TUSCALOOSA — Can’t win ‘em all.
That was the approach coach Nick Saban took when evaluating Alabama's signing class Wednesday, which didn’t include several coveted prospects that went elsewhere on National Signing Day.
Despite high hopes entering the day and potentially eight scholarships to fill, Alabama began with obvious disappointment as the first of three previously committed prospects flipped when four-star defensive lineman Bobby Brown elected to stay home and sign at Texas A&M.
It wasn’t all disappointment as five-star Florida prospect Patrick Surtain Jr., the nation’s No. 1 cornerback according to 247Sports.com, chose Alabama over longtime favorite LSU, while four-star Texas receiver Jaylen Waddle saved the day with a late-afternoon pledge.
Alabama added three other three-star prospects Wednesday, giving it a total of 20 in the signing class.
Saban and his staff was more focused on filling needs instead of the overall strength of the class.
“I think in every recruiting class, there's always a guy that you get that you thought you might not get, and there's also a guy that you thought you might get that you didn't get,” Saban said. “But overall, I think we solved a lot of needs in this class. I think we had to recruit a lot by needs (in the late period).”
Despite getting help at defensive back with Surtain and Eddie Smith, and at linebacker with Jaylen Moody, it didn’t do much to appease fans disappointed in losing its team recruiting title for the first time this decade.
Alabama’s seventh-place finish was its lowest since Saban’s first class in 2007 when he had only a month to recruit. Wednesday’s seventh-place finish also ended the a seven-year run at No. 1, dating back to a No. 4 overall ranking in 2010.
“Sometimes it matches up in terms of how you get ranked and rated, and sometimes it doesn't, but you have to try to solve some of the needs that you have on your team,” Saban said. “I think we were able to do that in this particular class.”
Defensive back was the key position of need.
“We had to get a lot of DBs (in this class), we lost six guys, so five was the number and we felt really good about the guys we got at that position,” Saban said. “We got lots of guys at outside ‘backer, the emphasis was to get defensive players and I think we got some good defensive players. So I don’t think we struck out anywhere.”
Alabama also failed to sign another offensive and defensive lineman, but Saban made it clear he felt good about the players that were signed.
“You know, nothing comes out perfect because we don’t control these things, but we’d have liked to get two inside linebackers, we got one. So does that mean we struck out? No,” Saban said. “You know, we’d have taken another defensive lineman, we would have taken another offensive lineman, we got the right number of DBs, we got a punter. We redshirted a kicker from last year’s class — who really counts in this year’s class — so we couldn’t really take a full class this year from a numbers standpoint.”
Saban hinted that if Alabama can’t add another defensive lineman, likely through the graduate transfer market, several of its outside linebacker signees could be options to move to end — among them 5-star pass rusher Eyabi Anoma of Maryland and 2017 grayshirt addition Jarez Parks of Florida.
Georgia signed the top-ranked class as Alabama fell behind sixth-place Clemson, No. 5 Penn State, No. 4 Southern Cal, No. 3 Texas and runner-up Ohio State.
Alabama lost out on the state's top recruit, Phenix City receiver Justyn Ross, who chose Clemson.
Georgia also signed five-star cornerback Tyson Campbell of Plantation, Florida — a high school teammate of Surtain Jr. — and former Tide commit linebacker Quay Walker.
“I think that we've all kind of grown to understand that commitments don't really mean a whole bunch in a lot of cases,” Saban said.