The University of Alabama’s head football coach Nick Saban announced on Wednesday that 14 student-athletes have signed national letters of intent to play football with the Crimson Tide, joining nine players who enrolled in January and will compete in spring practice later this semester.

The 23 total players, including nine mid-year enrollees, come from nine states – Alabama (7), Florida (4), Georgia (3), Ohio (2), Tennessee (2), California (1), Louisiana (1), North Carolina (1) and Mississippi (1). The Crimson Tide also went outside the United States to land defensive lineman Jesse Williams from Brisbane, Australia. There are still several more players being sought who may yet commit to Alabama, including the number one rated high school prospect in American, Jadeveon Clowney, of South Carolina. (He will announce his choice, of Alabama, South Carolina or Clemson on February 14th.)

Alabama's 2011 signing class is currently ranked first nationally by, third by ESPNU and sixth by

Nick-Saban In his press conference on Wednesday afternoon when National Signing Day had ended Coach Saban had some interesting insights into this whole ordeal that makes the hearts of some fans beat faster in early February.

The challenge for us as coaches is to help these players mature and develop in to all they can be. I’ve commented on this before, just because you pick the best puppy dog with the biggest feet that doesn’t mean he’s going to grow up to be the best hunting dog. A lot of these young players are very good. They are very talented. They’ve had great success as high school players but they are going to make a tremendous amount of improvement, almost as much as the time they were freshmen in high school to the time they are a senior in high school, they’re going to do the same thing in college. I think the challenge for us is to help these players develop so that they can have success not only on the field but in the classroom and to continue to develop personally, academically and athletically. We want to be able to shape these guys into people who can be more successful in life because they were involved in the program and they have a tremendous amount of success here personally, academically and athletically. That’s really the challenge, for us, as coaches and for these players to have the right attitude about what it takes for them to be successful as players, to be a complete player, to do the things they need to do at their position to be a complete player will obviously enhance how rapidly they do improve and develop into very good college football players.

The rankings of various schools with regard to the high school players they signed today are actually pretty bogus if you think about it at all. Whether or not an eighteen year old kid can enter college, prove his skill at the next level of this demanding sport, and then be mature enough to succeed at this level of competition is a huge question and will not be answered for at least two years or more. The goal for Alabama is not just talent, and they get their fair share each year, but whether or not a particular athlete is the kind of young man who fits into their program and philosophy. As the biggest Tide fan in Chicago (my untested claim but what other Tide fan in Chicago went to the BCS championship game in Pasadena last year?) I believe Saban landed the guys the Tide needed to compete at the highest level next season. We will not know how good any signing class really is for several years. I do know the Tide has more mature talent coming back next year than they did from the 2009 championship team! (Remember, if you are a fan, they had to replace 9 of 11 on defense last season and still won ten games!) Further, they should be hungry to win again since they came so close this year and lost to three key rivals in the SEC. They finished 2010 in a big way by beating Michigan State, the co-Big Ten champs, 49-7 so the future looks really good in Tuscaloosa. Roll Tide Roll.

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