Alabama loads up on offense
TUSCALOOSA | For those who make a living ranking high school recruits and projecting their futures as college football players, the University of Alabama picked up another crown Wednesday as Rivals.com's No. 1 signing class in the nation.
For those who make a living winning the crowns on the field, however, Wednesday was only the beginning of the evaluation process.
UA coach Nick Saban made that clear in some of his first remarks about the signees.
"Just like when you buy a stock today, you can't really verify where it's going to be two years from now. The character we talk about, the commitment to a standard of excellence, the work ethic, the relentless quest to improve that these guys need to be able to enhance their development is very important to this group becoming a great recruiting class," Saban said. "That gets determined by their performance and how they develop down the road, which we're responsible for. ... Just because you pick the puppy dog with the biggest feet doesn't mean it's going to grow up to be the biggest or best hunting dog."
Meanwhile, Rivals.com named Alabama recruiting national champions for the fifth time in six years. The Crimson Tide's class was punctuated by the signing day additions of defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson, a Rivals five-star prospect from Fort Worth, Texas, Muscle Shoals defensive lineman Dee Liner and Norcross, Ga., running back Alvin Kamara.
"It's another amazing class for Alabama from top to bottom hitting all their needs," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. "The running backs headline the class and assure there will be no downgrade at that position in the future, and Robert Foster and O.J. Howard are keys to the passing game. They also reeled in a nice offensive line class and two heady quarterbacks."
Kamara was the fourth running back to join the class, along with Altee Tenpenny, Derrick Henry and Tyren Jones. Saban said Alabama's returning depth at running back isn't as strong as some think, with only one player returning with significant experience (T.J. Yeldon) and two others coming off serious injuries (Jalston Fowler and Dee Hart).
Alabama's 3,166 points in the Rivals.com scoring formula were the most it has compiled in the Saban era.
Overall the class includes 25 players. Seven of those - all offensive players - enrolled last month and will be eligible for spring drills. One of those was five-star tight end Howard, who took some credit for Liner's decision to switch from Auburn to Alabama.
"I went to a lot of camps this summer. Every one I went to, I tried to get guys to come. Dee Liner was one of the biggest guys I had an impact on. Dee is my boy. He's coming here, so I'm happy. I'm claiming him," Howard said. "He was trying to get me to come to Auburn for a long time, and I was like 'Man, let's just go to Bama.' ... He saw the big picture I guess, because he's coming this way."
On Monday night, one of the nation's most heavily-recruited linebackers - Reuben Foster of Auburn High - made his second and final commitment to Alabama. Foster, a five-star prospect, later apologized to fans on Twitter for being "a brat," likely referring to the fact that he committed to Alabama, then to Auburn, then back to Alabama.
"I think that he really felt bad in some ways maybe by the way he handled his recruiting. I also think that all the media attention sometimes can affect these guys in maybe not the most positive way," Saban said. "At the same time, I think Reuben would like to please everyone. I think that he learned in this process that that's very, very difficult and probably impossible to do."
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0196.