TUSCALOOSA _ When he looks around the University of Alabama football locker room, it's all changed. Every other nameplate is different from when since he first arrived, even among the coaching staff, making him the undisputed veteran of the Crimson Tide.
That's because after signing in 2004, senior right tackle Drew Davis greyshirted, then redshirted, and has now run his eligibility to the maximum. The only other remaining player from his initial recruiting class, Lorenzo Washington, first had to attend Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia before arriving at the Capstone, where he only had to switch positions from defensive tackle to end.
"The first person I went against was Mark Anderson," Davis said about his first practice. "Obviously he plays for the (Chicago) Bears and does a great job, and the first thing I thought was, 'I don't know if I can do this.' I think I've come a long way, but you don't get confused that you still have a long way to go."
To give an idea of how far the program has come during Davis' tenure, consider that Alabama received commitments from only four four-star prospects that year -- Washington, wide receiver Nikita Stover (who had to attend junior college), defensive tackle Chris Turner and defensive tackle Justin Britt - and no five-stars.
In comparison, the most recent class had commitments from four five-star recruits (Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick, Nico Johnson and D.J. Fluker), and 14 four-star players.
The last two years combined, when Nick Saban had back-to-back No. 1 signing classes, he received a whopping 40 four- or five-star commitments, nine more than anyone else in the nation (believe it or not, Michigan was second with 31), and that doesn't include defensive linemen Terrence Cody or Marcell Dareus, who were both a star shy.
Many of last year's top recruits have already emerged into outstanding players like Mark Ingram, Julio Jones, Dont'a Hightower and Barrett Jones, who have helped the Tide make the transition from potential contender into perennial one.
"We were playing as underdogs last year," Washington said. "Now we're not underdogs, but the target is on us more."
Is it really that simple?
If you eye-ball a list of which programs landed the most four- and five-star commitments since 2005 (those players could be fifth-year seniors now), perhaps it is. Note: This doesn't factor in players who did not qualify or re-signed again and thus may have counted more than once.
To say the Southeastern Conference is made up of recruiting kings would be a tremendous understatement. Nine of the 12 teams are ranked in this top 25, and the 521 total commitments blew away the rest of the college football world. In comparison, the ACC was second (317), followed by the Big 12 (294), Big Ten (267), and the Pac-10 (265).
The top three teams listed, Florida, Southern California and LSU, have won every national championship since 2004 minus one, when the Trojans were edged by Texas to win the 2005 title. Three of the top five teams in commitments are also ranked in the top five of the current Bowl Championship Standings (Florida, USC and Alabama), and the Gators are still riding their back-to-back classes of 20-plus top players in 2006-07.
Although Iowa is ranked fourth in the latest BCS poll, the Hawkeyes landed 17 top recruits, which was exceeded by five Big Ten rivals. The teams tabbed BCS busters truly are according to the recruiting numbers. No. 6 TCU had six four- or five-star recruits (of which four were from last year), and No. 7 Boise State has had just one (in 2005). No. 8 Cincinnati had two, both in the Class of 2009. No. 11 Georgia Tech had exactly that many top recruits, 11, with eight from 2007.
Teams with the most top commitments since 2005 that are not ranked in the current BCS standings include Florida State, Georgia, Oklahoma, Michigan, Tennessee, Auburn, Clemson, UCLA, Nebraska, North Carolina, Illinois, Texas A&M, Arkansas and Maryland.
Of them, those with losing records are Florida State, Tennessee, UCLA, Illinois, Arkansas and Maryland. Although their fans may claim a variety of reasons for the sub-par season, talent doesn't appear to be one of them.
The bottom of the BCS
Indiana and Wake Forest are the only BCS conference school to have not landed a top recruit since 2005. Northwestern and Vanderbilt both had one, while Washington State and Connecticut had two.