Alabama head coach Nick Saban is unquestionably the face of his Crimson Tide team, and perhaps college football as a whole. The four-time national champion and three-time SEC Coach of the Year is among the most recognizable figures in all of American sports, setting the stage for sustained success on the recruiting trail.
The program entered unprecedented territory last February, securing its fifth consecutive top-ranked class, via 247Sports’ composite, on national signing day. The Crimson Tide have landed among the top five on that list every year since 2008, which was Saban’s first full cycle with Alabama.
After a relatively “slow” start toward signing day 2016, the Crimson Tide caught first in late spring. Alabama surged to fourth overall in national composite class rankings this month, spurred by 12 commitments during an nine-week stretch.
Saban, known as a tireless pursuer of top-tier high school prospects, surrounds himself with similarly tenacious assistants. It’s a staff that turns “down time” into recruiting-department strategy sessions and casts its net across the country in an attempt to keep momentum moving toward more titles in Tuscaloosa.
Whether or not a team is led by the likes of Saban, Les Miles, Jimbo Fisher or Urban Meyer, a cohesive and consistent group effort within football facilities is required to reel in large volumes of talent. The roster counted on to chase championships four years from now ultimately demands replenishment in the present.
Current 2016 Recruiting Class Rankings
247Sports composite rankings
Alabama’s recruiting efforts occasionally require improvisation, including increased attention toward the Texas landscape. When the SEC welcomed Texas A&M into the fold a few years ago, it essentially expanded the conference’s borders, and the Crimson Tide are taking advantage.
Saban signed 5-star cornerbacks (Tony Brown and Kendall Sheffield) from the Lone Star State during each of the past two recruiting cycles. Alabama currently holds three 2016 pledges from Texas products.
Defensive line coach Bo Davis, an original member of Saban’s staff who returned to Tuscaloosa in 2014, plays a big role in this department. He previously served as a Texas Longhorns assistant and continues to claim recruiting victories in the talent-laden region.
Davis played a key role in the recruitment of Sheffield leading up to his 2015 signing. Last month, he helped Alabama beat the Longhorns in a head-to-head showdown for prized Texas defensive tackle Kendell Jones.
“He’s a good guy,” Jones’ head high school coach Channon Hall told Hank South of 247Sports. “We knew him when he was at Texas. It’s always good when our guys see those guys walk through the door.”
Davis was instrumental in landing Texas DT Kendell Jones.
Davis also served as a key facilitator for a June commitment from fellow Texas standout Jalen Hurts, a 4-star quarterback and Elite 11 finalist.
The Crimson Tide currently hold more 4-star pledges from Texas (three) than the Longhorns (two), and there could be more to come.
Meanwhile, offensive line coach Mario Cristobal is making another strong case as one of the country’s premier recruiters. He finished atop national assistant coach recruiting rankings last cycle and is off to another strong start.
Cristobal, who served as head coach at FIU for seven seasons before coming to Alabama, was the primary recruiter for three 5-star signees in 2015 and already helped land four 4-star offensive linemen in this class.
Since Saban hired him in February 2013, Cristobal has helped Alabama claim 12 blockers who command a prospect rating of 4-star or 5-star. The list is headlined by No. 1 overall 2014 lineman and potential top-10 NFL draft pick Cam Robinson.
His most recent additions along the offensive front—Chris Owens, Deonte Brown and Charles Baldwin—are each 4-star recruits who joined the 2016 class since April.
Alabama offensive line coach Mario Cristobal continues to help stockpile talent in Tuscaloosa.
Cristobal is part of an offensive staff led by coordinator and quarterbacks coach Lane Kiffin, who made significant recruiting splashes as head coach at Tennessee and USC. He and Saban have evolved the offensive vision, emphasizing more importance on dual-threat quarterback talents like Hurts and 5-star 2015 signee Blake Barnett.
“I’m extremely excited about the chance to play for Coach Kiffin,” Barnett told Bleacher Report. “Obviously, he’s had a lot of success offensively at other places and I think there’s an opportunity to do some new things on that side of the ball at Alabama. They’re going to do some things to get me on the move and out of the pocket.”
This new approach could also help Alabama pluck coveted quarterback Jawon Pass out of Georgia. The athletic 6’5″, 220-pound specimen is expected to decide between Auburn, North Carolina, Louisville and the Crimson Tide when he announces July 13.
Pass is yet another piece who, if added to the equation, could help Alabama capture a sixth straight No. 1 recruiting haul. Fellow high-profile 2016 targets include defensive tackle Rashan Gary, offensive lineman Greg Little and Crimson Tide linebacker legacy Ben Davis.
Will Alabama extend its streak of top-ranked recruiting classes in 2016?
Alabama looked extremely likely to finally surrender its recruiting crown just two months ago.
Now at the start of summer, Saban and his determined staff of assistants appear primed to push for that top spot yet again.
Recruit ratings courtesy of 247Sports.