After eventful signing day, Alabama lands best class under Nick Saban
Alabama certainly didn’t need to have a successful National Signing Day to feel good about its 2017 class, but it had one all the same.
Nick Saban has proven himself to be the best recruiter in college football, and he just put together his best class at Alabama. The Crimson Tide finished with a total class rating of 322.53, according to the 247Sports Composite Rankings.
The 2017 class edges out the 2014 and 2013 classes as the best under Saban, which finished with ratings of 319.58 and 319.48, respectively. In fact, this class is the nation’s second-best since 2000. Only Florida’s 2010 class, which had a rating of 323.66, was higher.
There were some disappointments on Wednesday like 5-star defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon choosing Michigan, but Tide fans had many more reasons to smile than frown.
Five-star LaBryan Ray, the nation’s top defensive end prospect, was the biggest addition for Alabama on National Signing Day. His commitment is a huge boost for this class, which was relatively light on defensive line prospects.
— Alex Byington (@abyingtonTD) February 1, 2017
With so many defensive linemen leaving the program, Ray will have the chance to make an impact right away.
There were no major surprises from those players who had been committed to Alabama leading up to Wednesday. The Crimson Tide had the top class heading into signing day, and that class remained intact as the day rolled along.
Overall rank: No. 1
SEC rank: No. 1
5-star signees like Najee Harris, Dylan Moses and Alex Leatherwood highlight this class, but it’s a class that has the depth and talent to be among the best that Saban has ever put together.
The obvious strength of this class is linebacker, where Alabama signed four of the nation’s top 11 linebackers. Moses will be joined by fellow outside linebackers VanDarius Cowan and Markail Benton, as well as inside linebacker Christopher Allen.
Those four players seem destined to become another tremendous group of linebackers for Alabama, which has been loaded at the position over the years.
Wide receiver is another notable position group for the Crimson Tide in this class. Jerry Jeudy, the nation’s No. 3 receiver, is very much in the mold of Amari Cooper.
The addition of Henry Ruggs III, who announced his commitment to Alabama on National Signing Day, is a big boost for the class. Ruggs is one of the fastest receiver prospects in the country and a true playmaker with the ball in his hands.
He wasn’t the only receiver to commit to the Tide on Wednesday, however. Devonta Smith, the nation’s No. 9 receiver prospect, was the final commitment of the day for Alabama. Smith should be a factor immediately on special teams and brings a lot of upside to the program.
Alabama had a little bit of drama surrounding Ray’s all-important announcement. His decision to commit to the Tide left no room for another one of the program’s targets, Jarez Parks.
— Andrew Bone (@AndrewJBone) February 1, 2017
Parks, a 4-star defensive end, still decided to commit to Alabama, but he is expected to grayshirt and will join the program next January. It’s not often that one of the nation’s most-coveted defensive ends opts to take a grayshirt, but that speaks to the level of talent in this class for the Tide.
Make no mistake, this class is loaded. With six 5-star prospects in the fold, it may be one of the best that Saban has put together at Alabama.
There are elite offensive playmakers like Harris, Jeudy and Tua Tagovailoa. There are elite defenders like Moses, Ray and Xavier McKinney. Surrounding those players, however, is a depth and breadth of talent that no other class in the country can match.
Five-star prospects grab headlines on National Signing Day, but 4-star prospects are what make up the foundation of championship-caliber teams. Players like Tyrell Shavers, Isaiah Buggs and Chadarius Townsend will be every bit as important moving forward.
Fortunately, Alabama has everything it needs to reload and keep the Tide rolling. The 2016 season ended in heartbreak, but Saban turned around and signed his best recruiting class.
Once again, the future looks bright in Tuscaloosa.
All recruiting rankings provided by the 247Sports Composite, unless otherwise indicated
William McFadden covers the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama for Saturday Down South. For insight on these two SEC powerhouses, follow him on Twitter @willmcfadden.