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February 6, 2014

What now for the 2014 historic class?

Nick Saban signed a 27-man recruiting class for the ages, a group being discussed as perhaps the best single season collection of talent ever assembled. And that may have been the easy part.

Now each member of the University of Alabama's top ranked 2014 class, which for good measure should include Florida State transfer quarterback Jacob Coker, must be reprogrammed so to speak. After a year, or years in most cases, of recruiting and coddling these prospects, Saban and his assistants begin the task of assimilating each into the culture of Alabama football.

"I don't know that de-recruit is the word I would use, but I think it is a part of our job that we realize is really important to help young people make the transition from high school to college relative to sort of the expectation that gets built up for them, which makes it a little more difficult for them to focus on the process of things that they need to do just to improve as a player, and not worry about the result as much as what do I have to do right now to improve as a player?" Saban said during his National Signing Day press conference."

With six five-star rated athletes and 13 players ranked in the top five at their respective positions, there is sure to be some egos to navigate for Saban and staff. It's nothing they haven't seen or dealt without before, however, on a year-in, year-out basis. Prior to this class, Saban signed 92 four-stars and 18 five-stars at Alabama.

It boils down to managing expectations.

"This is the transition every young man has to go through," Saban said. "You all in the media have started this five-star, we rate them in the top-100. All these expectations get created for a guy when he's 17 or 18 years old. And then he comes to college with these unrealistic expectations with the kind of success he's going to have immediately before he has the opportunity to learn and develop in whatever position he plays so he can be a confident, knowledgeable guy who can go out and play winning football at his position.

"We want everybody to have goals and aspirations for everything they want to accomplish here. We just want to them to be realistic about what they have to do to accomplish those goals, and to understand the competition here is actually going to help them be successful and help them to be better."

It's worth noting that the Crimson Tide's class was kept in tact even with staff turnover during the imperative final month of recruiting. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier, who was instrumental in the recruitment of running back Bo Scarbrough and quarterback David Cornwell, left for the same position at the University of Michigan.

Defensive line coach Chris Rumph took the same job at Texas, but had keyed the commitments of linebacker Christian Miller and became close to junior college transfers D.J. Pettway and Jarran Reed.

However, no player was lost from the 2014 class as a result of the staff changes.

"I think the biggest challenge always is about relationships," Saban said. "I think relationships are really important in recruiting and any time you have a change of staff, you know, that means that there are certain players that he had relationships with, whether it was guys at his position that we were recruiting or guys he was recruiting in a certain area. So to make sure that the player feels comfortable with other people in the organization is very, very important to them feeling comfortable with other relationships, not just one relationship. That's why we talk about team recruiting. We want a lot of people involved in recruiting. I think the players don't choose the University of Alabama because of one person, not one coach, not one assistant coach, not me. I think it's all about the team of things we have here that help them be successful and the team of people, I should say, that helps them be successful."

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Reach Aaron Suttles at aaron.suttles@tuscaloosanews.com or 205.722.0229.

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