Alabama may have missed out on a third consecutive national championship, but the Crimson Tide entered national signing day with the nation's top class.
"The biggest challenge for all these guys is how do they develop as a college football player," Alabama coach Nick Saban told ESPN on Wednesday morning. "I think that's a challenge for us and for them, and I think that's something our staff has done a really good job of in the past.
"Most of these guys have turned out to be really good players for us, and they've been able to develop careers at the next level, which is really kind of what it's all about."
Alabama entered Wednesday with 18 signed recruits from the ESPN 300, including five of the top 15 overall -- offensive lineman Cameron Robinson (West Monroe High, La.), defensive end Da'Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va.), cornerback Tony Brown (Ozen, Texas), athlete Bo Scarbrough (Tuscaloosa County, Ala.) and cornerback Marlon Humphrey (Hoover, Ala.).
"I think the way recruiting is set up now is guys make decisions early, which is helpful," Saban said. "Most of the guys know what they're going to do today, which is also helpful to us -- being able to manage the numbers and get the best players."
The Crimson Tide won a local recruiting battle Wednesday with the signing of Auburn native Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala.), the No. 52 overall recruit and second-ranked outside linebacker. Auburn was one of the other finalists to land Evans.
"When I was up there at the podium, I was thinking, 'Man, maybe I should go to Auburn,' " Evans told ESPN.com. "But then I really thought about it, and Alabama was the best place for me."
Jackson is the highest-ranked player to commit to USC under new coach Steve Sarkisian, who is attempting to revitalize the Trojans.
LSU secured one of the biggest victories of signing day with the commitment of Malachi Dupre (John Curtis Christian, La.), the No. 17 overall recruit and the top-ranked wide receiver. Dupre chose the Tigers over Florida State.
"I just felt it was right to stay home and play football for the state of Louisiana and try to bring a national championship back to the state," Dupre said.
The reigning national champion Seminoles also landed one of the top unsigned recruits Wednesday morning in Ermon Lane (Homestead Senior, Fla.), the No. 22 overall recruit and the second-ranked wide receiver.
Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas), the No. 25 overall recruit and the No. 4-ranked defensive end, started off signing day by committing to Stanford. Thomas is the Cardinal's seventh ESPN 300 prospect in the Class of 2014.
Maryland also made a big splash Wednesday morning, landing offensive tackle Damian Prince (Bishop McNamara, Md.). The No. 26 overall recruit and the third-ranked tackle, Prince signed with the Terrapins over Florida.
The SEC enters the day with seven teams ranked in the top 10 of RecruitingNation's class rankings.
ESPN.com's Greg Ostendorf contributed to this report.