Thu Feb 03 06:58am EST
Even for someone like me, who generally vouches for the basic utility of recruiting rankings in the big picture, the idea of a "recruiting national champion" only has utility as a joke. That goes double for a year like this one, when there's no consensus across the major services whatsoever re: the "best" incoming class in the country, whatever that's supposed to mean. Every site has a different school at the top.
But, for the record, since this site has a Rivals banner at the top, the No. 1 class in its world belongs to Alabama. As expected, the Crimson Tide landed signatures from five-star Orlando teammates Hasean Clinton-Dix and Dee Hart, swayed hyped linebacker Brent Calloway from a late flirtation with Auburn and eventually came away with seven members of Rivals' top 100 overall prospects – two of whom, massively hyped linemen Jadeveon Clowney and Cyrus Kouandjio, may still add to the Tide's bounty, potentially leaving 'Bama with two or three of the top-10 individual players (along with Clinton-Dix) on everyone's list. As murky as they already are, the final rankings can fluctuate based on late additions and departures, but in this case, the Crimson Tide's lead can only grow.
Make of that haul – or the fuzzy math necessary to fit all of its members under NCAA scholarship limits – what you will. But fundamentally, recruiting is a perpetual construction project, and Alabama's latest crop is even more impressive as the latest brick in an already impressive wall. By Rivals' count, it's 'Bama's third No. 1 class in four years under Nick Saban, a spree that's now stacked the roster with 72 four- or five-star prospects – 60 of whom, including the incoming class, remain on the prospective 2011 roster. The starting lineup this fall will be composed almost entirely of that number, which was already set to supply at least a dozen regulars on the nation's most imposing defense even if none of the hyped newcomers sees the field.
Saban's success is in the macro. No other team in the country has put together four straight top-five classes since '08. Only USC and Florida State have put together four straight in the top 10. Based on the point totals Rivals assigns to each class, Alabama is a good 10 percent ahead of its closest competition in the SEC, Florida and LSU, in the competition for essentially the same talent. Even if you think recruiting rankings are disposable hype, those are championship odds.