University of Alabama

Alabama surges late to garner No. 1 recruiting class

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Headlined by five-star in-state linebackers Ben Davis and Mack Wilson, Alabama once again landed the nation's top recruiting class.

Rivals.com, 247Sports Composite and Scout.com all tabbed the Crimson Tide's class as the nation's best while ESPN.com slotted the Tide at No. 2 behind Florida State.

Further, Alabama has now had the No. 1 ranked recruiting class seven times in the last 10 years when using only Rivals.com rankings.

"This class is really the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people, especially our coaches," Tide coach Nick Saban said Wednesday. "This has been really difficult to play the games that we played, the championship, the SEC championship, the playoff game. It's an honor to do all these things and play in a national championship game, but it certainly pushed our coaches to do the great job that they did to try to put together a really solid recruiting class. I'm really pleased with the hard work that they did."

Alabama added 17 signees to go with eight mid-year enrollees already on campus. The Tide showed its recruiting reach, pulling in players from 12 states, including California, Connecticut and Michigan.

Seven of the Tide's players hail from Alabama with Davis and Wilson leading the way.

Davis helped kick things off for Alabama with his announcement from Gordo High School's gym being televised on ESPN early Wednesday morning. Davis' father, Wayne Davis, is Alabama's all-time leading tackler.

"I just had to go with my heart. ... I'm rolling with the Tide," said Davis, who donned a houndstooth hat and Alabama gloves.

Around 1 p.m., it was Wilson's turn to join the party. Wilson put on a national championship hat after making his announcement. He mentioned former Carver-Montgomery High School teammate Shaun Dion Hamilton, a rising junior at Alabama, as one of the biggest reasons he picked Alabama. Wilson said he believes Hamilton can help them grow.

In Saban's eyes, the duo of Davis and Wilson must grow and develop fast because there's a chance they could be counted on next season.

All-American linebacker Reggie Ragland has moved on, and Alabama doesn't have much experienced depth beyond Hamilton and Reuben Foster, who is expected to be one of the team's leaders next season.

"The goal for us is going to be to teach those guys (Davis and Wilson) as much as we can as soon as we can because this is a position where we've had a lot of guys contribute as freshmen," Saban said. "We didn't have a lot of depth at that position this year. How quickly these guys can learn and grow and develop at that position is going to be important because I think they both have the athletic ability and critical factors that we're looking for."

Beyond the two high-profile linebackers, Alabama filled needs at other positions as well.

Alabama reloaded in the secondary, bringing in three-four star cornerbacks.

Jared Mayden is the top-rated cornerback from the state of Texas. Nigel Knott is one of the top cornerbacks in this cycle and the No. 2 player in Mississippi, according to ESPN and Rivals.com. Shyheim Carter, who Alabama pulled out of Louisiana, is considered by many recruiting analysts to be an elite athlete.

Saban said all of them have "good ball skills" can "cover man-to-man" and are also "good tacklers."

"Jared Mayden is a really, really good player. He's got really good size," Saban said. "He's very athletic, probably could play corner or safety. Shyheim Carter, we've had in camp here for a couple years we really know him well. Great person, very smart, good athlete same thing goes for him as well. Probably could play corner or safety either one. So, you know, Nigel Knott is a very athletic guy that can play corner or receiver. Wants to play corner, certainly has the athleticism and the skill to do it."

-- Contact Anniston Star Sports Writer Marq Burnett at mburnett@annistonstar.com. On Twitter:@Marq_Burnett.

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