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Does Alabama interest boost a recruit's rating? Of course ... and with good reason

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After a fourth national title in seven years, the Crimson Tide have a chance at their sixth straight No. 1 recruiting class. Have their on-field and NFL Draft results ever suggested their rankings are inflated?

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One of the Internet's favorite phrases as Signing Day approaches each year is "Bama Bump," the idea that kids who commit to Alabama see an uptick in their recruiting rankings. Last year, John Talty from AL.com asked some recruiting experts about the concept, and most seemed to agree that it's a thing.

"Keep in mind that a lot of these recruiting websites and resources are reliant upon revenue of a fan signing up for a team site," [ESPN's Tom] Luginbill says. "When that's the case and you have to drive up (subscription) sales, what do you think those sites are going to do? They are going to start pumping and priming players that are committed to their school or considering their school and place them above other players because they are trying to drive subscription sales.

"Anyone who says that isn't true is full of baloney."

To summarize, Luginbill said, "It absolutely exists because of subscription sales." Scout's Brandon Huffman said, "We don't do it, but others might." 247Sports's JC Shurburtt said, "Nah, but they do produce a lot of NFL talent, which matters," which seems like a roundabout way of saying it does kind of exist, only for reasons other than subscription sales.

Only Rivals' Mike Farrell said, "Nope!"

I've been following recruiting on the Internet since probably 1999, before Rivals.com went to a subscription model.

In more than 15 years of watching cycles, I can say with confidence that the Bama Bump is a real thing. I can also say that there is, as Farrell kind of pointed out, a USC Bump, a Notre Dame Bump, an Ohio State Bump, etc.

And honestly? I think that's a good thing. Or at least, it could be a good thing. Now, if a recruiting service sees that Alabama or any other top school has sent an offer and blindly raises that player's rating, that is a problem. But if an offer leads a service to reevaluate a prospect, that is a healthy effect.

If I were building a recruiting service from scratch, and my goal was above all else to produce the most accurate rankings on the planet, I would take the following evidence into account, most of which the four major services clearly already do.

Camp measurements. It's not hard to build prototypes that are more likely to succeed. Getting players to attend a camp and get officially measured -- height, weight, speed and other general data -- is going to be more accurate than having a recruit say, "I'm 6'3, 235, and I run a 4.35 forty."

High school and camp film. Stats and measurables are great, but there should always be room for film evaluation. At the high school level, almost every player with an FBS scholarship offer is going to be better than most of the players he goes against. He will therefore have good film. But an educated eye is going to be able to ascertain the difference between good film and great film. And the prevalence of Hudl assures film exists for just about everybody. (Seriously, seventh graders have Hudl film now.)

High school stats. One day, someone is going to figure out a way to adjust for levels of opposition when looking at an FBS prospect's gaudy stats and glean some value from it. And that person is going to make millions of dollars. Okay, or at least thousands.

The ratings of other recruiting services. There's a reason the 247Sports Composite rankings are viewed in high regard.

Offer lists. In a perfect world, you could group every FBS prospect on the same smallish cluster of teams, have them battle each other over a series of 20 or 30 games, give everybody equal playing time, and produce an accurate outlook of a player's potential for immediate impact and years-down-the-road impact. This is an imperfect world. You make evaluations with the tools you've got, and one of the few tools is the knowledge of who has offered a scholarship to whom.

This knowledge is also made blurry by the fact that kids might not be completely accurate when it comes to listing the offers they have received*; that, or maybe a player doesn't have what some might call an "actionable" offer, i.e. an offer he could immediately parlay into a commitment to that school. We have to trust that services largely seek to confirm offers with sources within athletic departments.

* You know what would be cool? If schools were required to list the players to whom they've offered scholarships. I'm not saying it will happen ... just saying it would be great.

Still, just like sometimes-inaccurate measurements and hard-to-decipher stats, a blurry offer list is one of the best tools you've got. It offers a hint into the evaluation systems of coaches, who are employed on their ability to make evaluations. And if you're aiming for accuracy, it would be crazy not to take this into account.

At the very least, a big offer should force a reevaluation. If Alabama or Ohio State offers a player you've graded as a two-star guy, a red flag should go up.

"Hmm, this school wins more games and produces more draft picks than anybody else. Maybe I should look at this kid again; maybe I'm missing something."

Maybe you're not -- no staff bats 1.000 -- but that is a piece of evidence you would be silly to ignore. On Podcast Ain't Played Nobody, we discussed this idea (and many others) with Bud Elliott, SB Nation's chief of recruiting coverage.

It works at different levels. As a Missouri fan during the Gary Pinkel era, I noticed a Missouri Bump of sorts through the years, in which a player like Ziggy Hood or Sean Weatherspoon receives a Mizzou offer, then sees his two-star rating move to a three. It happens for a lot of schools, and if it's happening for the right reasons -- reevaluation, not simple "Huh, he must be better than we thought" simplicity or "We need to sell subscriptions!" plotting -- then it makes sense.

Of course, the proof is also in the pudding.

To complain about a Bama Bump is to complain about artificial inflation of Alabama's ranking. But ...

Alabama's recruiting rankings from 2009 to 2015, according to the 247Sports Composite: second, fifth, first, first, first, first, first. Average rank: 1.7.

Alabama's on-field F/+ rankings from 2009 to 2015: first, second, first, first, second, second, first. Average rank: 1.4.

If you're going to complain about artificial bumps, you might want to look elsewhere. Austin, maybe. Or Gainesville.