It’s tough to believe, but we’re already more than three weeks removed from Alabama’s national championship game victory over Clemson.
While fans are still soaking in the dramatic win, coach Nick Saban set his sights on the 2016 season just hours after kickoff; The living legend was watching film on the team flight back from Phoenix.
Saban’s intense level of preparation serves him well on the field, and it also helps him haul in blue-chip recruits by the dozen.
- Alabama’s title run was — oddly enough — a disadvantage while trying to maintain relationships with recruits.
“This has been really difficult,” Saban said of the Tide’s participation in the SEC Championship game, Cotton Bowl and national championship game.
He added that plenty of people — including president Stuart R. Bell, who “spoke every weekend to every recruiting visit we had” — made sure the recruiting train kept rolling through hectic times. Saban also thanked the fans for “creating a tremendous atmosphere” on campus.
- The Crimson Tide missed out on two key positions.
Saban wanted an elite wide receiver and edge rusher, but got neither.
“Sometimes you don’t meet your goals,” he said.
The class was not devoid of alternatives, though. Trevon Diggs, a four-star athlete from Gaithersburg, Md., and T.J. Simmons, a three-star receiver from Pinson, Ala., will add depth at wideout.
And despite the lack of a pass-rush specialist, Alabama cleaned up on defense, adding nine four- or five-star players on that side of the ball.
- Alabama won on its home turf and packed a punch in one rival state.
Two five-star linebackers from Alabama — Ben Davis and Lyndell “Mack” Wilson — committed to the Tide, and Saban emphasized the “five-hour radius” his staff tries to dominate. This year, Mississippi proved to be fertile recruiting ground, despite the recent success of both its state universities.
After getting two three-star prospects in the Magnolia State last year, Saban struck gold and dragged a trio of potential studs across the border: Four-star corner Nigel Knott (Madison, Miss.), Four-star defensive tackle Raekwon Davis (Meridian, Miss.) and four-star offensive tackle Scott Lashley (West Point, Miss.).
- Saban had not seen film on one of his new signees until after the national championship game.
Joshua Jacobs, a three-star running back from Tulsa, Okla., was not on Saban’s radar until mid-January. By then, the coach had seen film on nearly every other recruiting target. But he was interested enough in Jacobs to pursue him aggressively over the past month.
“He’s got really good quickness,” Saban said. “He’s got good speed. He’s got good hands. Just very, very impressive to the point where we go up and see him.”
The staff thought they would find something wrong with Jacobs.
“We kept searching and searching and searching,” Saban said, “and never really ever found anything. I know quite a few people offered him late.”
- There’s still room for one late roster addition.
“We’re always looking for good players, and it seems like these graduate transfer guys — just looking at the history of it — it seems like there’s more skill guys, receivers, running backs that do those types of things,” Saban said. “We’ll probably be on the lookout for the next best player we can find. Whether it’s someone who didn’t sign on signing day, or someone who’s out there looking for an opportunity.”