February 7, 2007

Saban's stamp on first Tide recruiting class

Four weeks and a Maxwell House plant supply of coffee later, Alabama's new head coach has his first batch of signees in the fold. And this recruiting class -- which landed at No. 10 on Rivals.com's team rankings late Wednesday afternoon -- has Nick Saban's fingerprints all over it.

Surprised? Despite having just a month to put his own stamp on this haul, you shouldn't be.

Listen to Saban talk about building a program and it's clear that he's a process-oriented guy. Surely you've encountered his kind, the select few who follow the directions on the box to the letter. They're borderline maniacal in their approach; one step can't be made out of sequence in fear of the entire operation collapsing.

As a room full of reporters learned on Wednesday, it isn't prudent to ask about potential position changes six weeks before the start of spring practice. We've still got the offseason program to deal with, so any discussion of spring drills at this point would be skipping ahead in the process.

But even Saban realizes this: In college football, the process begins and ends with recruiting. And you had better have a strong appreciation for that aspect of the job or you won't be doing it for long. Though he seems to genuinely enjoy sales, no one would have blamed Saban had he stood pat on the commitments he inherited from Mike Shula. However, as evidenced by Alabama's sudden involvement with some of the nation's top prospects, Saban wasn't interested in a free pass.

Between in-home visits and phone calls, Saban and company continued to evaluate (or in some cases, reevaluate) prospects who were either no longer or previously not linked to UA at the time of the coaching change. Three weeks later, 12 of the 14 verbals that finished out the class of 2007 came from prospects who were either off the board or hadn't strongly considered UA under the Shula regime.

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