By John Garcia Jr. from Sports Illustrated
After a dominant national championship victory for Alabama over Ohio State on Monday night, quarterback Mac Jones was asked about Nick Saban’s status as the greatest college football coach of all time.
“Oh come on man!” he said. “Of course he is.”
The exclamation point 52-24 that the last G.O.A.T. put in the season, only the second unbeaten record in his time in Alabama, probably puts an end to most of the senior class that helped to close it. Jones included, this sparked another all-time conversation about recruiting classes and where the UA 2017 group fits.
Exclusive recruitment classes on national teams are not difficult to find in this modern age. The 2006 Florida class featured Tim Tebow, Percy Harvin, Brandon Spikes and others. The 2003 USC group included Reggie Bush, LenDale White, Ryan Kalil and Steve Smith and the 2006 class was rated even higher. Clemson’s recent races are as heavy as any, while there are big bids to fall short of a title like Ohio State just did. How about Georgia’s 2018 class, which was led by current Buckeye QB Justin Fields, a massive offensive line and edge rushers who will soon play at the next level in Adam Anderson, Azeez Ojulari and Brenton Cox?
We could go on indefinitely here, but the conversation beyond the prospecting ranking algorithms needs to combine facts with things that contributed to this sustained success, whether on the recruiting trail or recruiting current players to last much longer. as DeVonta Smith, Alex Leatherwood, Najee Harris, Dylan Moses and others on this Alabama team. Each had a clear value for the NFL draft a year ago, when classmates Tua Tagovailoa, Jedrick Wills, Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy and Xavier McKinney left before being chosen from the first 36 draft teams.
These scenarios explain why Alabama has its own category in the conversation with a handful of running classes, considering that each four-year class signed by Saban won at least one national title. A band of top-tier recruiting classes hit the tune of six national championships during Saban’s time in Tuscaloosa. The majority in Yellowhammer State points to the class of 2009 at the center of the topic, rightly with the three national title selections to which they contributed. But that begs the question when we look at what AJ McCarron, Trent Richardson, Dre Kirkpatrick, D.J. Fluker, Eddie Lacy group – do we measure by university championships and field success or by combining that with the value of the NFL Draft?
That’s where the 2017 Alabama course starts to separate itself from potentially everyone else. It will have the most collegiate and early NFL juice. Saturday praises the entire line of various national titles (and playing for another), the Heisman Trophy winner and three other finalists in the top five, along with the almost 2020 sweep that won Maxwell, Walter Camp, Davey O’Brien , Doak Walker, Biletnikoff and Outland awards last week. But the transition from winning everything under Saban and advancing to the highest level of the game can leave this class unmatched.
Four of the first members of the class went to the first round in 2020 and McKinney was very close to the 36th place overall. It could be more eye-catching in the 2021 draft, given how almost everyone else in the class increased its shares based on its performance this fall. Smith should be the first wide receiver off the board, as well as Harris on the running back, while Leatherwood on the tackle and Moses on the linebacker will be in the discussion. And there is, of course, Mac Jones, who just finished a race that not even his colleague Tagovailoa could match during his 2018 Heisman campaign.
Jones finished with 4,500 yards and 41 touchdowns against just four interceptions, completing 77.4% of his passes, setting a new national record. Despite a great year in position with Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields at the top of the list, the Crimson Tide leader may end up throwing his way into the first round dialogue.
NFL Draft Bible has four players from Alabama in their simulation of the most recent first round, including Smith and Jones from the 2017 recruiting class. CBS has Leatherwood in Round 1 and ESPN has Harris coming off the board at the end of the round for Pittsburgh. This means that up to six players from the squad and four from the singles recruiting class are currently in the conversation to push for history in April. Miami holds the record for first rounds in a single draft, as half a dozen left the board for The U in 2004.
The 2020 Alabama squad, which Saban said was among his favorite groups to train because of the adversity faced and the dominance of the SEC’s schedule alone, no other program was able to navigate unscathed, it was truly a senior group.
“We have great leadership in this team, really good players, who are the best people on the team,” said Saban after the last title. “I think it’s always fun to train when the best players on your team are the best people. The other team that we had undefeated had great people and great players. They were a great team too. I think the ball has changed. It’s a little more open , a little more spread out.
“This team has adapted and we moved with it. Our coaches have done an excellent job with this team throughout the year. We are proud of our entire organization and of everyone who contributes to it for what we have been able to accomplish.”
Building the class of 2017 was no easy task, even for Alabama. He suffered major cancellations, starting with quarterback Jake Fromm and highlighted by running back Cam Akers, not to mention McKinney before being pulled back into class in a rare move. Several key members of the group, such as Smith (Georgia), Jones (Kentucky), Moses (LSU), security team Daniel Wright (State of Florida) and major Tennison (Texas), have been committed to other programs for long periods before opting for UA.
As it became the norm for programs seeking a trophy, Saban’s team was successful outside Alabama’s state lines, signing seven candidates from Florida and six colossal ones from LSU territory in the state of Louisiana. Smith, Moses, Chris Allen and Phidarian Mathis, native of Bayou state, started the title game Monday night. Isaiah Buggs, a native of Ruston, Louisiana, transferred to the university, was a key player in the 2018 title dispute. That fateful victory by Tua to Smitty over Georgia featured several members of the class starting in overtime a year after the end of the term. high school.
Don’t look now, but Alabama has a growing margin on No. 1 entry recruitment class for the next season too.
Alabama recruiting class 2017
Quarterback – Your Tagovailoa, Mac Jones
Tagovailoa stepped in with the winner of the withdrawal in 2018 before becoming a Heisman finalist and choosing the top five in the draft. Jones waited his turn and pushed out freshman Bryce Young to head the position in 2020, ahead of his own Heisman finalist and record-breaking.
Running back – Najee Harris, Brian Robinson
Harris is Alabama’s greatest rusher of all time and broke Derrick Henry’s touchdown mark in his only season with 30 in 2020, part of the reason he took home the Doak Walker nomination for America’s top tailback. Robinson served as a key reserve to help with the load for four years, recording 1,361 yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging 5 yards per load.
Wide Receiver – DeVonta Smith, Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, Tyrell Shavers, Chadarius Townsend
The group will be known for its three Round 1 broadouts, which totaled 100 touchdowns in college, and now a Heisman winner in Smith. It will be the positional measurement measure for any future wide receiver haul with several talented recruits hired in the same cycle. Shavers and Townsend transferred.
Tight End – Major Tennison, Kedrick James
Tennison has spent considerable time on the pitch since 2018, while James was transferred.
Offensive Line – Jedrick Wills, Alex Leatherwood, Elliot Baker, Kendall Randolph, Hunter Brannon
Everyone except Brannon had considerable experience in attack, including playing for a national title team in some capacity. Leatherwood won Outland in 2020, while Wills was off the board at the start of the 2020 draft. He is now protecting the blind side of Baker Mayfield in the NFL playoffs.
Defensive line – LaBryan Ray, Isaiah Buggs, Phidarian Mathis, Jarez Parks
Not much stellar power, but a lot of consistency and production from this group of trenches. Buggs was a final choice for the Steelers in 2019 and helped the team start from 11-0 in 2020.
Defender – Dylan Moses, Chris Allen, VanDarius Cowan, Markail Benton
While Cowan and Benton ended up elsewhere, Moses served as a beacon and captain while he and Allen patrolled the second level for four years in some capacity. Each must be selected in the 2021 draft if they enter their name in the player pool.
Back Defensive – Xavier McKinney, Daniel Wright, Kyriq McDonald
McKinney starred in safety before being selected at the start of the second round in 2020 and Wright has practically replaced him since then. McDonald had health problems and left the program.
Specialist – Thomas Fletcher, Joseph Bulovas
Fletcher started from the beginning of his career as a snapper for special teams, while Bulovas is a reserve player.