"But I must admit I didn't sleep real good last night," Saban said.
Everything turned out just fine for the Crimson Tide on Wednesday when the program that has won three of the last four national championships wrapped up a 25-player recruiting class that was a consensus No. 1 in the country.
The Tide's 25-player class that includes seven players already enrolled featured a focus on runners, defensive backs and pass rushers to help better defend spread offenses.
Five-star defensive linemen A'Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen, who could play defensive end or outside linebacker, were among six players who were rated as a five-star prospect by at least one recruiting service.
Allen was rated as the No. 11 player nationally by 247Sports, while Scout.com ranked Robinson as the nation's No. 1 defensive tackle and the fifth-best player in the nation at any position
It's no coincidence that Alabama's only loss last season came against Texas A&M's spread offense.
"I think we added fast-twitch pass-rushing athletic guys to the defensive line category as being a higher priority because of more spread offenses, more athletic quarterbacks," Saban said. "The same things that NFL teams are talking about when they play against RGIII or (Colin) Kaepernick or the guy from Seattle (Russell Wilson) who are athletic and run the ball. We have to be able to adapt to that level of athleticism, and that means we have to be more athletic to do that."
Alabama didn't lose any commitments on signing day and got afternoon pledges from Robinson, a former Texas pledge, four-star defensive tackle Dee Liner and four-star running back Alvin Kamara.
The Tide landed four running backs and three players apiece on the defensive and offensive lines and at linebacker and secondary. There were few Wednesday surprises, though safety Antonio Conner chose to sign with Mississippi.
"We only have so many spots to get them, so we feel really good about the guys that we were able to attract here," Saban said. "It tells you sort of the reality of recruiting that things will happen this way. You can't get every player. It's not going to happen."
He won't get any sympathy from his coaching peers with another impressive haul.
Offensively, Alabama added one of the nation's top wide receivers, Robert Foster, and tailbacks in Derrick Henry, who is already enrolled.
Henry is a Florida running back who was named national player of the year by the Maxwell Football Club and Parade magazine. He broke Ken Hall's 51-year-old national high school rushing record with 12,124 yards after gaining 4,261 yards as a senior.
Tailback Eddie Lacy is skipping his senior season to enter the NFL draft, leaving T.J. Yeldon to take the frontman status in the backfield behind quarterback AJ McCarron. Dee Hart and Jalston Fowler are returning from injuries while Kenyan Drake got some experience as a freshman.
Saban took issue with the contention that Alabama has such a loaded backfield.
"To have really good depth at running back you need five really good players, and three guys usually play a lot," he said. "I know in your little fantasy world that you put these guys' names down but there are circumstances. I think several of the guys that we recruited are going to have lots of opportunities to contribute next year."
Foster, who is from Monaca, Pa., was a five-star prospect by Scout.com and 247Sports, which rated him the nation's top receiver.
Tight end O.J. Howard was the No. 7 overall prospect by Rivals.com out of Prattville, Ala. Like Henry and quarterback Cooper Bateman, he's already in school.
Auburn High School linebacker Reuben Foster signed two days after committing to Alabama. He has a tattoo of Auburn's logo on his right forearm but added the name of cousin Ladarious Phillips above it. Phillips, a former Auburn player, was killed in a shooting last June.
Foster took to Twitter Wednesday to apologize for acting like "the brat I was" at times.
"He really felt bad in some ways by the way he handled his recruiting," Saban said. "I also think that all the media attention sometimes can affect these guys in maybe not the most positive way. At the same time, I think that Reuben would like to please everyone. I think he learned in this process that that's very, very difficult and probably impossible to do. That's probably what he feels bad about.
"But that he does like to please you is probably one of the reasons that he is a very good competitor."
Bateman, who's from Utah, showed the range of Alabama's recruiting.
"It says a lot about Alabama that a guy from Utah is willing to come this far because he fell in love with it that much," he said.
List of Alabama's football signees
A list of Alabama signees with position, height, weight, school and hometown:
Jonathan Allen, dl/lb, 6-3, 264, Stone Bridge HS, Ashburn, Va.
Anthony Averett, db, 6-0, 170, Woodbury (N.J.) HS
Cooper Bateman, qb, 6-3, 215, Cotonwood HS, Murray, Utah
Leon Brown, ol, 6-6, 300, ASA College, Riverdale, Md.
Jonathan Cook, db, 6-0, 186, Spanish Fort (Ala.) HS
Raheem Falkins, wr, 6-4, 195, G.W. Carver HS, New Orleans, La.
Reuben Foster, lb, 6-2, 228, Auburn (Ala.) HS
Robert Foster, wr, 6-3, 187 Central Valley HS, Monaca, Pa.
Derrick Henry, rb, 6-3, 242, Yulee (Fla.) HS
Brandon Hill, ol, 6-7, 390 Hargrove Military Acad., Collierville, Tenn.
Grant Hill, ol, 6-6, 301, Huntsville (Ala.) HS
O.J. Howard, te, 6-6, 235, Autauga Acad., Prattville, Ala.
Eddie Jackson, db, 6-0, 175, Boyd Anderson HS, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Tyren Jones, rb, 5-9, 215, Walton HS, Marietta, Ga.
Walker Jones, lb, 6-2, 230, Evangelical Christian HS, Cordova, Tenn.
Alvin Kamara, rb, 5-10, 197, Norcross (Ga.) HS
Dee Liner, dl, 6-3, 281, Muscle Shoals (Ala.) HS
Cole Mazza, ls, 6-1, 246, Liberty HS, Bakersfield, Calif.
Parker McLeod, qb, 6-3, 190, Walton HS, Marietta, Ga.
Darius Paige, dl, 6-4, 314, Foley (Ala.) HS
A'Shawn Robinson, dl, 6-4, 320, Arlington Heights HS, Fort Worth,
Maurice Smith, db, 6-0, 180, Dulles HS, Sugar Land, Texas
ArDarius Stewart, ath, 6-0, 190, Fultondale (Ala.) HS
Altee Tenpenny, rb, 6-0, 207, North Little Rock (HS), Ark.
Tim Williams, dl, 6-3, 235, University Lab HS, Baton Rouge, La.
Auburn's Malzahn loads up on defensive line
AUBURN — Auburn coach Gus Malzahn is known for his offense, but made the biggest splash on the defensive line with his first recruiting class.
Defensive tackle Montravius Adams and end Elijah Daniel both announced on Wednesday that they'd play for the Tigers, joining the group's highest rated signee Carl Lawson on the front line.
"In this league you win on the offensive and defensive lines, and the defensive line was a focus," Malzahn said. "The three guys we have, we feel like are three of the best in the entire country. Coach (Rodney) Garner's a great coach and he's going to have three guys that have a chance to help us immediately."
The 23-player class also included a signing day pickup in four-star running back Johnathan Ford, a former Vanderbilt commitment. The strong finish vaulted Auburn into a No. 10 finish according to Rivals.com, 11th by 247Sports and 13th by Scout.
Carver-Montgomery four-star quarterback Jeremy Johnson led three signees at the position and the Tigers signed four wide receivers. Along with the defensive line, those spots in the offensive backfield were huge needs for a team that ranked last in the Southeastern Conference in total offense and 13th in yards allowed per game.
The need for immediate help led Malzahn to bring in six junior college transfers, three of them already enrolled.
A big objective was to get more physical.
"I told our staff in the very first staff meeting we had that we needed to find football players that are going to be Auburn-type, tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar guys," Malzahn said. "I really feel like for the most part we did that."
The Tigers added offensive lineman Deon Mix, a former Mississippi State commitment, on signing day but had loaded up on blockers in the past two classes. This time the emphasis was on the opposite side of the line for a defense that struggled to stop the run and generate much pass rush, even with junior defensive end Corey Lemonier, who declared for the NFL draft.
Garner supplied a boost with previous relationships to both Adams and Daniel before leaving Georgia for his alma mater.
The 6-foot-3, 310-pound Adams is a five-star tackle who had 34 stops behind the line as a senior at Dooly County High School in Vienna, Ga.
"I think this is going to be my eighth year coaching college," Malzahn said. "I don't know if I've seen a bigger, athletic guy than him. I really feel like the sky's the limit with him. Coach Garner had a great relationship with him. That really helped get him here."
Daniel was ranked the No. 3 defensive end and 27th-best prospect by 247Sports.
"Pass rushing was one of our big needs, and this guy can really do it," Malzahn said.
Malzahn also cited Lawson's continued commitment as a key after prospects like five-star linebacker Reuben Foster and four-star defensive tackle Dee Liner — who both signed with Alabama — withdrew their pledges following coach Gene Chizik's firing.
"When a lot of guys went south and went other ways, he hung in there with us," Malzahn said. "He provided the stability on the defensive side to have the class that we did. "
He said Johnson, Alabama's Mr. Football, fulfilled a similar role on offense. He could compete with junior college transfer Nick Marshall, a former Georgia signee, and returnees Kiehl Frazier and Jonathan Wallace for the starting job.
Marshall passed for 3,142 yards and 18 touchdowns last season at Garden City (Kan.) Community College, while rushing for 1,095 yards and 19 scores.
Johnson is also a basketball standout, but Malzahn said he will concentrate on football as a freshman.
"I know his goal is to be the starting quarterback here and what it takes to be a starting quarterback in college, especially in this conference, it takes a lot of focus," Malzahn said. "But he is a very good basketball player."
List of Auburn football signees
A list of Auburn football signees with position, height weight, school and hometown:
Montravius Adams, dt, 6-3, 315, Dooly County HS, Vienna, Ga.
Mackenro Alexander, db, 6-0, 185, Immokalee (Fla.) HS
Cameron Artis-Payne, rb, 5-11, 210, Allen Hancock College, Harrisburg, Pa.
Peyton Barber, rb, 5-11, 206, Milton HS, Alpharetta, Ga.
Ben Bradley, dt, 6-1, 305, Hutchinson CC, Norcross, Ga.
Daniel Carlson, k, 6-5, 190, Classical Acad., Colorado Springs, Colo.
Elijah Daniel, de, 6-4, 250, Avon (Ind.) HS
Devonte Danzey, ol, 6-4, 295, Hutchinson CC, Tampa, Fla.
Marcus Davis, wr, 5-10, 165, American Heritage HS, Delray Beach, Fla.
Kenny Flowers, lb, 6-2, 230, Hutchinson CC, Lilburn, Ga.
Johnathan Ford, rb, 5-11, 175, New Hope (Ala.) HS
Khari Harding, db, 6-1, 205, Edmond Santa Fe HS, Edmond, Okla.
Jeremy Johnson, qb, 6-5, 215, Carver HS, Montgomery, Ala.
Brandon King, db, 6-1, 210, Highland CC, Alabaster, Ala.
Carl Lawson, de, 6-2, 250, Milton HS, Alpharetta, Ga.
Nick Marshall, qb, 6-2, 210, Garden City CC, Rochelle, Ga.
Kamryn Melton, db, 5-11, 175, Dothan (Ala.) HS
Deon Mix, ol, 6-4, 315, South Panola HS, Batesville, Miss.
Earnest Robinson,wr, 6-2, 205, Pinson Valley HS, Pinson, Ala.
Jason Smith, qb, 6-1, 180, McGill-Toolen HS, Mobile, Ala.
Tony Stevens, wr, 6-3, 175, Evans HS, Orlando, Fla.
Cameron Toney, lb, 6-2, 215, Huntsville (Ala.) HS
Dominic Walker, wr, 6-2, 195, Evans HS, Orlando, Fla.