Some Alabama football fans had whispered about it since the Iron Bowl, the whispers becoming full-voiced concerns since the Sugar Bowl. "Ya think Nick Saban is going to retire?" they asked. After all, losing two straight football games was certainly a red flag. The Crimson Nation was not as concerned with their beloved coach leaving for Austin as it was him leaving for Lake Burton. Well my friend, Signing Day 2014 has put both of those thoughts to bed.
What Nick Saban did on Wednesday was akin to what the Seattle Seahawks did to the Denver Broncos- a beat down on the big stage. And in the process, Saban, by landing the Grand Slam of recruiting (the nation's top-ranked class per all four major recruiting services), Saban sent a message to those other coaches running spread or option offenses that he's done something about what has been his Achilles heel.
The numbers are mind-boggling: Saban's 2014 signing class was ranked #1 in the nation. The breakdown? Saban landed six 5-star athletes and nineteen 4-stars. He signed 6 of the nation's top 15 players and 11 of the top 100. One of the reasons for the success? Since being at Alabama, every one of his 5-star recruits that left his team in good standing has been a first-round NFL draft pick.
The class breakdown? 12 of his 27 players signed are interior lineman, many on the defensive side. Saban landed the nation's #1 defensive lineman (Da'Shawn Hand), the nation's #1 and #3 outside linebackers (Rashaan Evans and Christian Miller), the nation's #1 offensive lineman (Cameron Robinson), and the nations #2 and #3 cornerbacks (Marlon Humphrey and Tony Brown). Saban is no dummy: He knows his team was thin on the interior last season and he did something about it.
As seen in the Super Bowl, defense wins championships and Nick Saban is a defensive guy. So instead of changing philosophies and retooling his offense, he bulked up on defense, looking ahead to stopping any of those new hybrid offenses that come his way. As we had Saban saying Tuesday night on Fox6, "We are playing against a lot more spread. I feel the outside backer types we got as well as the defensive ends we got, maybe we satisfied that need."
Oh, and Saban's message to the world on Signing Day? He's still the king of recruiting. He loaded up on seemingly whoever he wanted, and he ended his process with an exclamation mark when linebacker Rashaan Evans donned the Alabama cap. No wonder the Bama coach was in such high spirits Tuesday (I actually saw him smile).
What's this all mean for in-state football fans? With a new-look Auburn team led by Gus Malzahn that in many ways forced Saban to recruit as he did, and an Alabama team led by Saban that has answered back in the recruiting war room, get ready for more great football come this fall. Which team will have the upper hand (after all, Auburn's recruiting class is ranked 6th)? I can't wait to find out, as Malzahn looks for more Waffle House nights and Saban looks for one more reason to party down with the Electric Slide.
Signing Day 2014 may have been the best present ever for Alabama football fans. Their team is loaded with fresh blood, and by the looks of things, Nick Saban is not thinking of retirement.
You can imagine the coach thinking moments after Rashaan Evans made his pick: "I'm still the recruiting king in this country, and I'm going to be around awhile."
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