s return to the mountaintop since 2007:
- Julio Jones – The Foley, Ala. native was the nation’s 2nd ranked overall player as a wide receiver and the top priority in Saban’s first full recruiting class in 2008. Jones thrilled the Bama Nation when he signed with the Crimson Tide on National Signing Day, capping off one the most talented classes in the history of Alabama football. His pedigree and notoriety put Alabama on the radars of other future highly rated recruits on a national scale. Jones earned an immediate starting position and played a pivotal role in the 2009 undefeated championship season.
- Mark Ingram – In one of the more surprising signing day moments in ’08, Ingram inked with Alabama over Iowa and hometown favorite Michigan State as a four-star running back out of Flynt, Michigan. At 5-foot-10-inches, Ingram was somewhat overlooked by recruiting services despite his highlight-filled film. Ingram cracked the starting running back rotation in his freshman season, providing the offense a unexpected spark on their way to an undefeated season.
- Barrett Jones – In Jones’ four years at the Capstone, he has collected two national championships, an SEC Championship, multiple All-American honors and an Outland Trophy. He quietly became the unquestioned leader for Saban’s offensive line and has played every position up front. He has a chance to become the only player in history to win both the Outland and Lombardi trophies. Continue Reading