Pre Spring Practice Update

Before Bama’s spring practices kick off on March 15, I thought I would tend to a couple of housekeeping items regarding the stellar recruiting class of 2014.  In this cycle, Alabama’s class was voted the unanimous #1 class by every service that covers recruiting.  That’s impressive!  In fact, many recruiting services are saying that since they’ve started tracking and grading recruiting classes, this Bama class is the highest ranked recruiting class in history!

What makes this all the more astounding to me is the fact that Alabama’s current depth chart is loaded with 4 star and 5 star players at nearly every position.  But, instead of going elsewhere, these kids jumped at the chance to get on campus and compete for jobs at Alabama (knowing full well they may have to sit for a year or two before getting their chance).  I just find that to be remarkable.

Believe it or not, our little website has spies everywhere and we had a few spies who were able to hear what the Alabama coaching staff thought of this class after signing day.  Without further ado, we’ll now lift the curtain so the Lighthouse can shine brightly behind the scenes of signing day…

  • In response to the leaked video of Coach Saban doing the electric slide, Saban remarked, “I’m just disappointed they didn’t catch me doing the Wobble.  Now, I can Wobble…”
  • After successfully recruiting his friend Rashaan Evans to Alabama, Reuben Foster told Saban that he was a better recruiter than Saban.  Pretty funny…
  • Like the Seattle Seahawks’ model in the NFL, Alabama has been looking for long athletes (preferably who run track) at corner.  Proof positive – Anthony Averett (6’0), Jonathan Cook (6’0), Eddie Jackson (6’0), Maurice Smith (6’0), Tony Brown (6’0) and Marlon Humphrey (6’0) have been signed as corners in the last two recruiting cycles.  NFL scouts will be drooling over these guys in the next two years.
  • Cameron Sims (6’4 WR) has a 7’0 wingspan.  Red zone target, anyone?
  • Center/guard J.C. Hassenauer (6’3, 295) came to Alabama’s camp at least three different times.  The first time, he was told he good but he was just too small.  The second time he was told he was really good but he was still too small.  The third time at camp, the staff purposefully lined up every stud they could find on the defensive line to challenge Hassenauer and he wasn’t beaten a single time.  He finally earned his offer.  He then went on to the prestigious “The Opening” event and dominated there, as well, moving from a 3 star to a 4 star in the process.
  • The staff thinks Ross Pierschbacher (6’4, 295) could conceivably play all five OL positions.
  • Bobby Williams thinks that Ty Flournoy-Smith (6’3, 245) is ready to play right now at tight end.
  • When Lane Kiffin took the microphone, he received a standing ovation.  He was funny, charming and pretty much killed it in front of a big crowd.  He said he thought he knew how to recruit until he came to Alabama.  When Rashaan Evans committed to Alabama, Kiffin ran down the hall to Kirby Smart’s office yelling, “We got him!  We got him!”  Smart just turned and looked at him and said, “Well, hell, Lane – I’ve known that for two weeks….”
  • David Cornwell (6’5, 235) is on campus as an early enrollee at the QB position.  He’s big, physical and he’s a leader.  (Editor’s note:  He played less than half of his senior season due to a knee injury and is unlikely to do anything but redshirt this season in our opinion)
  • Kiffin stated that the lost recruiting story is Jacob Coker, as he may be the biggest signee.  He nearly beat out Jameis Winston at FSU and has the ability to be the starter next year.
  • Lance Thompson was excited about his linebackers.  He said they are all fast and they can all rush the quarterback!  He also said they can play the zone read which, obviously, was a shot at Auburn.  Thompson said he thought he’d seen it all in recruiting until he saw Burton Burns and Kirby Smart doing the Saturday Night Fever thing at Rashan Evans’ grandfather’s birthday party.  They evidently had a dance off against the Auburn coaches and Burns and Smart were the stars.  Thompson closed by saying, “We’re gonna get this shit right!”
  • Scott Cochran took the mike and evidently received his customary welcome from the crowd.  Cochran said,  “I’ve got all these pretty mid-years (the early enrollees) they’ve been talking about” and that he can’t wait to get his hands on the rest of the class.

After the coaches had their turn at the mic, Saban returned and covered a ton of ground while he spoke.  A few of the items he apparently touched on:

  • As a staff, Saban said they are all starting over.  He said they are treating last year like it was the 7-6 season.  Somewhere along the way, Alabama lost their identity and the staff is determined to get that back.  He wants a tough and disciplined team and evidently felt Alabama had gotten away from that.
  • There are numerous books on how to be successful but scant few on how to stay successful.
  • The staff’s biggest task is to reconnect and build relationships with the players.  Saban has said this numerous times after the Auburn and OU losses.
  • Why is Alabama able to recruit so well?  Here’s what they are selling:
    • Alabama broke their own bowl record by having 28 guys on the Sugar Bowl team with degrees.  That’s amazing.
    • Alabama has the highest APR of the bowl teams next to Duke.
    • Alabama has had more All Americans than anyone else since Saban got there.
    • In the last five years, Alabama has won more games than any team in history over a five-year span.
    • Alabama has the highest percentage of NFL players drafted than any other college.
    • Alabama does not negative recruit.
    • Blake Sims isn’t necessarily a typical pro style QB and while he needs to improve he does several good things.
    • Cooper Bateman improved as a QB by running the scout team last season.
    • Saban hates the trend of having players turn pro so early.  The agents sell the players on leaving early so they can get a head start on getting that second contract but then so few of them are even able to secure their first contract.  I don’t believe Saban was pleased with Sunseri and Pagan turning pro – that’s the feeling you certainly get from the various messages Saban has put out there on this topic.

Apparently the last question of the night was in regards to the running back situation and, in particular, Kenyan Drake.  Saban talked about the other backs and then finished with some strong words regarding Drake.  He said that the audience has the opinion that Alabama lost the Auburn game because Kenyan Drake didn’t play.  Saban said the audience has that opinion because Drake actually tweeted that out (that Bama lost b/c he didn’t play).  The fact that Drake would tweet that should tell you everything you need to know about the young man.  Saban stated that Kenyan Drake didn’t do the things he was supposed to do (like go to class), so he was punished.  Now, if Drake doesn’t go to class and he doesn’t get to play, is that Drake’s fault or is it Saban’s fault?  This was a pretty easy answer for the crowd to figure out…

There were strong messages all night long about the work that is needed by the staff to start over and rebuild their identity while, at the same time, building relationships with the players.  Good stuff – glad to hear that complacency isn’t an issue in Tuscaloosa.  Certainly not anymore.

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