For the first time in a long time, Nick Saban was a rookie.
That’s not entirely accurate, but neither the Alabama coach nor any other coach in America had ever experienced an early signing period in college football. That’s because this is the first year of it, and Wednesday was the first day.
So, in a way, Saban was just a rookie feeling his way through yet another first. But Saban, widely considered one of the best recruiters in the history of college football, managed just fine.
Alabama signed 15 of what is expected to be a 23-man 2018 recruiting class on Wednesday, jumping up to No. 5 in team rankings as compiled by 247Sports.
The signees included four outside linebackers/defensive ends, two defensive linemen, three defensive backs, three offensive linemen, an athlete, a punter and a running back.
“We’re very pleased and happy with the 15 players we were able to sign to Alabama today,” Saban said. “I think there’s a lot to do to finish this class. We can only take 23 guys this year, so we basically have eight spots left.
“We’ve kind of identified our needs and hopefully we’ll be able to finish with a lot of good players who are left out there that are going to wait until February or maybe sign in the next two days.”
The jewel of the early recruiting haul was a signing-day commitment from one of the nation’s top pass rushers in Eyabi Anoma, a 6-foot-5, 230-pound outside linebacker/defensive end from Baltimore. The five-star prospect pledged to Alabama in the afternoon and sent in his paperwork not long after.
UA loses its entire starting secondary after the season, so the three defensive backs who signed were a priority, including in-state player Jalyn Armour-Davis, Josh Jobe from Florida and junior college transfer Saivion Smith. Smith is already on campus and participating in practice.
And because of the losses in the secondary, Alabama isn’t done in its pursuit of fill-ins for the secondary.
“We still feel like we’re recruiting several other defensive backs,” Saban said. “We’re probably going to lose five, maybe more, so we would like to replace that many guys. Whether that’s going to be possible or not, I don’t know. I know that we’re recruiting several other guys are very good players that may be able to contribute to it. We feel really good about the three players that we got today that are DBs.
“We think they’re all really good athletes, really good players. Jalyn-Armour Davis is a really skilled guy. Saivion Smith is here and practicing and we can see with our own eyes that he’s going to be a good player. Josh Jobe was one of the target guys we’ve had all year long.
“Like I said, there are still other guys out there that we think are very good that could help us in the secondary as well.”
The early signing period extends through Friday, meaning Alabama could add to its signees in the early period. The traditional National Signing Day for 2018 is Wednesday, Feb. 7.