Saban keeps the momentum rolling

Published 10:31 pm Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Never will so few who are so young know how much they have done for so many.

So goes college football’s National Signing Day — NSD for short — as the Alabama nation breathlessly awaited the decisions of the young men who make up the signing class of 2009.

Tide fans were not disappointed.

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A year removed from the nation’s top — or top three depending on which poll you choose — recruiting classes, Nick Saban and Alabama were in the thick of things again.

‘Bama’s closing speed at the recruiting track was astonishing. With a class that may even be better than that of 2008, Alabama’s group of signees was rated first by Rivals, second by Scout, and fifth by ESPN, once again proving Saban’s prowess on the recruiting trail.

And it was the crown jewel among Tide targets that put the finishing touches on the day for the Tide.

Ranked as the nation’s top running back and the sixth-ranked player overall in the ESPNU 150, Escambia (Pensacola, Fla.) High School’s Trent Richardson announced his decision to roll with the Tide and promptly donned a hounds-tooth hat for emphasis.

Richardson wasn’t the only one to display new headgear during the day’s signing press conferences as Foley’s D.J. Fluker did likewise, and North Jackson linebacker Tana Patrick put on a Saban-like Panama for the festive occasion.

Though perhaps not as pressing as the needs a year ago, you have to believe that Saban is more than pleased with the results of this year’s recruiting effort.

With the addition of cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, wide receiver Kendall Kelly and Montgomery lineman Brandon Moore in mid-afternoon signings, Alabama also won the state recruiting battle by inking the Birmingham News’ top five rated players and signed seven of the top 10. In Fluker, the Tide had signed the state’s top-rated player.

In all, Alabama signed three running backs, four wide receivers, seven offensive linemen, seven defensive linemen, four linebackers, and two defensive backs. A.J. McCarron of Mobile, ranked fifth nationally, was the lone quarterback in this year’s class. Of the signees, three – offensive linemen James Carpenter and Chance Warmack, along with defensive lineman Kerry Murphy — are already enrolled in classes and will be with the squad for spring drills.

For those who follow the stars, the Tide signed four 5-star, 14 4-star, and nine 3-star players to the class. It was a recruiting effort of huge proportions.

Though Alabama lost only nine seniors to graduation and a pair of high-powered juniors who chose to leave early for the NFL, the Tide’s needs were still plenty in view of the depth that cost Alabama dearly in its final two games. The lack of depth on the offensive and defensive lines, an impending shortage at linebacker and a critical leadership opening in the secondary — not to mention the team’s leading rusher — certainly garnered most of Saban’s attention during the recruiting process.

Just how good these players will be is anybody’s guess right now. But at least for the moment, Tide fans can revel in the expectations.

Saban and Alabama wouldn’t have it any other way.