English: Bama, Saban have niche for recruiting

Published 10:56 pm Friday, February 3, 2012

By Jim English

If recruiting is such an inexact science like they say it is, why is it that one school seems to have such consistent success at it?

National Signing day has come and gone, and Alabama once again finds itself with the top ranking among recruiting classes. It comes as no big surprise, since recruiting success typically follows a championship season. But since the arrival of Nick Saban, championship or not, it has pretty much come to be expected. In fact, in the last five years, Alabama has finished no lower than 5th on the ESPN rankings.

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Kobe Bryant’s gonna get his points; Tom Brady’s gonna get his yards; Nick Saban’s gonna get his recruits.

Numerous teams have earned the top spot in recruiting rankings in the years since they started keeping up with that stuff, but it has not translated to championships as often as you would think. However, the Alabama staff has consistently been ahead of the curve somehow.

Critics will claim that Saban bends the rules; fans say he finds the loopholes that others miss without breaking the rules. The NCAA comes out with new rules seemingly aimed at slowing Saban down, only to have him figure out another way to work the system to his advantage.

Some say Saban and his staff just flat out-work everyone else. That’s almost impossible to actually measure, but they clearly place a priority on hiring assistant coaches who are strong recruiters.

Believe what you want about Nick Saban’s recruiting practices, but I’m convinced there’s more to it than just work ethic and craftiness. I believe what you have going on with the Alabama football program is practically a “perfect storm” for recruiting.

Since his arrival in Tuscaloosa, Saban has brought with him what I would call a Culture of Consistency.

A national championship within his first three years; consistently atop the SEC West and ranked in the top ten nationally; realistic expectations of 10-win seasons year-in and year-out.

Even the style of play he prefers relies on consistency. While programs all around them commit themselves to no-huddle, fast-paced spread offenses and spend most of their time and energy recruiting players to fit such systems, Alabama sticks to the pro-style, methodical approach. Their system, instead of running up gaudy scores and offensive stats, puts a premium on consistent, mistake-free offense, a strong running game, and fast, strong defensive play. While other coaches are fighting over the “can’t miss” quarterbacks and receivers, Alabama is busy stockpiling 4- and 5-star defensive players and runners.

It may be boring to the ESPN-types, and it may not produce the highest television ratings, but it lends itself well to consistent success on the field.

Brent Musburger wondered aloud, as the Tide was putting the finishing touches on their second BCS title in three years, if the Bama Nation had finally found the coach who would make them forget Bear Bryant. While those of us who live in this state know how ridiculous that statement is, I will say that Nick Saban has managed to do one thing that no other coach has been able to do since the Bear hung up his houndstooth hat more than thirty years ago.

Thanks to their recent success, which doesn’t appear to be ending anytime in the forseeable future, the Alabama fans no longer have to look back and long for the good ole days.