Alabama lands nation's top-rated recruiting class

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - National champion Alabama restocked the nation's top defense, scooped up a few highly recruited offensive playmakers and generally had what's becoming a typical signing day for Nick Saban & Co.

In other words, replacing departed stars with blue-chippers across the board on a program that has won two of the last three national championships.

The Crimson Tide landed the consensus No. 1 class on Wednesday, punctuating the efforts by picking up defensive tackles Korren Kirven and Dalvin Tomlinson.

"I think we filled some needs with this class," Saban said. "We started out with sort of a goal of explosive players on offense, running back, receiver, those kinds of guys. We felt good about the guys that we were able to attract from that standpoint.

"We're obviously losing a lot of very, very good defensive players. Even though we have some good defensive players here, we felt that it was really important to have a really good year on the defensive side of the ball."

Judging by the recruiting services, the Tide certainly did that. ESPN, and all pegged Alabama as the No. 1 class - the third year out of the past four that at least one has. rated Texas ahead of the Tide.

"It's the No. 1 class in the country probably across the board," said JC Shurburtt, national recruiting director for 247sports. "It's just a lot of talent heading to Tuscaloosa again."

Most of the 26 signees were lined up well before signing day, and eight are already enrolled, one of which will count toward last year's class under the Southeastern Conference's 25-signee limit.

Wednesday's news was mostly good in a drama-free day. Kirven of Lynchburg, Va., picked Alabama over Virginia Tech and Tennessee. Tomlinson, who's from McDonough, Ga., went with the Tide over Georgia Tech. Both are rated among the nation's top 15 defensive tackles.

Neither came as a surprise to Saban, at least.

"We knew exactly pretty much what we were going to get and we really didn't have any surprises," he said. "All those things sort of shook out in the last 48 hours as to how it was going to sort of come down today. You almost needed to know that. We couldn't send out a bunch of scholarships on a maybe, because if too many guys had wanted to come here we would have gotten penalized."

For the long-term, it should ease some of the sting of a major talent exodus that includes Heisman Trophy finalist tailback Trent Richardson, safety Mark Barron, linebackers Don't'a Hightower and Courtney Upshaw and cornerbacks DeQuan Menzie and Dre Kirkpatrick.

Running back T.J. Yeldon, a onetime Auburn commitment, is 5-star prospect by and, which rates him as the nation's top runner.

The highest-rated player in the class is safety Landon Collins from Geismar, La., who committed shortly before the national championship game against home state power LSU.

Several recruiting services rate him as one of the nation's top 10 prospects, including a No. 3 ranking by 247sports.

Two junior college cornerbacks are already in Tuscaloosa, Deion Blue and Travell Dixon, and could be ready fill-ins.

Saban called Blue a "very, very good player" and Dixon "one of the best junior college corners out there." The coach's JUCO track record at Alabama includes noseguard Terrence Cody, current defensive end Jesse Williams and Menzie.

"You always have to address, do you have potential starters at those positions?" Saban said. "We only usually recruit junior college guys here if we have a need. Most of those guys have been very successful."

The Tide added five defensive linemen, five linebackers and four defensive backs.

Linebacker Ryan Anderson - a Yeldon teammate - looks like an Upshaw clone in stature, at 6-foot-2 and 251 pounds and was recruited as a defensive end by most schools who run four-man fronts instead of Alabama's 3-4. Another early enrollee, noseguard Alphonse Taylor, has Cody's size at 6-6, 360 pounds.

They're getting used to working with strength coach Scott Cochran.

After the first of those workouts, Taylor said, "Honestly, I almost died."

In-state prospect Reggie Ragland is rated as the nation's top middle linebacker prospect by Scout and Rivals.

The Tide might have remedied perhaps the one shortcoming from last year's team, wide receiver. Starters Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks are gone. While there are plenty of young receivers remaining, they've got company in 5-star signees Eddie Williams and Cyrus Jones, who could wind up at different positions.

Chris Black - ESPNU's No. 2 receiver and 22nd-best prospect overall - and Amari Cooper - another top 10 receiver - are already on campus. Asked which of the players he's been around so far at Alabama had impressed him, Black said "all of them."

"Iron sharpens iron," Black said. "That's another big reason I wanted to come here because it's consistently one of the top programs. That can only get me better."

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