For a recruiting cycle unlike any other in history – filled to the brim with Zoom calls – Alabama reached the finish with relatively little drama.
The 2021 class had been No. 1 in the country for a few months, and there was little change. Wednesday night, Alabama had signed all 22 recruits who had already committed, in addition to turning over two potential clients who had committed to LSU.
“We didn’t have many guys who were hesitant,” said Saban. “These guys have, for the most part, been dedicated for quite some time. They were very happy and happy with the decisions they made so we had no problems. “
The A Class includes six five-star recruits, the most in the country and the most for Alabama since 2017. The Tide signed three of the eight best prospects in the 247 Sports composite rankings, seven of the top 50 and 13 in the top 100.
The most tackled positions were wide receiver and offensive tackle, with the Tide closing in the top two in the country with JC Latham and Tommy Brockermeyer. LSU’s Flipping JoJo Earle on Wednesday gave Alabama four of the top nine receivers – Earle plus Agiye Hall, Christian Leary and Jacorey Brooks – from 247 Sports.
Combined with this season’s group of freshmen including Javon Baker and Thaiu Jones-Bell, the Tide will have some young but unproven talent to sift through to the receiver in preparation for the 2021 season.
Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs lost that position to the NFL last off-season and lost numbers to DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle in the coming months. When those four players were shredding the school and SEC record books, it was harder for Alabama to fill the position with top talent.
“I think if you have four men like us … everyone knows they’re on your roster, so it’s going to be a bit difficult,” Saban said Wednesday. “And we’re probably a little lean in numbers at the receiver, and knowing there’s the potential to lose a few more guys this year, we thought it was really important for us to sign at least three wide receivers and we were happy to get four.
“These guys are different types. I’ve talked about the receiver before, the position, it’s kind of a basketball team. You need a point guard, a shooting guard, a power forward, you need different types of players to make an effective receiving corps and I think we have some big guys and we have some fast guys so I am very happy with that group. “
Alabama also added fourth-placed double threat quarterback in Jalen Milroe, adding a layer to a position where the focus will soon shift to 2020 five-star Bryce Young. And it lured five-star rusher Dallas Turner to Tuscaloosa, joining a position infused with three five-star talent in the 2020 recruiting cycle: Will Anderson, Chris Braswell and Drew Sanders.
Delving into both known and unfamiliar recruiting territory, The Tide signed the best in-state prospect in Ga’Quincy McKinstry in Pinson Valley, while also venturing into Michigan to grab the country’s third defensive tackle at Damon Payne. He was Alabama’s first commitment from that state since Mark Ingram more than a decade ago.
“We identified the needs we had in this class early on,” said Saban. I think we have some really good players in each of those positions and we are very happy that this group of players will be part of our program and part of our team.
“So we’re excited about the future, we’re excited to help them develop personally, academically and athletically so they can have more success in life because they were involved in the program here.”
On paper, the class has the potential to be Saban’s best ever in Alabama. However, topping 2017 will be a challenge.
The 2017 Tide top tier also included six five-stars, two of which – Tua Tagovailoa and Jeudy – were first-round NFL drafts. Najee Harris, Alex Leatherwood, Dylan Moses and LaBryan Ray will also play in the NFL soon.
The five stars, however, only scratch the surface of the 2017 class’s success. Four-star gear Jedrick Wills came in at number 10 overall. Ruggs was taken overall number 12. Xavier McKinney was made a second round choice. Isaiah Buggs was selected from the sixth round in 2019.
And how about two upcoming Heisman Trophy finalists in Smith and Mac Jones? Both were also in that class of 2017, along with external linebacker Christopher Allen, who has come into his own this season.
At the moment, the 2021 class rankings are just numbers on a spreadsheet that will soon mean little and guarantee nothing in Saban’s world.
But as for the days of signing, this was a good one for Alabama – with a chance of getting great.
Mike Rodak is an Alabama beat reporter for Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @mikerodak.