The reason, McElroy said, is simple: Tide coach Nick Saban's fear of failure drives him extra-hard on the recruiting trail.
"I wouldn't say he's in fear of any individual person. I think he's afraid of failing," McElroy said on "SportsTalk with Bo Mattingly," a radio show based in Arkansas. "I think he's afraid of failing himself. I think he understands he's going to be his own toughest critic, for that reason. That's what separates some of the greats from the best of all-time, and he's in that conversation."
Opining that a coach fears failure isn't earth-shattering; every coach, in every sport, should fear failure because failing too often gets you fired. But McElroy said Saban's fear of failure drives him especially hard on the recruiting trail.
"I truly believe he's the hardest worker in the country," McElroy said on the radio show. "I think he dedicates himself to not only studying, game-planning and preparing, but he spends as much time recruiting as anything else.
"He's been up there in the top-five recruiting classes the last five, six years. As long as you're able to recruit at that high of a level and have the leadership from an upperclassman standpoint, those kids will be held accountable."
Alabama's recruiting success of late has been phenomenal. The Tide has had the consensus top-ranked recruiting class in each of the past four recruiting cycles, and Alabama has been in the top five in recruiting seven years in a row. Coincidentally, Saban has had seven complete recruiting cycles as Tide coach, which means every one of his classes has been a consensus top-five group.
And just as every coach fears failure, every coach knows that great players help make you a great coach. A coach can work harder than anybody, but chances are mighty high he will lose more than he wins if the other team always has better players. Saban couldn't necessarily control the "I have better players" aspect of the job as an NFL coach. But he certainly has been able to do so at LSU and Alabama (and, to a certain extent, at Michigan State), and his coaching acumen coupled with his usual talent advantage has led to tremendous success.