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February 5, 2014

Alabama puts together banner 2014 recruiting class

How did the University of Alabama assemble yet another No. 1-ranked recruiting class?

Start with the nation's top-ranked overall prospect, who also happens to be the top defensive line recruit.

Add the No. 1 offensive tackle, who is also the overall top offensive lineman, and the No. 1 center.

Don't forget the top prospect in the state, who happens to also be the second-rated cornerback.

And, just to top it off, wait until National Signing Day and snag the nation's best linebacker, who happens to live in Auburn, the same town where the Crimson Tide's top rival resides.

It all added up Wednesday to a class that not only was rated the best in the nation by Rivals.com and other recruiting sites - Alabama has now compiled four No. 1-ranked recruiting classes, and six in the past seven years, all under head coach Nick Saban - but also a haul of top recruits that ranks as possible the best in recruiting history.

"This is a great class for Alabama, a class of historic proportions because it's the first time in Rivals.com history that they landed the No. 1 player overall and once again they went into other states and plucked players away from in-state schools or long-time leaders," Rivals.com national recruiting director Mike Farrell said. "The dynasty that Saban has created in recruiting at Alabama is unmatched historically and it has played out in multiple national titles.

"I've seen Miami dominate in recruiting, I've seen USC and Florida dominate in recruiting but I have never seen anything like what Alabama is doing now. We are in the midst of the greatest recruiting run in history. That's something to think about."

There is a quantitative basis for considering this Alabama class perhaps the best ever assembled. Alabama landed six of the top 25 prospects in the country in Rivals.com's individual rankings, and the Crimson Tide's class had a team point total of 3,263 under the website's ranking formula, the highest total ever in the Rivals250 era, which dates back to 2008.

Most of the work for Alabama's coaching staff was done well before Da'Shawn Hand, the No. 1-ranked prospect and top defensive end in the country, had been committed to Alabama since last November, the Woodbridge, Va., product becoming the latest in a line of players from the Washington, D.C., area to join the Crimson Tide, following brothers Cyrus and Arie Kouandjio, Jonathan Allen, Cyrus Jones and others from recent UA classes.

Cameron Robinson, the top-rated offensive tackle and top offensive line prospect, was already on campus, having enrolled at UA last month at the start of the spring semester. Alabama actually snagged the No. 1 and No. 3 center prospects in Joshua Carter from nearby Mobile and J.C. Hassenauer of faraway Woodbury, Minn., with one or the other likely to move to guard at some point down the line.

The state's top prospect, Alabama legacy Marlon Humphrey of Hoover, made his intentions known a week before signing day, giving the Crimson Tide the second-ranked cornerback in the nation. Tony Brown, the No. 4-rated cover corner, had also enrolled early after announcing his commitment to Alabama on Jan. 2, a couple of hours before UA took the field against Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.

All of those prospects not only brought star power to Alabama's Class of 2014, but also addressed shortcomings on the roster - either immediate need, as with the defensive backs, or projected need in future years, as with the offensive linemen.

That's the way Saban planned it.

"We had a good class and we sort of identified our needs," Saban said. "I think the key to that is that we satisfied our needs because we identified those needs early on in the recruiting process and evaluated the players we thought fit in best for what we want to do. I think that we did a good job of going out and getting a lot of those players."

If there was a deeper need in the heart of Alabama fans still smarting from an Irow Bowl loss to Auburn that dashed UA's quest for a third straight national championship and a demoralizing defeat at the hands of Oklahoma in the bowl game, Saban found a way to fulfill that, also.

Coming into National Signing Day, Alabama had already all but sewn up the mythical national recruiting championship with the collection of prospects already pledged, but two five-star prospects who had been heavily recruited by UA remained on the board.

Defensive end Chad Thomas of Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington High School, signed, as most expected, with the hometown Miami Hurricanes. Linebacker Rashaan Evans, son of a former Auburn player and firmly entrenched in the shadow of Jordan-Hare Stadium, was considered such a lock for the Auburn Tigers that it didn't make much of a splash when the school's official website posted his bio before the player's 10:45 a.m. signing ceremony at Auburn High School.

That made it only that much more shocking when Evans became the second highly-sought linebacker in the last two years to sign with Alabama, following Reuben Foster, who did the same thing last year.

Foster helped recruit Evans to join him at Alabama, and didn't let his head coach forget it.

"Reuben Foster called me as soon as Rashaan Evans announced and said he was a better recruiter than I was," Saban said.

There was no surprise in the final announcement of the day for Alabama, which came from Northport resident Bo Scarbrough, a five-star prospect who played his senior season at IMG Academy in Florida. Scarbrough, now enrolled at Tuscaloosa County High School, committed to UA more than a year before and also helped recruit other prosects to join him in Alabama's signing class.

"To be a part of something like this," Scarbrough said, "is a blessing."

Reach Tommy Deas at tommy@tidesports.com or at 205-722-0224.



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