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February 6, 2013

HURT: Bama recruits needs, not just big names

It's the one day on the college football calendar when Nick Saban can't win - even if he always wins on that day.

Such is the paradox of Alabama football recruiting these days. The Crimson Tide annually has a top-five recruiting class under Saban, according to analysts who study such things.

More years than not in the Saban Times, Alabama has finished No. 1 when all the stars are calculated and the endless Sea of Hyperbole is navigated.

Then Alabama takes those classes and wins BCS titles which, among other gratifications, make all those recruiting analysts seem wise.

But that cycle of success has now brought unattainable expectations. Or, as Saban put it at his Wednesday press conference, "everyone worries about the 40 kids we didn't get (when) we only have so many spots to get them."

Hence, what some people are calling the best recruiting class by anyone in college football since 2002 is simultaneously not enough for some people who can't stand the thought there simply isn't any way to win a recruiting war 49-0. The opposition always scores, too.

Saban seems to have once again done what he actually sets out to do when recruiting begins (and 2014 recruiting has already begun). He has signed a full complement of players who meet the fairly stringent physical and psychological requirements he sets for the Alabama program these days.

Every program takes risks at the very high end of the talent spectrum, but Alabama takes fewer than most these days, because it isn't necessary. Would Saban rather have offensive tackle Brandon Hill report at less than 406 pounds? Sure. Hill has dropped 16 pounds, probably by eliminating entire galaxies from his diet.

Would he rather have linebacker Reuben Foster commit quietly rather than create chaos? Sure, but the coach noted that the same eagerness to please that made it hard for Foster to say no to anyone also makes him an avid competitor.

As far as the structure of the class, nothing is left to chance. It doesn't have to be.

Saban doesn't have to take four of the top 10 rated running back prospects in America because they have "four stars" and no one at another position wants to come. If Alabama takes four running backs, it is because Saban wants four.

Two backfield returnees are coming off season-ending injuries (as is one of the signees, Tyren Jones). Eddie Lacy leaves, and that means a lot of work will be available for someone because Alabama will gladly use five players at the position.

In another year, the focus may be on more offensive linemen, or more receivers, or more linebackers. Rest assured, if that happens, someone will complain because the Crimson Tide "didn't sign enough big-name backs."

But, since Saban didn't leave for Cleveland or Dallas or any other NFL destination - scuttling a sixth straight year of rumors - long-range building goes on. It goes on regardless of what happens elsewhere in the Southeastern Conference, where lots of other great prospects signed with other schools Wednesday. It goes on despite people for whom No. 1 isn't good enough unless it is a shutout.

Alabama will win many games with Wednesday's signees, and maybe another BCS title or two. This class is mirth and good enough - even if some people feel it isn't quite enough for them.

Coach Spotlight: King Henry (Learn much, much more in-depth about the signee who is already enrolled.)

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.

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