It was a strange recruiting cycle for the class of 2018. Not just for Alabama, but for every coaching staff learning to navigate an early signing period and all that that entailed for the first time. But UA’s class and the situations surrounding it were different than their counterparts.

Nick Saban faced the challenge of recruiting to an early signing period while also preparing for the College Football Playoff all the while facing massive staff changes. Alabama lost both coordinators (Jeremy Pruitt and Brian Daboll) and a position coach (Derrick Ansley) before National Signing Day.

Lessons were learned.

“Well I think every year is going to be different with the recruiting cycle,” Saban said. “I think this year was probably a little different because there were so many (head) coaching changes. So those coaching changes were much more aggressive in the late signing period because they got their staffs together and, in some cases, created new opportunities for players.”

Alabama was already faced with a numbers crunch in this class, only able to sign 22 players due to three back counters signed the year before. The team fell short of that number when prospects opted for other schools Wednesday.

Two players UA coveted headed out of state. Malik Langham from Lee High School in Huntsville chose Florida and the state’s top-rated prospect Justyn Ross decided for Clemson. Alabama signed only two in-state players, the fewest in the history of the program in a single recruiting class. Part of the reason is simply that the state doesn’t produce the same number of prospects as does Georgia or Florida. However, UA did miss out on players it wanted like running back Asa Martin and defensive lineman Coynis Miller to go along with Langham and Ross.

The coaching turnover played a part with some prospects and not with others.

“Well, I don’t think there’s any question that there may be some prospects out there who were being recruited by someone who left and maybe that was a little bit of an issue with them, but I do think that the coaches that we hired certainly did a great job of going out there and trying to develop relationships with the players that we were recruiting,” Saban said. “In some cases maybe it had an affect, but in other cases I don’t think it did. So I can’t really answer that emphatically to tell you whether it did or didn’t. But, I think in recruiting — especially when you start recruiting guys two years in advance — that when they feel comfortable and develop relationships with people, it certainly can have some effect on how comfortable they feel with the other folks.”

On to 2019

Learning how to balance how aggressive to be in determining how many players to take in the early signing period was one takeaway from the recruiting period. More than likely, though, what happened in this year’s class has little to do with what happens in 2019. Each recruiting class and player presents their own challenges.

“Maybe next year it won’t be that way,” Saban said. “You could say ‘Well, if you had signed more guys early, it would have been better this year’, but maybe next year it wouldn’t be. But I do think that it does accelerate the recruiting calendar, I think you have to have more guys visit early, you have to get on top of people early. If they’re going to early sign, you have to identify that and recruit to that timetable. And the guys that are going to stay until the end, you certainly have to be very conscious of doing a good job with those guys as well. We don’t put a lot of pressure on guys to commit and we continue to recruit guys whether they are or they aren’t. I think a lot of other people try to manage it the same way.”

Reach Aaron Suttles at or at 205-722-0229.