It didn't happen in the 2019 class, but 1 thing gives me pause about Alabama's future recruiting dominance
It hasn’t happened yet, but it’s only a matter of time.
“Alabama’s dynasty is dead.”
Just kidding. I’m not foolish enough to actually voice that in the midst of what could be one of the greatest seasons in college football history, which is set to sign a historically loaded recruiting class. One day, somebody will say that and they’ll actually be right.
Today, however, is not that day. Alabama’s dynasty is more alive than ever.
We’ll get a good reminder of that Wednesday if and when Nick Saban sets himself up to sign another No. 1 class. The same question that many wonder on an annual basis will be asked again. That is, how long can Saban continue to recruit like this?
The natural expectation is that as long as Saban is on the sidelines rocking a crimson windbreaker, he’ll crank out No. 1 classes. Maybe he will. Perhaps Saban has 4-5 more years left, and nobody will have any idea (besides Miss Terry) that he’s calling it quits. ESPN’s Chris Low will just magically stop writing the stories about Saban feeling like “he’s not slowing down anytime soon.”
By the way, those are done entirely for recruiting. I feel like every 3-4 months, Saban brings Low into his office just so that he can guarantee there’ll be a national story about how retirement isn’t in his future. Why? Saban knows the negative recruiting is coming. It’s probably already there.
Considering the competition around him, that has me questioning just how long Saban will be able to recruit like this.
Keep in mind that Saban is 67 years young. He’s officially in his late-60s. No matter how many of Low’s stories chronicle Saban’s ageless abilities — his hair is pretty ageless, too — it’s fair to wonder if someone so accomplished is going to want to continue to coach into his 70s. And if he does, Saban’s retirement status will be a constant topic of discussion.
That’s the way college football works. The way the year-round recruiting cycle works now with the summer official visits and the Early Signing Period, the system is built for younger coaches.
Many questioned why UNC hired Mack Brown, who’s 2 months older than Saban. Last year, Dabo Swinney got a 5-star recruit from the state of Ohio to commit to Clemson after telling him that Urban Meyer was on the “tail end of his career.”
That was way more prophetic than anyone knew at the time.
Meyer was 53 then. And yeah, his past pointed more to an abrupt ending than Saban considering how Meyer left Florida, but still. Negative recruiting with age is a real thing.
Saban is now entering that period where if he does have 3-4 years left as some predicted, opposing coaches can tell recruits that he won’t be their coach in their most important years at Alabama. That’s a real thing. I’m not trying to put words in anyone’s mouth, but if the likes of Swinney, Kirby Smart or Jimbo Fisher were to make that point to a 5-star recruit, it wouldn’t surprise me.
That’s the other interesting element to Saban recruiting at such a high level at this age. Those 3 aforementioned coaches are all at least 14 years younger than Saban with essentially lifetime deals (if they want them) at their respective schools. Fisher, Smart and Swinney aren’t going anywhere, and neither are their resources. If Saban is going to slow down this incredible pace, odds are that those 3 will play as big of a part in it as anyone.
That narrative was already unfolding last year when Smart ended Saban’s streak of 7 consecutive No. 1 classes. Call it a combination of Alabama having limited scholarships or just the lack of staff retention, but a No. 1 class was finally too tall of a task.
That, obviously, moved to the back burner with this year’s group. How fitting that Saban bounced back in such impressive fashion on the recruiting trail. And if he does get commitments from the likes of 5-star running back Trey Sanders and 5-star defensive tackle Ishmael Sopsher, the “Saban is slowing down” narrative will look even dumber.
But one has to think that as he approaches 70, the almighty question will be a hot topic of conversation on the recruiting trail. How could it not be? Even all-time greats like Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno, who coached through their 70s but did so in a different era with fewer year-round demands, couldn’t sustain yearly top-5 classes down the stretch.
For what it’s worth, I believe Saban will continue to recruit better than both of those coaches did in their later years. I’m not forecasting a massive drop-off here. It’s not like Saban is suddenly going to fail to land a 5-star recruit or finish in the middle of the pack with the SEC. He’s still the G.O.A.T. and it’s still Alabama.
Could Saban’s classes fall back to the 3-5 range nationally, though? Absolutely. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if that happened as soon as next year.
**Checks 2020 recruiting rankings**
**Sees Alabama is still ranked No. 1**
**Realizes predicting Saban’s fade is next to impossible**
On second thought, I’ll just copy and paste this column for this time next year.