Alabama will have the nation's best recruiting class in the 2016 cycle, per the 247Sports Composite rankings that factor in the four major recruiting service rankings. It's not a unanimous decision -- ESPN ranks Florida State No. 1 right now -- but 247, Rivals, and Scout agree on the Tide.
This comes on the heels of Alabama having the nation's best recruiting class in the 2015 cycle, Alabama having the nation's best recruiting class in the 2014 cycle, Alabama having the nation's best recruiting class in the 2013 cycle, Alabama having the nation's best recruiting class in the 2012 cycle, and Alabama having the nation's best recruiting class in the 2011 cycle.
So, no, this isn't anything new, except maybe in style.
The style deserves mention.
This was, after all, the first year in which Alabama's coaches had to redeploy to the recruiting trail later than Jan. 10, having traded valuable early January practice time for the chance to, y'know, win a national championship. Alabama had won three of those under Nick Saban before Jan. 11's triumph over Clemson, but the College Football Playoff's extra game has extended the season just a few days more for the last two FBS teams standing; the Crimson Tide's latest game under Saban before 2016 was a Jan. 9, 2012, meeting with LSU in the BCS Championship.
And Alabama had to do more shifting and defending than it's accustomed to in January, with Kirby Smart leaving for Georgia after helping the Crimson Tide hoist the trophy, and nearly taking noted yeller/strength coach extraordinaire Scott Cochran to Athens with him. Six teams looked to be in position to end the streak.
Still, the Tide came into the week clearing space for an epic close, and made exactly that happen, sweeping away all challengers to their throne. They entered Wednesday ranked No. 6, then gained ground throughout the day.
Since Monday, Alabama added two Composite five-star linebackers, three four-star cornerbacks, a four-star defensive end, a three-star cornerback flipped from Florida, a three-star running back, and a three-star JUCO defensive end — and a walk-on kicker, because Alabama could actually use a kicker after having its ballyhooed kicker recruit flip to Florida. Depending on how you count it, as many as nine new players chose the Tide on Signing Day.
To put that in other contexts:
- National Signing Day alone netted Alabama more five-star players than all but four other schools (Georgia, LSU, Ole Miss, and USC) signed in their entire classes ...
- ... and Alabama now has as many five-star recruits as either the Big Ten or the Pac-12.
- Alabama landed three of the nation's top 13 cornerbacks in the span of three days.
- Alabama's the only school in the top six of the national team rankings to sign fewer than 24 recruits, and also the only school in the nation with an average recruit "score" higher than 92.00 ... or 93.00.
Alabama is able to do this for a variety of reasons, ranging from the blindingly obvious to the subtle.
Many, many Alabama players of recent vintage have come to Tuscaloosa, won national championships, and departed to make money in the NFL, which turns out to be aspirational for high school football players. But there are many valuable effects of stacking talent atop talent on a depth chart, and Alabama's historic greatness occasionally yields legacies like five-star linebacker Ben Davis, son of all-time leading Alabama tackler Wayne Davis, whose recruitments begin or end as lay-ups.
The run of form is something no other school can touch. The last school to win multiple national titles before Alabama went on its run was Florida, which only won two to the Tide's six. The last school to win four College Football Data Warehouse-recognized national titles in seven years was Michigan, which did so over the five seasons from 1901 to 1904. (That was just before Teddy Roosevelt stepped in to help "save" football, for reference.)
The rest is good planning plus institutional advantages (Alabama is rich and sits close to the hotbeds of talent in the South) and a little luck, with success as a buttress. Alabama's able to cherry-pick recruits because it doesn't have pressing needs, and it often doesn't have pressing needs largely because it cherry-picks recruits. Alabama can raid the states of Florida or Texas if it wants, but doesn't have to worry so often about Florida or Texas A&M beating it for recruits, because it's able to cherry-pick even from in-state players. And when those recruits who sit behind existing stars later play and win, they inspire future recruits to pick Alabama.
The Crimson Tide had their second Heisman Trophy winner in 2015, and so we might all need to watch out for Damien Harris or someone else in 2017, because Trent Richardson had more yards and touchdowns in 2011 than Heisman winner Mark Ingram had in 2009. Harris, of course, entered high school after Alabama's first national title this century, but before the second and third came in consecutive years.
Alabama will probably have the nation's best recruiting class in 2017, too.
It's already second to Ohio State's class, with one fewer blue-chip commit than the Buckeyes have.
And once the nation's best classes from the last four years play out the season with the Tide, they may set up for another epic close.
Predicting the end of the Alabama dynasty may be fashionable, but it sure doesn't seem wise.