How does Alabama football coach Nick Saban consistently assemble a highly regarded recruiting class? How did he bring in seven five-star prospects this time, including Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy cornerback Desmond Ricks on Thursday?
What exactly is in the sauce?
The NFL announced this year’s Pro Bowl rosters on the same day Saban stood at a podium to discuss a new group of talent for 2023. One-eighth of them, 11 out of 88, were from Alabama. That’s an incredible total, and it demonstrates why the Crimson Tide is a destination programme for top recruits. No other Southeastern Conference school had three Pro Bowlers. Ohio State had two of them. Clemson is number one.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts, running backs Josh Jacobs and Derrick Henry, guard Landon Dickerson, defensive linemen Quinnen Williams and Jonathan Allen, linebacker C.J. Mosley, and defensive backs Minkah Fitzpatrick, Pat Surtain, Marlon Humphrey, and Trevon Diggs were all named to the Pro Bowl. Fans, players, and coaches vote to determine who makes the Pro Bowl.
And you’d better believe that NFL success matters.
That doesn’t mean high school recruits are counting the Pro Bowl appearances of their favourite schools, but the Pro Bowl is a reliable predictor of who the league’s true stars are. And those recruits are paying attention to them. Who they turn on the television for. Who are they studying technique on YouTube?
The NFL is their Holy Grail; it is still a long shot for college players, but it appears to be a little more attainable from Tuscaloosa than anywhere else in the country. Why would it not? In addition to 11 Pro Bowlers, 70 UA players have appeared in an NFL game this season, a record. With only 46 players activated for game days per club, that’s enough to outfit an entire NFL team plus roughly half of another on a Sunday. According to the current list of accepted invitations, Alabama will have at least twice as many players as any other school competing in the Reese’s Senior Bowl in February.
Of course, there is a lot more to successful recruiting.
Players consider proximity to home, academics, who they supported as a child, which school paid the most attention to them, which coach they prefer, and, of course, the newly discovered NIL windfall. Family members, high school coaches, teammates, and girlfriends can all participate. This recruiting thing can be messy and complicated.
But there’s nothing complicated about the NFL’s allure. It’s the North Star for recruits. It’s the point at which NIL dollars resemble pennies.
And it’s a big reason why Alabama’s brand attracts recruits all by itself.