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Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Saban's top recruiting victories at Bama

By Greg Ostendorf

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Nick Saban certainly has had his share of talented players during his tenure at Alabama, and although player development is critical to success, it all starts on the recruiting trail.

Saban, considered by many to be the best recruiter in the game right now, knows that as well as anybody. He has always assembled his staff with coaches who know how to recruit and who put an emphasis on bringing the top talent to Tuscaloosa.

With that in mind, TideNation looks back at the top five recruiting victories for Saban and his assistant coaches in the last seven years.

Julio Jones
Landing Julio Jones in 2008 ushered in a recruiting winning streak for Alabama.
1. WR Julio Jones (Foley, Ala./Foley): The 2008 recruiting class was where it all started for Saban. It was his first full class, and Jones was the centerpiece. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound wide receiver was from Alabama. If it were today, he might have been considered a lock for the Tide, but not back in 2008. Coming off a 7-6 season, Alabama had to work to keep Jones close to home and fend off the likes of Florida State, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. In the end, the ESPN 150 star, ranked No. 2 overall, signed with the Tide. Jones made an immediate impact as a freshman and helped lead Alabama to a national championship as a sophomore. After his junior season, he was taken sixth overall in the 2011 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons.

2. RB Trent Richardson (Pensacola, Fla./Escambia): Only one true running back made this list. There’s a case to be made for Mark Ingram, a Heisman Trophy winner, or T.J. Yeldon, who flipped from Auburn to Alabama, but pulling Richardson out of Florida was no easy task. He went to the same high school that former Florida great Emmitt Smith attended. The school even had the same mascot and same colors as Florida. However, in the end, he stuck to his original commitment and signed with Alabama. Richardson played a significant role in two of the Tide’s national championships and was a Heisman finalist in the 2011 season. Last April, he was taken No. 3 overall by the Cleveland Browns in the NFL draft.

3. OT Cyrus Kouandjio (Hyattsville, Md./DeMatha): When you recruit the top players in the country, there’s always going to be drama, but nothing tops what happened with Kouandjio two years ago. The ESPN 150 offensive tackle, ranked No. 3 nationally, was expected to sign with Alabama. But, after taking his final official visit to Auburn, he chose the rival Tigers on national signing day. The only problem is he didn’t sign his letter of intent. Five days later, he faxed his signed letter of intent to Alabama, and the rest was history. Now he’s entrenched as the Tide’s starting left tackle, a spot he locked down all last season as UA won its second national championship in as many years. He’s a surefire top-10 draft pick when he decides to leave.

4. S Landon Collins (Geismar, La./Dutchtown): Born in New Orleans, Collins moved to Geismar, La., with his father after Hurricane Katrina hit. He went to Dutchtown High School, less than 30 minutes away from Baton Rouge, home of the LSU Tigers. His friends, his family and everybody in the area wanted him or expected him to play for LSU. Collins had other ideas. Saban made him a priority early on and developed a bond with the five-star defensive back. At the 2012 Under Armour All-America Game, Collins committed to Alabama at the dismay of his own mother. He went through a month of controversy but ultimately signed with the Tide a month later. As a freshman, he played mostly on special teams.

5. LB Reuben Foster (Auburn, Ala./Auburn): There are plenty of other worthy candidates who have already made their impact felt at Alabama, but keeping Foster in this 2013 class has to be one of the biggest victories in the last decade. After he originally committed to the Tide the summer before his junior year, Foster moved to Auburn, Ala., and later flipped to the Tigers, a year after making his initial commitment. He even got an Auburn tattoo on his arm. But Kirby Smart and the Alabama staff never gave up. The ESPN 150 linebacker decommitted from AU, and last month he signed his letter of intent with the Tide. Foster won’t enroll until this summer, but everybody already knows his name.