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Dr. Saturday

Another year, another mile between Alabama and everyone else on the trail

Matt Hinton
Dr. Saturday

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Even for someone like me, who generally vouches for the broad utility of recruiting rankings in the big picture, the idea of a "recruiting national champion" only has utility as a joke. There are no "winners" or "losers" yet. There are no trophies. Even in the rare year like this one, where there's a broad consensus about the best class across the major recruiting sites, there's no point in treating the distinction as an end unto itself: The only assessments that matter will come in December and January, not February.

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But it is no coincidence that Alabama's dominance in the real polls under Nick Saban has explicitly coincided with its iron grip on the mythical recruiting crown, which perpetuated itself Wednesday with arguably the most impressive assortment of talent to date. They flipped the top player in the state (five-star tailback T.J. Yeldon) from Auburn, beat LSU for the top player in Louisiana (five-star safety Landon Collins) and lured the No. 1 "athlete" in the nation (five-star Eddie Williams) from Florida and Florida State, giving them three of the top 25 players in the nation. Altogether, the Tide came away with nine players ranked among Rivals' top 100 overall — six of them from out of state — and six more ranked in the top 200. For the second year in a row, they went into Arizona for one of the nation's top juco players, cornerback Travell Dixon. Not only was no position neglected: With the surprise addition of Lynchburg, Va., defensive tackle Korren Kirven, there are at least two four or five-star players at every position except quarterback and tight end. (And yes, there's a kicker.)

Make of that haul — or the fuzzy math necessary to fit all of its members under NCAA scholarship limits — what you will. (It's also no coincidence that the consensus No. 1 class comes after more than one longstanding Crimson Tide commit was screwed over on or just before signing day for the benefit of higher-rated guys like Yeldon, Collins and Kirven, who didn't join the fold until very late in the process.) Fundamentally, though, recruiting is a perpetual construction project, and Alabama's latest crop is even more impressive when taken as the latest expansion of an already formidable skyscraper. By Rivals' count, it's 'Bama's fourth No. 1 class in five years under Saban, a spree that's now stacked the roster with an incredible 99 four- or five-star prospects since 2008 — 54 of whom, including the incoming class, remain on the prospective 2012 roster. The starting lineup this fall will be composed almost entirely of that number, replacing a dozen outgoing starters from last year's BCS championship team with an even more hyped wave coming right behind them.

Saban's success is in the macro. No other team in the country has put together five straight top-five classes since '08. Only USC and Florida State have put together five straight in the top 10. Based on the point totals Rivals assigns to each class, Alabama is a good 10 percent ahead of its closest competition in the SEC, Florida and LSU, in the race for essentially the same talent. Even if you think recruiting rankings are disposable hype, those remain championship odds.

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Matt Hinton is on Facebook and Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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