Just call up the commitment list on Rivals.com. Click to sort by “stars” and see how long it takes to actually notice the names. It’s only a who’s who of recruiting-site celebs.
Alabama coach Nick Saban recently declared “2007 all over again,” referencing his first year with the Crimson Tide, and he continues to recruit like he did in those rebuilding days. He has won more than his share of recruiting national titles but appears to have hit a second crescendo with his latest class, which becomes official Wednesday.
But what if that 2008 class could write an open letter to the 2014 class?
What if Mark Barron, Terrence Cody, Marcel Dareus, Donta Hightower, Mark Ingram, Barrett Jones, Julio Jones, Robert Lester, Damion Square, Courtney Upshaw, Michael Williams et al could co-write advice?
What would they say to those who would re-rebuild the Tide after what’s now called disappointment in Bama land?
The bet here is the letter would read like a warning, similar to recently departed quarterback AJ McCarron’s eye-raising comments about too many five-star players, entitlement and less-than-universal buy-in to the Saban way.
The letter would no doubt start by reminding Alabama’s latest recruits that there was a time, not so long ago, when an 11-2 season without a national championship would go down as a breakthrough, not a bitter disappointment.
That’s how everyone viewed 2008. A year after going 7-6 in Saban’s first season, Alabama mounted a 12-0 regular season, followed by losses in the SEC Championship Game and Sugar Bowl.
The ending was a disappointment, but the sense was that Alabama was back after a decade of coaching turmoil and mediocrity, wrought by NCAA sanctions and their reaching effects.
The 2008 class came into a program that was more than a little hungry. Alabama hadn’t come close to winning a national title since winning one in 1992, and the program was starved.
The 2008ers joined holdovers who had been through a tumultuous 2007, when buy-in to the Saban way was far less universal. They formed a roster that was ready to buy in.
The 2008 breakthrough season followed, followed by a national title in 2009.
A 10-3, title-free season followed in 2010, but the next two Alabama teams became the only repeat national champions in the now-over Bowl Championship Series era.
That brings us to 2013, a year marked by suspensions and arrests off the field and flickering execution on it. Yet Alabama was talented enough to win its first 11 games and hold the No. 1 ranking from preseason until the Iron Bowl.
From the Alabama perspective, the one by which Saban runs his program, what came next was what happens when entitlement replaces hunger. They lose to teams good enough to make it count, which Auburn and Oklahoma did in the season’s final two games.
So, in comes the 2014 class, which analysts herald as historically good.
The 2014ers come as Saban has made his starting-over statement with major staff changes, and the highly touted newbies join lots of former five- and four-star recruits who have never known mediocrity but know disappointment.
Advice? Simple. Do it right and re-peak a mountain already climbed.
Signed, the 2008ers.
Contact Sports Columnist Joe Medley at email@example.com