The general consensus about the December early signing period for football was “wait and see.”
Not many coaches liked the change, with Nick Saban being the most vociferous critic. But with another signing date coming up in about three weeks, it will be interesting to see how the Crimson Tide closes out.
On the one hand, most of December was devoted to playoff preparations, as well as the constant coaching change roulette. But so far, January has been one long, priceless advertisement for Alabama football, not merely promoting the brand that needs no promotion but placing the emphasis on the dual selling points of “five championships in nine years” with a new slogan — “most dynamic offense in America for 2018.”
That chatter started with the second half against Georgia and continues to build in a Tua Tagovailoa tidal wave of publicity. Much of that publicity has yet another valuable subtext — the huge contribution made by freshmen in the championship game. You couldn’t miss it during the commentary but if you did somehow, rest assured Alabama assistant coaches will be glad to replay it for you (especially if you are a five-star prospect.)
A major talking point for UA rivals — not to call them “negative” so much as “pragmatic” — is that there is so much talent stacked up in Tuscaloosa that you’ll have to wait. Alabama’s counterpunch — Tagovailoa, Najee Harris, Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, Dylan Moses and, by the way, the young man catching the championship-winning pass in the end zone, DeVonta Smith.
The Crimson Tide has eight scholarships, more or less, left to give. The last time he addressed recruiting, Saban mentioned wide receivers — and he was making phone calls as soon as he could after the game. UA is still involved with three of the top available wide receivers — Justyn Ross of Phenix City, Jacob Copeland of Florida and Jalyn Waddle of Texas. All must have done a double-take on Monday night.
There’s still room for linemen, of course, and the secondary must be rebuilt. At his press conference after the first signing day last month, Saban indicated he would like to add a quarterback, as he does in every signing class.
That might require a special personality — someone is going to have to wait at that particular position — and yet, if there is a transfer (no one knows if there will be or not, although NCAA quarterbacks in general tend to follow playing time wherever it leads), Alabama will be precariously thin at the quarterback spot.
The burst of publicity — and the chance for the UA staff to catch its breath and recruit full-time — also means Alabama will revisit some prospects who have committed (but not signed) elsewhere. Even J.J. Peterson, the Georgia linebacker who has announced his intention to follow Jeremy Pruitt to Tennessee, hasn’t had his name erased completely off the Alabama board.
Since the system is new, there is no way to calculate just how much of a championship bump Alabama will get with the pool of remaining prospects. The real effect may be in 2019. But prospects have been hearing a steady Alabama buzz all week long — and it shows no sign of stopping.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.