What Nick Saban accomplished Wednesday, the culmination of more than a year’s work, won’t be fully appreciated because it’s become the norm. After all, No. 1 recruiting classes have been signed time and again under his watch.

But Alabama football fans need to know this and comprehend it in full: Saban recruited his rear end off this cycle. He didn’t do it alone, but there was a single-mindedness, a determination that made the top-ranked class the Crimson Tide signed Wednesday particularly impressive.

Fans of other programs won’t be able to get it because Alabama is one of the haves that lands in the top five of recruiting rankings consistently, often No. 1. Those fans can’t possibly understand why this one should stand out more than others. A No. 1 class is a No. 1 class, so to speak. Even some Crimson Tide fans might not be able to discern why this one was different. Let me explain.

Alabama showed weakness this year. There was blood in the water, and the SEC is shark-infested territory, my friends. A two-loss regular season is something we don’t often see from the Crimson Tide under Saban. It’s happened just two other times since 2008 (2010, 2019). Never mind that those losses were by a combined four points and occurred on the last play of those games. Ask yourself this question: Did you watch the Tide play this year and think to yourself or post on a message board or tell your friend that Alabama wasn’t the same team it’s been in the past?

It’s been a common thought, but it speaks to the perception of Alabama right now: that it isn’t alone on its lofty perch atop the sport anymore. Georgia, fresh off a national championship, a second consecutive unbeaten regular season and the No. 1 seed in this year’s Playoff, has at least equaled the Tide’s position, if not surpassed it.

The perception that Alabama was falling off hung heavy in the air. It wasn’t just the losses, either. It was the way the team played, even in wins. There wasn’t the usual dominance. Once another program, be it Georgia or Texas A&M, senses weakness, they pounce. There’s a reason the saying “perception is reality” exists. And it doubly exists in recruiting with impressionable 17- and 18-year-olds.