-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)
It didn’t take long for the dust to start settling on what has turned out to be one of the most entertaining National Signing Days in history.
At 8:15 a.m. ET, Nick Saban landed his first big unknown when Lynchburg (Va.) Brookville defensive tackle Korren Kirven (No. 198 nationally) signed his paperwork for the Crimson Tide.
And the Tide just kept on rolling to the 2012 recruiting national championship.
Alabama entered NSD ’12 with a virtual stranglehold on the mythical recruiting national title. It was going to take some minor miracles in Austin, Gainesville, Columbus or Tallahassee to knock Saban’s bunch off that top slot in the rankings.
But Athlon Consensus 100 safety Landon Collins from Geismar (La.) Dutchtown stuck with his initial (and bizarre) pledge to the Tide, essentially sealing the recruiting national championship for Alabama.
With eight early enrollees, Bama already had a huge head start on NSD as AC100 names like T.J. Yeldon and Ryan Anderson have already been to a few freshman English classes. But after finishing with a nation-leading 10 AC100 signees and second-best 16 nationally rated recruits, there is little doubt that this Crimson haul is the best in the nation.
It starts with the linebackers. This five-man group is the best in the country bar none and couldn’t come at a better time after losing stars Dont’a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw as well as starter Jerrell Harris. Madison (Ala.) Bob Jones tackler Reggie Ragland is the No. 2 linebacker in the nation and is the No. 44 overall player in the AC100. Ragland proved at the Under Armour event that his size-speed combination is one of the best in the nation. Anderson is the No. 8-rated linebacker, and Dillon Lee checks in as the No. 9-rated LB in the nation. All three are top-100 prospects.
Add to it Taylor Hayes (No. 15 linebacker, No. 143 nationally) and Denzell Devall (No. 20 linebacker, No. 158 nationally) and Saban should have plenty to work with in the middle of his defense. Anderson and Devall, at 6-3, 250, and 6-2, 240, respectively, will fit perfectly in his 3-4 scheme that features a variety of hybrid end/backer combo players.
The secondary, which loses Dre Kirkpatrick, DeQuan Menzie and Mark Barron, is also well represented with five potential athletes landing in the defensive backfield. Collins, Panama City (Fla.) Arnold star Eddie Williams and Atlanta (Ga.) St. Pius X corner Geno Smith are three of the top seven defensive back prospects in the nation. Both Collins and Williams rank in the top-21 nationally and could grow into one of the most imposing safety tandems in the country. Collins is listed at 6-2, 210 while Williams checks in at 6-4, 205. That is serious strength at the backend of Saban’s defense. Smith is the No. 3-rated coverman in the nation.
The big news on NSD for Saban, however, came along the defensive line. He got the day started with the 6-4, 275-pound Kirven and followed that up almost immediately with McDonough (Ga.) Henry County nose guard Dalvin Tomlinson. Packaged with a trio of three-star defensive tackles, Alabama has added incredible depth to the middle of its defensive line.
The only blemish on the day for the Crimson Tide was the loss of Atlanta (Ga.) Washington tailback Justin Taylor to Kentucky. Yet, with Dee Hart returning from injury and Yeldon already enrolled — to go with incoming Powder Springs (Ga.) Hillgrove speedster Kenyan Drake — the Alabama running game should be in great hands for years to come.
A pair of Sunshine State AC100 wide receivers, Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast’s Chris Black and Miami (Fla.) Northwestern’s Amari Cooper, should help replenish a receiving corps that saw Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks depart due to graduation. Do-everything top-100 athlete Cyrus Jones could also contribute in a big way on the offense as well.
In all, Alabama signed at least one player ranked in the top five nationally at his position at five different spots on the field: LB, RB, DB, ATH, WR. It signed three of the top seven defensive backs nationally, three of the top nine linebackers and two of the top five wide receivers.
The Yellowhammer State has always provided the Tide with loads of talent, and generally speaking, it’s arguably the most territorial state in the nation. Saban signed seven in-state players in this class. Florida (3) and Louisiana (2) also provided some elite talents as well. However, the Peach State was the biggest surprise for Alabama during this cycle. The Tide signed eight players from the state of Georgia, including two AC100 prospects.
In short, this is an extraordinarily talented, deep and balanced collection of players heading to the Capstone. Saban won a recruiting national title back in 2008 and finished third nationally in 2009, and those two classes laid the foundation for his third BCS national championship. Of the 22 starters in the BCS title game win over LSU, 15 signed in either 2008 or 2009.
So while Will Muschamp, Les Miles, Mark Richt, Gene Chizik and Bobby Petrino sat in nervous anticipation for names like Dorial Green-Beckham, Eddie Goldman, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Tracy Howard, Torshiro Davis, Avery Young and Dante Fowler to sign their letters of intent with other programs, Saban coolly sat back and collected another stellar 26 signees.
Needless to say, Alabama football isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Athlon Consensus 100 Signees (in order of national rank):
12. Eddie Williams (Panama City, Fla.): No. 2 DB
21. Landon Collins (Geismar, La.): No. 4 DB
32. T.J. Yeldon (Daphne, Ala.): No. 4 RB
42. Chris Black (Jacksonville, Fla.): No. 3 WR
44. Reggie Ragland (Madison, Ala.): No. 2 LB
48. Cyrus Jones (Baltimore, Md.): No. 4 ATH
58. Amari Cooper (Miami, Fla.): No. 5 WR
61. Geno Smith (Atlanta, Ga.): No. 7 DB
84. Ryan Anderson (Daphne, Ala.): No. 8 LB
94. Dillon Lee (Buford, Ga.): No. 9 LB
Other Nationally Rated Recruits:
130. Kenyan Drake, RB (Powder Springs, Ga.)
135. Brandon Greene, OL (Ellenwood, Ga.)
143. Tyler Hayes, LB (Thomasville, Ala.)
158. Denzel Devall, LB (Bastrop, La.)
198. Korren Kirven, DT (Lynchburg, Va.)
251. Dalvin Tomlinson, DT (McDonough, Ga.)