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Monday, July 1, 2013
Question of the Week: The Opening effect

By Greg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough

Editor's note: Each week the TideNation staff will address an issue surrounding the Alabama football program. Today's question: How much does an event like The Opening effect Alabama recruiting?

Alex Scarborough's take

Nick Saban
Nick Saban's staff has its own evaluation criteria and pays little attention to events like The Opening.
Coaches pay attention to events like The Opening, but it's hard to believe that what happens in such a controlled environment so many miles away from the University of Alabama is a determining factor in the way Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide staff recruit. In fact, very little of what happens outside of the football offices on the Tuscaloosa campus factors into the process. As one high school coach told me, "Alabama doesn't pay attention to stars or ranking services. They trust what they do, and it's why they're the best."

And what they do is evaluate their way, regardless of any outside influences. It's why camps like the ones hosted in Tuscaloosa each summer are so important. Everything you'll see in recruiting showcases and more was done by the Alabama staff weeks ago. Combined with analysis of game film, the hands-on evaluation coordinators and assistants got during UA's summer camps will be used from now until signing day. The post-camp commitments of David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./North), Derek Kief (Cincinnati/LaSalle) and Johnny Dwight (Rochelle, Ga./Wilcox County) were just the tip of the iceberg.

At the end of the day, Alabama is going to do what it does best. Saban has his detailed process of evaluating talent, and he's going to stick to it no matter how much a prospect blows up or boils down at a camp like The Opening.

What happens at Nike headquarters clear across the country is for recruiting services and fans. It's a way to determine who the all-stars are, not whether a player is the right fit for a program. Coaches will watch and maybe a note or two will be added to a prospect's folder, but it won't overwhelm the evaluation already taking place on college campuses.

Greg Ostendorf's take

From a coach’s standpoint, The Opening really doesn’t mean all that much. As Alex alluded to, the Alabama coaches already have done their homework on the majority of the recruits who are in Oregon this week. They’ve done their evaluations, and the Tide even hosted their own camp last month with many of the nation’s elite in attendance.

The event is more for the recruits and for the fans. It serves as a way to separate the best of the best. Although the players are not in pads, it shouldn’t be difficult to see who the top linemen are when they go head-to-head in the one-on-one drills. The quarterbacks also will be on full display with the Elite 11 event, followed by the 7-on-7 competition. If Cornwell puts on a show this week, it will tell the UA coaches what they already know, but it also will create a sense of excitement for Tide fans.

The players take the event seriously, too. They know it’s an opportunity to stand out among their peers, which consequently could give them a boost in the rankings. College coaches might not care about the rankings, but the recruits do, and so do the fans.

However, the biggest impact The Opening could have on Alabama recruiting will be with the relationships that are built this week. Cornwell already has made it clear that he’s going to try to recruit some of the top prospects to Alabama during his stay in Oregon. If he and offensive tackle Cameron Robinson (West Monroe, La./West Monroe) grow close this week, that can only help the Tide's chances of landing the five-star prospect. The same goes for ESPN 150 wide receivers Speedy Noil (New Orleans/Edna Karr) and Travis Rudolph (West Palm Beach, Fla./Cardinal Newman).