On what is essentially College Football Signing Day, Nick Saban must feel like the good child of someone as rich as, say, Nick Saban on Christmas morning.
“Another string of ponies! Twenty-seven of them! Thanks, Dad! Thanks, Mom. These will go great with the other ponies I have!”
Based on all accounts, the 27 studs (so to speak) signing National Letters of Intent with University of Alabama football make up the best group of recruits in the nation and, at the least, among the best of all time. This is what is known as the early signing period, another to follow after this week beginning in February.
“We’re obviously very pleased with the class we were able to attract,” Saban understated in meeting with reporters following the signing event and the Crimson Tide’s practice for the upcoming Sugar Bowl game against Kansas State.
This wasn’t Saban’s first recruiting rodeo. He’s been rounding up great classes throughout his 16-year career with Bama.
And he likes it.
“I like it all,” he said. “There’s nothing at all about the recruiting process that I don’t really enjoy.”
He said that he watches every player on Alabama’s recruiting board. “I make an evaluation, and we come to an evaluation and agreement as a staff.
“And then I love the relationship-building process. I love when guys visit here and you get to visit with them and develop relationships with them, see what’s important to them in recruiting. And also the recruiting process when you go out on the road, meet their high school coaches and their families. And when their families come here and visit.”
Over the years, Saban has pointed out that every coach will say that he had a successful recruiting year, and he said, “We got a good bunch of players, but I think what I liked about this group the most is it seems like they have really good character.”
There are nearly as many reasons a prospect chooses a school as there are signees – head coach, position coach, opportunity for playing time, championship program, NFL development, geography. And, now, of course, ‘What does it pay’? Oh, and if not them, their parents, earning a college degree.
Saban said, “We still sort of try to get guys to buy into developing and creating value for their future based on getting an education, being a good person, being the best football player they can be. So I feel like the kind of guys that we were able to attract are the right kind of guys and we’re excited about the class.”
He gave credit to the coaching staff, including Charles Kelly who was important in relationships with top prospects and who was announced Tuesday as leaving Bama for Colorado State. He also shared appreciation for “the university community,” including President Dr. Stuart Bell, Athletics Director Greg Byrne, UA professors, and the staff.
“Relationships are important,” he said. “To have a lot of good people in the organization that are going to be in position to help guys develop responsibility for their own self determination by being accountable personally, academically and athletically really helps.”
He was asked about NIL impact.
“We’re not allowed to be involved in NIL, at least from my perspective. I do think that it did have an impact on recruiting with some players. And I don’t know how you make comments about something that really is kind of a crazy, a little bit of a crazy situation right now, and there’s not really a sensible response to it, so I don’t know how to really respond to it other than the fact that we do a great job of trying to sell what we can do to create value for players and what they can create for themselves here because our players have done a really good job of creating value for themselves in name, image and likeness by what they do after they get here.”
Saban was Mr. Sentimental for a moment in discussing relationships made in the recruiting process.
He said, “You get to know the families better and you get to know people better. Every time I take pictures with the guys that graduate, when they walk up to me and I shake hands with them and congratulate them, the first thing that comes to my mind is their home visit. You know when I was in their home, whether we had fried chicken or whatever the situation was. That’s the first thing I remember.
“And that’s because you develop relationships with the family and the parents. You’re in their home. Their hospitality is really, really appreciated. We’ve got some great parents and obviously we want to have great relationships with them. I think it has a huge impact for me, in terms of getting to know them, and I think it has a good impact on them in terms of they get to evaluate and get to know us a little better.”
Saban made one final recruiting pitch Wednesday evening. He wants Alabama fans to go to the Sugar Bowl and support Bama on Dec. 31.
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