Alabama has signed eight No. 1 recruiting classes in the last nine cycles, including the one that officially finishes up in February 2019. The Tide are college football’s biggest bullies in recruiting as much as actual football. They don’t win every battle nationwide, but historically, they do win the vast majority of battles in their home state.
In 2012, the best recruit in Alabama, QB Jameis Winston, picked Florida State over Bama. That was an exception. From 2013 through 2017, the Tide signed the top Alabamian prospect every year, according to the 247Sports Composite. Most years, they signed most of the top handful. In 2013, they signed each of the top five.
In 2018, the Tide took a shocking recruiting L by the name of Justyn Ross.
Ross was the No. 1 player in the state and the No. 7 receiver in the class, per the Composite, though many of us who’d watched the class’ highest-ranked receivers thought Ross was closer to No. 2 or 3 in the country.
He picked Clemson over the Tide, and not because Bama didn’t want him. The Tide offered him a scholarship out of Central in Phenix City, in the Eastern part of the state right near the border with Georgia. Nick Saban explained not getting Ross before Monday’s National Championship, which included Ross lighting up his team:
“We thought he was one of the best players in Alabama a year ago and certainly recruited him with as much enthusiasm as possible. We just came up short.”
Ross, for his part, said he liked Clemson for “the different type of culture that they have there, as well as being “more a family and more coaching stability.”
The Tide’s last huge recruiting miss in their own state, Winston, arguably cost them 2013’s title. Now, missing on Ross has contributed to losing 2018’s.
It’s not fair to say losing out on Ross was the reason. Clemson utterly destroyed Alabama. (The game wasn’t over when I published this, but it was well on its way, with Clemson poised to set multiple records for domination of a Saban Bama team.)
Here’s one thing Ross did in the title game:
74 YARDS!! Justyn Ross to the HOUSE! pic.twitter.com/kCIP1tJmfF— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 8, 2019
Ross finished with six catches and 153 yards, all of which came with most of a quarter still to play — such was the nature of Clemson’s dominance in a 44-16 win.
Ross also had six catches for 148 yards and two touchdowns against Notre Dame, including this grown-ass-man TD to start the scoring:
Good ball from Trevor Lawrence. Great play by Justyn Ross. And they're both true freshmen. 9-3 Clemson. pic.twitter.com/JNmvc33U7j— Max Olson (@max_olson) December 29, 2018
Like his star QB Trevor Lawrence, Ross is a true freshman. The NFL’s eligibility rules mean Clemson gets them both for two more years.
Sorry to Alabama and the rest of college football about that. And sorry to Ross, who’s good enough to be playing in the NFL yesterday.