February 6, 2013

Alabama claims yet another recruiting title

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Alabama is the champion ... again.

For the fifth time in the last six years, the Crimson Tide have won the Rivals.com national recruiting title, led by three five-star prospects in defensive end Jonathan Allen, linebacker Reuben Foster and tight end O.J. Howard.

Four-star running back Alvin Kamara's signature put Alabama on top for good with 3055 points. Moments later, A'Shawn Robinson's letter of intent arrived in Tuscaloosa, giving Alabama 3,166 total points from prospects officially signed. That number is not reachable by any of the teams in the chase, given what is left on their boards.

"It's another amazing class for Alabama from top to bottom hitting all their needs," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell said. "The running backs headline the class and assure there will be no downgrade at that position in the future and Robert Foster and O.J. Howard are keys to the passing game. They also reeled in a nice offensive line class and two heady quarterbacks.

"On defense you have to like what they did at linebacker and along the defensive line especially," Farrell said.

The recruitment of Allen and Howard was uneventful, but Reuben Foster's was filled with excitement since he had originally pledged to Alabama, then flipped to Auburn before switching back to the Crimson Tide.

Howard is rated the nation's top tight end by Rivals.com and a spectacular athlete.

"O.J. Howard is exactly the type of guy that Alabama can feature in their offense," Rivals.com Southeast analyst Woody Wommack said. "With so much attention being paid to the Tide's running backs, he's going to be lined up in one-on-one situations in the passing game, and that's exactly where he flourishes. Players like him don't come along very often at the tight end position and for him to land at Alabama is just another example of the rich getting richer."

Reuben Foster, who also took official visits to Washington and San Diego State, had one of the busier recruitments. His pledge earlier this week put Alabama on top for good, save for a few minutes earlier during signing day when Ohio State held the top spot.

The path for Reuben Foster to Tuscaloosa was a winding one.

"It seemed like Reuben Foster was destined to end up at Auburn, especially after his highly publicized flip last year," Wommack said. "But the staff at Alabama never gave up, and it paid off in the end.

"Foster's talent on the field has never been questioned. His physical attributes are pretty much unmatched in this year's class. The one question with him is how he'll adjust to the Alabama way of doing things, but I think being in a structured environment will be the best way to get the most of Foster's tremendous potential."

Farrell is especially impressed with Allen, whose highlight film rivals any player in the country.

"Jonathan Allen is a beast, plain and simple," Farrell said. "He can play middle linebacker, jack linebacker or defensive end in Alabama's system and has the quickness, strength and most importantly the motor to be a can't-miss kid who can play early. His film is among the best I have seen in this class and he backs it up in person."

The three five-stars lead the class but Alabama loaded up at other positions including running back where North Little Rock, Ark., four-star Altee Tenpenny stuck with the Crimson Tide instead of flipping to Arkansas. Rivals.com Southwest analyst Jason Howell said a switch to the Razorbacks was not close.

Four-star standout Derrick Henry has been one of the most-discussed recruits in this class, Kamara is a do-it-all-type of back and Tyren Jones rounds out a solid group. All four running backs were one notch away from five-star status.

Landing four-star defensive end Dee Liner on signing day was expected but an another outstanding addition nonetheless. There was some debate whether Monaca, Pa., four-star wide receiver Robert Foster would flip to nearby Pittsburgh but he signed with the Crimson Tide.

There were no defections from this class as coach Nick Saban and his staff have clearly turned their recruiting success into wins on the field. Alabama has won three of the past four BCS national championships.

It was not entirely clear earlier on signing day that Alabama would finish No. 1. Ohio State took over the top spot for a few hours after five-star safety Vonn Bell committed to the Buckeyes. The battle for second place is still being determined.

And it seems the Crimson Tide are getting even stronger. Alabama's final point total in the new Rivals.com rankings formula would surpass each of its previous recruiting titles from 2008 to 2012 if the new formula were applied. Alabama did not win the 2010 recruiting title.



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