Should Alabama Fans Worry About the 2018 Recruiting Class?
By: Larry Burton
Nick Saban is to recruiting top classes like wet is to water. Year in and year out Saban has produced classes that have kept Alabama in national title hunts and opposing coaches in dismay. To use a Nascar term, he usually leads from start to finish, from pole to the checkered flag.
So when Alabama fans look at the current Rivals recruiting leader board and see Alabama at number 52, a number that puts them close to being in middle of the pack, is it time to worry?
LSU at number three in the rankings, has already received 19 commitments. Meanwhile Alabama, again at number 52, has received just five solid commitments. That’s quite a difference.
It’s making some coaches trying to gain traction in recruiting start to fill recruits heads that perhaps Saban’s best days are behind him, that maybe the Crimson luster is tarnishing in Tuscaloosa and more. To Alabama’s opponents, bad news is great news.
But is it really bad news they’re spreading or just wishful thinking?
While this may be one of the slowest starts to a Saban recruiting class, only Saban knows just how many “soft commitments” he’s gotten including one of the state and nation’s top cornerbacks just this week. While these “soft commitments” don’t count in these numbers Rivals use, those of us who keep up with such things know of these details and can confirm to the those nervous Alabama fans that there is nothing to fear, Nick Saban is here.
But still, Saban alone can’t pull in all the bacon and in the last few years the loss of some of the Tide’s top recruiters who of course were also coaches who have departed. While Jeremy Pruitt, Brian Daboll and other coaches may prove to be as good an X’s and O’s coach as their departed colleagues, they don’t have the recruiting ability the others had.
That’s not a talent thing, it’s a relationship thing. Kirby Smart, Bobby Williams, Mario Cristobal, Billy Napier, Bo Davis and Mel Tucker had relationships with high school coaches and players. When Saban plucked coaches from the NFL, they come with lots of experience in coaching, but little in recruiting.
So while Daboll and Joe Pannunzio can dazzle a recruit with all the NFL coach’s names they can drop as being good friends, it still doesn’t equal time on the ground and eye to eye contact with coaches, young men and their families.
But that will change as you can bet that Saban will work their fannies into the ground getting up to speed and getting them that all important face time.
That will certainly help.
What won’t help is numbers. Alabama is down for the 2018 class three big numbers. So instead of signing 25, the number set by the SEC, three 2017 signees will be counted against that number. Plus, Saban will be forced to sign a punter to take J.K. Scott’s place who won’t have many stars beside their name and now that leaves them just 21.
Another reason that Alabama’s number at the end of the season’s recruiting may not be one is that they just aren’t in the running for a bevy of five star recruits this season like they have in the past. Those five star recruits really push up the totals.
So what does all this mean when the fat lady sings? Nick Saban’s seven year run at the top of the polls is impressive. It may be a number unmatched for quite a while, but it’s just not in the cards for Alabama to be number one in 2018. It will be a top 10 class, it could even be a top five class, but number one is just not in the cards for this season.
Losing some of 2018’s numbers because of the 2017 class, the lack of the bevy of five star signees to sign and a lot of new coaches with limited recruiting experience all come together to cost Alabama this year. However, if you bet against Nick Saban reclaiming the crown for 2019, it might not be a safe bet.
Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter