Mark Ingram helped change Alabama
It was Saban's first full year recruiting as the head coach of the Crimson Tide, and what a stunning first impression it was. Not only did he haul in the No. 3 signing class in the country, but he went nationwide to do it, pulling a 2,000-yard running back from all the way up in Flint, Mich., by the name of Mark Ingram.
More than 800 miles separated Ingram from Tuscaloosa, and Alabama got in on the recruitment of the 5-foot-10, 200-pound athlete late in the game, too. Michigan State was thought to have the inside track, as Ingram was a Michigan State legacy with his father having been a star for the Spartans.
"Everyone assumed that I was a Michigan State lock, because my father went there and it was the home-state school," Ingram told Rivals.com at the time of his commitment. "I was always going to go my own path. ... Alabama, in the end, was just where I felt I would fit in best.
"I am positive this is the right decision. I am already looking forward to getting to Tuscaloosa and getting started. I have a chance to go in and make an immediate impact as a freshman."
And Ingram did. He rushed for 728 yards and 12 touchdowns, earning Freshman All-SEC honors in 2008. He would go on to win the Heisman Trophy the following season, helping Alabama to its first championship since 1992. The number of award-winning tailbacks since Ingram's signing have been numerous. Trent Richardson, Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon all opted to go the way of the Tide on signing day, following a path set by Ingram.
Lacy, like Ingram, came to Alabama from out of state. The Louisiana product spurned the home-state LSU Tigers on signing day, continuing what has become a national pipeline of recruits to Tuscaloosa.
Sure, Ingram was only the sixth-best recruit in the 2008 class. But the five before him all came from in-state. It was Ingram's commitment that opened the borders. In the four recruiting classes since, Saban and the Alabama coaching staff have signed more than half of their prospects from outside the state. In fact, none of the top six recruits in each of the last two classes have been from Alabama. Instead, it has been Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Georgia, Ohio and North Carolina filling UA's coffers.
As the Crimson Tide prepares for yet another title defense next fall, it will do so with the help of some of the top recruits in the country, not just Alabama or the Southeast. Saban has shown that to beat the best, sometimes you have to simply take their best. And with Ingram, he sent a message to the country that he's not afraid to step outside his own backyard.
Braxton Miller moves Ohio State forward
Successful college programs often can point to a specific time when their program got a shot in the arm to get things rolling.
A signing day commitment in 2011, Miller has taken the 3 yards and a cloud of dust mentality in Columbus, Ohio, and made Ohio State's spread offense sexy.
Now, he's the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy in 2013 according to ESPN's Ryan McCrystal after making Ohio State the only undefeated team in the nation at 12-0 last season.
And why not? The offense not only flourished under him, it looked entirely different when Miller had to take a seat.
As a whole, the team rushed for 2,907 yards and passed for 2,178 yards this season. That's 5,085 yards total offense.
Miller was the team's leading rusher with 1,271 yards and obviously its leading passer with 2,039.
He accounted for 13 scores on the ground -- second to only Carlos Hyde and threw for 15 more touchdowns.
That's 65 percent of Ohio State's total offense and 52 percent of the Buckeyes' total offensive touchdowns (28 of 54).
What he's also done is make Ohio State a destination for wide receivers. Jalin Marshall (Middletown, Ohio/Middletown) -- a quarterback in high school -- will switch to a slot receiver for the Buckeyes and the ESPN 150 wideout isn't alone. Two-way threat Gareon Conley (Massillon, Ohio/Washington), who will likely be a cornerback, might see time on offense as well and is the No. 1 recruit in the Ohio this year, according to ESPN. Conley originally committed to Michigan.
Instances like those could play out even more and most of it is due to a new-look offense with Miller at the helm.
RecruitingNation team site reporters discuss their school's most important recent recruits.
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