TRips: Top four stars of Saban era

When it comes to four-star recruits, Alabama's 2008 signing class lived up to the hype -- and then some. Among those in that year's four-star club included an eventual Heisman Trophy winner and Outland Trophy recipient.

Ingram capped a magical 2009 season with an offensive MVP performance in the 2010 BCS national championship game.

In addition to serving as the backbone for two national championship teams, Nick Saban's second recruiting haul continues to send elite talent to the NFL. To date, the class has produced three first-round draft picks, with three more expected to go in the opening round of this year's draft. Of those six 2008 signees, four were four stars.

With those accomplishments in mind, it should come as no surprise that the signing class of 2008 figured prominently on this list.

1.] RB Mark Ingram
Signing class: 2008
As a recruit: Ingram, who spent his first three prep seasons at Grand Blanc (Mich.) High School before finishing up at Southwestern Academy in Flint, ran for 2,546 yards and 38 touchdowns in his final two seasons. On Signing Day Eve 2008, Ingram chose Alabama over Michigan State and Iowa.
At Alabama: Set UA rushing mark with 1,658 yards on his way to becoming the first Heisman Trophy winner in school history. The 2009 SEC offensive player of the year, Ingram was named offensive most valuable player of 2010 BCS national championship game after rushing for 116 yards and two touchdowns in Alabama's win over Texas.
After Alabama: Selected in the first round (No. 28 overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints. Rushed for 474 yards and five touchdowns on 122 carries as a rookie.

2.] LB Rolando McClain
Signing class: 2007
As a recruit: The state's top-ranked prospect in 2007, McClain picked up all-state honors as a tight end at Decatur High School. Also racked up 210 tackles, including 24 for loss, as a linebacker over his final two prep seasons. Committed to Alabama in June before his senior season.
At Alabama: Recorded 275 career tackles, including 31.5 for loss, while seeing action in 41 games over three seasons at the Capstone. Winner of the Butkus and Lambert Awards and was named SEC defensive player of the year following his junior (and final) season. Two-time, first-team all-SEC selection. With all due respect to that year's Heisman Trophy recipient, it could be argued that McClain was the best player on the 2009 team.
After Alabama: Selected in the first round (No. 8 overall) by the Oakland Raiders in the 2010 NFL Draft. Started 29 games in his first two NFL seasons, posting 184 combined tackles and 5.5 sacks.

3.] OL Barrett Jones
Signing class: 2008
As a recruit: Jones, whose father, Rex, played basketball at UA from 1982-1984, was a first-team all-state selection as a senior at Memphis' Evangelical Christian School. Rated as the nation's top center prospect for the class of 2008. Chose Alabama over Florida and North Carolina.
At Alabama: Jones, a three-year starter, could be in line to man his third different position in as many seasons. If that happens, no one will be surprised if the rising senior earns first-team all-SEC honors for a third time, an unprecedented feat that would include starting at guard, tackle and center in consecutive seasons. 2011 Outland Trophy (nation's top interior lineman) and Jacobs Blocking Trophy (SEC's top offensive lineman) recipient and consensus first team all-american. Also received ARA Sportsmanship Award and the Wuerffel Trophy for his efforts off the field.
After Alabama: Rated as the No. 1 offensive guard prospect for the 2013 NFL Draft by

And three more ...

4.] S Mark Barron
Signing class: 2008
As a recruit: Rated as the state's No. 5 overall prospect -- behind fellow UA signees Julio Jones, B.J. Scott, Tyler Love and Jerrell Harris -- Barron helped lead St. Paul's of Mobile to the 2007 Class 5A state title as a senior. Was named MVP of that season's 5A state championship game. Chose Alabama over Auburn and LSU.
At Alabama: Two-time, first-team all-SEC and all-america selection. Jim Thorpe Award finalist in 2011. Three-year fixture at strong safety, making 39 starts over his final three seasons at UA. Barron's ability to play multiple roles was key in Crimson Tide's success on defense.
After Alabama: Rated as No. 1 safety prospect for 2012 NFL Draft by Projects as first round pick.

5.] LB Courtney Upshaw
Signing class: 2008
As a recruit: Alabama Class 5A Lineman of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association and ASWA Class 5A All-State selection as a senior at Eufaula High School. On defense, recorded 65 total tackles, including 13 for loss, and seven sacks in 2007. Also had 20 receptions for 296 yards and three touchdowns on offense. Ranked as the No. 9 overall prospect in the Alabama state rankings for class of 2008. Chose Alabama over Auburn.
At Alabama: As a senior, third on the team in tackles (51) and led the way in tackles for loss (17), sacks (8.5) and quarterback hurries (11). In addition to being a finalist for the Butkus and Lombardi Awards, was a first-team all-SEC and all-america selection as a senior. Recorded 31.5 tackles for loss in his final two seasons at Alabama. Defensive most valuable player of 2012 BCS national championship game and recovered fumble in fourth quarter of 2010 BCS national championship game that secured Crimson Tide's first crown since 1992.
After Alabama: Coming off impressive showing at Senior Bowl. Rated as No. 2 outside linebacker prospect for 2012 NFL Draft by Projects as first-round pick.

6.] LB Dont'a Hightower
Signing class: 2008
As a recruit: As a senior at Lewisburg (Tenn.)-Marshall County High School, recorded 168 tackles, including 14 for loss, five forced fumbles, five interceptions and four fumble recoveries. Also produced 875 total yards and 19 touchdowns on offense. Class 3A Mr. Football in Tennessee. Chose Alabama over Vanderbilt.
At Alabama: Led the Crimson Tide in tackles in 2011, posting 85 stops, including 11 for loss. Consensus first-team all-america selection and a finalist for Butkus, Lombardi and Bednarik awards and Lott Trophy following his final season at UA. Freshman all-america and all-SEC after starting 12 games as a true freshman in 2008. Knee injury sustained in 2009 cost Hightower most of his sophomore season and recovery extended deep into 2010 season. Made 42 career starts, racking up 234 tackles, including 21 for loss, in three-plus seasons.
After Alabama: Rated as the No. 2 inside linebacker prospect for the 2012 NFL Draft. Projects as a first or second round pick.

Other Saban era four stars of note: 2007: CB Kareem Jackson; 2008: LB Jerrell Harris; FS Robert Lester; TE Michael Williams; 2009: WR Kenny Bell; OT James Carpenter; RB Eddie Lacy; QB A.J. McCarron; WR Kevin Norwood; DE Ed Stinson; 2010: RB Jalston Fowler; CB John Fulton; OLB Adrian Hubbard; OL Arie Kouandjio; CB Dequan Menzie; LB C.J. Mosley; QB Phillip Sims; WR DeAndrew White; S Jarrick Williams; 2011: LB Trey DePriest; DE Quinton Dial; OLB Xzavier Dickson; WR Christion Jones; DL Jeoffrey Pagan; DL Jesse Williams.

Coming tomorrow: Top five star recruits of the Saban era at Alabama.

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