Believe it or not, there was a time when Nick Saban wasn’t able to effortlessly pluck five-star recruits away from bitter conference rivals like he did Wednesday when five-star offensive tackle Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe) committed to the Crimson Tide over LSU.
Going back to his days at Michigan State, LSU and even early on at Alabama, the King of Recruiting had to rely on his “process” of identifying recruits that had big upsides and would make the most of their talent.
Saban has a secretive “player-type model” that establishes ideal physical and mental traits for particular positions. He drills each spot on the field all the way down to desirable height/weight ranges, and he has a series of questions he asks recruits to help identify how they handle adversity on the field.
It’s a system he used when he arrived in Tuscaloosa with the 2007 class, a group that didn’t feature a ton of high-profile star recruits but did develop into difference-makers like Rolando McClain and Marquis Maze. While the group was short on stars, it laid the foundation of what could be college football’s best dynasty yet.
It’s also a system he uses now with higher-caliber recruits.
“Nick Saban’s ability to identify talent speaks for itself,” one SEC assistant said. “They take safeties in high school and turn them into corners, tight ends into offensive tackles, athletic quarterbacks into receivers. He doesn’t care if a guy is a two-star or a five-star. He’s got his own set of evaluation tools and system and lives by it.
“But it’s kind of scary to think what the future holds now that he’s getting all of these guys that are higher-ranked. They’re building for the long haul.”
Indeed, they are.
With Robinson’s commitment Alabama fans have started to ask about whether they could land the best recruiting class -- ever.
It would be tough to pass the 1993 Florida State class that featured Warrick Dunn, Tra Thomas, Peter Boulware, E.G. Green and LB Daryl Bush. Or Florida’s 2007 class that included Aaron Hernandez, Carlos Dunlap, the Pouncey twins, Joe Haden, Major Wright, Chris Rainey and even Cam Newton. Even Saban’s 2008 class that featured Julio Jones, Marcell Dareus, Mark Barron, Courtney Upshaw, Barrett Jones, Terrence Cody and Dont'a Hightower might be tough to pass up.
But if the Tide finishes strong, the discussion might be warranted. Bama already has six commits from players ranked in the top two of their positions nationally and 12 players in the top 10 at their position. Bama also has 14 commits from the ESPN 300, with more than five months left to signing day.
With Robinson added to the commitment list, the biggest name out there is running back Leonard Fournette (New Orleans, La./St. Augustine), the top overall player in the ESPN 300. On defense, five-stars Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge), defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) and Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala./Hoover) are at the top of Alabama's wish list.