Bama polishes off top class with key pickups

Alabama coach Nick Saban insists he doesn’t get swept up in the

signing day drama of recruits’ televised announcements and

last-minute change of hearts.

”But I must admit I didn’t sleep real good last night,” Saban


Everything turned out just fine for the Crimson Tide on

Wednesday when the program that has won three of the last four

national championships wrapped up a 25-player recruiting class that

was a consensus No. 1 in the country.

The Tide’s 25-player class that includes seven players already

enrolled featured a focus on runners, defensive backs and pass

rushers to help better defend spread offenses.

Five-star defensive linemen A’Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen,

who could play defensive end or outside linebacker, were among six

players who were rated as a five-star prospect by at least one

recruiting service.

Allen was rated as the No. 11 player nationally by 247Sports,

while ranked Robinson as the nation’s No. 1 defensive

tackle and the fifth-best player in the nation at any position

It’s no coincidence that Alabama’s only loss last season came

against Texas A&M’s spread offense.

”I think we added fast-twitch pass-rushing athletic guys to the

defensive line category as being a higher priority because of more

spread offenses, more athletic quarterbacks,” Saban said. ”The

same things that NFL teams are talking about when they play against

RGIII or (Colin) Kaepernick or the guy from Seattle (Russell

Wilson) who are athletic and run the ball. We have to be able to

adapt to that level of athleticism, and that means we have to be

more athletic to do that.”

Alabama didn’t lose any commitments on signing day and got

afternoon pledges from Robinson, a former Texas pledge, four-star

defensive tackle Dee Liner and four-star running back Alvin


The Tide landed four running backs and three players apiece on

the defensive and offensive lines and at linebacker and secondary.

There were few Wednesday surprises, though safety Antonio Conner

chose to sign with Mississippi.

”We only have so many spots to get them, so we feel really good

about the guys that we were able to attract here,” Saban said.

”It tells you sort of the reality of recruiting that things will

happen this way. You can’t get every player. It’s not going to


He won’t get any sympathy from his coaching peers with another

impressive haul.

Offensively, Alabama added one of the nation’s top wide

receivers, Robert Foster, and tailbacks in Derrick Henry, who is

already enrolled.

Henry is a Florida running back who was named national player of

the year by the Maxwell Football Club and Parade magazine. He broke

Ken Hall’s 51-year-old national high school rushing record with

12,124 yards after gaining 4,261 yards as a senior.

Tailback Eddie Lacy is skipping his senior season to enter the

NFL draft, leaving T.J. Yeldon to take the frontman status in the

backfield behind quarterback AJ McCarron. Dee Hart and Jalston

Fowler are returning from injuries while Kenyan Drake got some

experience as a freshman.

Saban took issue with the contention that Alabama has such a

loaded backfield.

”To have really good depth at running back you need five really

good players, and three guys usually play a lot,” he said. ”I

know in your little fantasy world that you put these guys’ names

down but there are circumstances. I think several of the guys that

we recruited are going to have lots of opportunities to contribute

next year.”

Foster, who is from Monaca, Pa., was a five-star prospect by and 247Sports, which rated him the nation’s top


Tight end O.J. Howard was the No. 7 overall prospect by out of Prattville, Ala. Like Henry and quarterback

Cooper Bateman, he’s already in school.

Auburn High School linebacker Reuben Foster signed two days

after committing to Alabama. He has a tattoo of Auburn’s logo on

his right forearm but added the name of cousin Ladarious Phillips

above it. Phillips, a former Auburn player, was killed in a

shooting last June.

Foster took to Twitter Wednesday to apologize for acting like

”the brat I was” at times.

”He really felt bad in some ways by the way he handled his

recruiting,” Saban said. ”I also think that all the media

attention sometimes can affect these guys in maybe not the most

positive way. At the same time, I think that Reuben would like to

please everyone. I think he learned in this process that that’s

very, very difficult and probably impossible to do. That’s probably

what he feels bad about.

”But that he does like to please you is probably one of the

reasons that he is a very good competitor.”

Bateman, who’s from Utah, showed the range of Alabama’s


”It says a lot about Alabama that a guy from Utah is willing to

come this far because he fell in love with it that much,” he