published Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

Alabama football poised for another No. 1 class

Alabama Coach Nick Saban addresses the crowd during the BCS Celebration ceremony as Alabama celebrated its third BCS National Championship in four years
Alabama Coach Nick Saban addresses the crowd during the BCS Celebration ceremony as Alabama celebrated its third BCS National Championship in four years
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
FEBRUARY CHAMPS

College football's No. 1 signing classes since Rivals.com began its rankings in 2002:

2002: Texas

2003: LSU

2004: Southern Cal

2005: Southern Cal

2006: Southern Cal

2007: Florida

2008: Alabama

2009: Alabama

2010: Southern Cal

2011: Alabama

2012: Alabama

Poll
Will Vonn Bell pick Tennessee?

Late this afternoon, Nick Saban will address his seventh signing class as Alabama's football coach.

It is expected to be his fifth Crimson Tide collection to be ranked No. 1 nationally by Rivals.com.

Alabama catapulted to the top of Rivals' rankings following Monday night's commitment from Reuben Foster of Auburn, Ala., who is rated the top inside linebacker nationally by Rivals.com and Scout.com. Foster was Alabama's ninth commitment from a Rivals top-100 prospect, and the Crimson Tide are expected to snag at least three more today.

"I've had the opportunity to see three dynasties in recruiting over the years," Scout analyst Jamie Newberg said. "There was FSU in the '90s and what Pete Carroll did with USC when he was there in L.A., and now there is Nick Saban. He's won three of the last four national championships because he's recruited better than everybody else since he's been there.

"This year is no different. They are filling needs with great players, and they're far from done."

Saban also assembled Rivals' No. 1 class in 2003 and the No. 2 class in '04 when he coached at LSU.

Foster is Rivals' No. 13 overall prospect, and the Crimson Tide are favored to land defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson (No. 33) of Fort Worth, Texas, running back Alvin Kamara (No. 45) of Norcross, Ga., and defensive lineman Dee Liner (No. 61) of Muscle Shoals, Ala. Robinson had been committed to Texas for a year before confirming Monday that he would not be signing with the Longhorns.

Alabama is very much in the picture for Ridgeland High safety Vonn Bell, the No. 32 overall prospect, who also has Ohio State and Tennessee among his finalists. Bell will announce his college destination shortly after 10 this morning on ESPNU.

"A lot of teams in the South could hit a grand slam, and I would be surprised if Alabama wasn't one of them," Newberg said. "They still have a lot of kids on their board with a lot of star power."

The Southeastern Conference has dominated college football with seven consecutive national championships, and the league is continuing to shine in recruiting. Eleven SEC teams were in the Rivals top 25 as of Tuesday night, with Florida second, LSU fifth, Texas A&M seventh, Georgia ninth, Auburn and Ole Miss tied at 11th, South Carolina 17th, Vanderbilt 19th, Mississippi State 23rd and Tennessee 24th.

Ole Miss also is in a position to close with as many as four Rivals top-100 recruits. The Rebels are expected to snatch defensive end Robert Nkemdiche (No. 1) of Loganville, Ga., and safety Antonio Conner (No. 86) of Batesville, Miss., and they are battling Georgia for offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil (No. 14) of Lake City, Fla.

Defensive end Chris Jones (No. 20) of Houston, Miss., also has been hotly pursued by Ole Miss, though he entered today still committed to Mississippi State.

"I'll be stunned if Ole Miss doesn't get Nkemdiche, and he alone will propel the Rebels into the top 10," Newberg said. "In all my years, I've never seen them in the top 10, so they've definitely got a good story going on down in Oxford with Hugh Freeze and the Rebels."

There are plenty of SEC football followers who believe Ole Miss is too good of a story. The Rebels have never finished with a top-10 class since Rivals.com and Scout.com instituted their rankings in 2002, and a potential top-five crop has brought out some skeptics after the Rebels followed up consecutive 2-10 debacles with a 7-6 record this past fall in Freeze's debut season as head coach.

Freeze has heard the criticism and responded this past weekend on Twitter, posting, "If you have facts about a violation, send it to compliance@olemiss.edu. If not, please do not slander these young men or insult their family."

While Newberg is quick to praise Freeze, he also believes former Rebels coach Houston Nutt should get some of the credit for this year's class. In 2011, Nutt signed Denzel Nkemdiche, Robert's older brother.

The elder Nkemdiche was not rated by Rivals and was viewed as an academic risk, but the linebacker has flourished in Oxford and led the Rebels this past season with 82 tackles.

"Houston Nutt took a chance with Denzel when no one else would," Newberg said. "That appears to be working out very well."

DECISION DAY

Some of the South's elite football prospects will announce their college decisions today on ESPNU:

TIME - PLAYER - EXPECTED CHOICE

7:30 a.m. - DE Robert Nkemdiche - Ole Miss over LSU

9 - OT Laremy Tunsil - Ole Miss over Georgia

9 - DT Montravius Adams - Clemson-Auburn-Georgia tossup

10 - DB Vonn Bell - UT-Bama-Ohio State tossup

10 - DB Antonio Conner - Ole Miss over Alabama

11 - DB Mackensie Alexander - Auburn over Miss. State

noon - DL Dee Liner - Alabama over Auburn

noon - LB Quinton Powell - Southern Cal over Florida

3 - RB Alvin Kamara - Alabama over Georgia

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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