Two things haven’t changed in Tuscaloosa. Firstly, Nick Saban is still not a fan of college football’s early signing day.
Secondly, Alabama can still haul in the nation’s No. 1 class.
“If (the early signing day) is better for the players, I’m good with it,” Saban said. “We play in the SEC championship game, we lose a week of recruiting. We only have two weeks on the road, we’re playing in the playoff and trying to get ready for a game. We’re practicing today on the signing day. We practiced yesterday, the day before signing day.”
Alabama still finished the day with the unanimous No. 1 recruiting class. 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals.com all ranked the Crimson Tide as the nation’s best class, though there’s still time for some movement before the 2019 recruiting cycle ends on National Signing Day on Feb. 6. Alabama still expects to make additions to the class then.
Most of the drama wrapped up on Wednesday, though. Alabama signed 15 players on the December signing day a year ago. It moved quicker in this recruiting cycle, signing 22 this year.
“I think last year we sort of tried to save more spots for guys that didn’t sign early,” Saban said. “Then with all the coaching turnover we had, we lost a lot of relationships with those guys and I think it hurt us in the end. So this year we were probably a little more aggressive.”
The class includes two in-state quarterbacks with strong ties to the program. Paul Tyson is the great-grandson of legendary Coach Paul W. “Bear” Bryant. Taulia Tagovailoa is the younger brother of incumbent quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Both are expected to enroll early; Tyson is already practicing with the team.
Trey Sanders, the No. 1 running back in the nation, re-committed to the Crimson Tide on Wednesday after backing out of his pledge earlier this year. The class also includes early enrollee wide receiver John Metchie, who is practicing with the team this month.
The class is deeper up front with five offensive line signees. Five-star offensive tackle Evan Neal was among the day’s biggest additions. In-state offensive tackles Pierce Quick and Amari Kight are both major pieces as well.
“We’re going to lose quite a bit, I think,” Saban said. “I think it was important to have a good class in that area as well. And I think we were able to do that.”
Three defensive linemen also signed, with a fourth committed but unsigned. That group is headlined by five-star signee Antonio Alfano.
“It was a very high priority at all and it’s going to continue to be a priority as we continue to recruit,” Saban said. “But we lost a lot of players in the last two years. We probably haven’t replaced them as quickly as we lost them. So now we’re trying to — and I think a lot of these players see the opportunity they have because of that. That was very important.”
The class even includes Will Reichard, the nation’s No. 1 kicker from Hoover High School.
“It’s awesome and a huge opportunity,” Reichard said. “It’s the best team in the country and it is in state too so it is a great chance for me to be close to home and still play for the greatest team in college football.
“I grew up a Florida fan but I have family ties to Alabama. My grandparents both went to Alabama and are big Alabama fans so it’s all love.”
It’s not done yet, but the early signing day was no small step for Alabama. The Crimson Tide signed the nation’s No. 5 class in 2018. Now it’s in the driver’s seat for another recruiting title.
“We still have a few more that may come in,” Saban said. “We do have some additional numbers that we can take guys, so don’t do your calculations and scare off everybody that we’re recruiting for February, because we do have spots left and there are good players out there that we’re very much interested in and are interested in us.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.