February 7, 2013 11:36:26 AM
University of Alabama football 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 said.
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 Scout.com 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 University'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 Kamara.
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 the University of 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 happen."
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 Scout.com and 247Sports, which rated him the nation's top receiver.
Tight end O.J. Howard was the No. 7 overall prospect by Rivals.com 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 recruiting.
"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 said.