While Fans Enjoy This Team, Saban is Busy Building the Future
By: Larry Burton
Nick Saban changes everything he touches it seems. Most every coach in college football is busy trying to copy his “Process”. The NCAA had to change recruiting rules to try and level the playing field to keep Saban from out working his fellow coaches and more teams started imitating Saban’s 4-3 defense after seeing it dominate opponents year in and year out.
Now he’s changing how we pay attention to recruiting.
It used to be that after football season was over, we’d all get our football fixes by keeping up with the recruiting wars going on across the nation and seeing who would go where.
But Saban’s changing all that too.
Now, if you don’t pay attention every week during the excitement of the season, you’ll miss most of what Saban is doing. With almost six months to go until national signing day, Saban has already secured 20 of his expected 25 signees.
If you wait until football season is over to start paying attention to Saban’s recruiting, there may be nothing to watch. The class could be all committed and there may be only one big fish left to catch.
Saban’s approach to recruiting is simple. At least in his mind and sales pitch to recruits. He has the best product out there, the one who will always be in national title talk and the team that produces players that NFL scouts know are pro ready when they leave Tuscaloosa.
To quote Dizzy Dean, former St. Louis Cardinal pitcher, “If you can do what you say, you ain’t braggin'” and Saban clearly isn’t exaggerating when he points these things out.
The other thing Saban changes is getting people on board quickly. His approach is equally as simple. He doesn’t recruit players like he used to. Before he became the rock star of the coaching world, he won recruits with persuasiveness, tenacity and success. Then he had to recruit.
Now he selects. At least that’s what some say and to that end, there is some truth to it. To be precise, there are dozens more players who could play at Alabama, who want to play at Alabama, than there are slots available.
A fictional example may go something like this. Saban is talking to the nation’s number two, number seven and number 10 rated wide receivers in high schools right now according to the ranking services. Saban tells them that he is signing two receivers this year and he already has the nation’s number four recruit committed. So who is going to pull the trigger now? “If you keep looking, so do I”, Saban is known for saying.
It almost reminds one of coach Paul “Bear” Bryant telling recruits, “We’re going to win with you or without you. You just have to decide if you want to be a champion or be beaten by one.”
The thing is, Saban can point to many players that came in as low as a walk on, yet under him and his team of coaches and the “Process” became NFL players that eclipsed the players who started their college careers as four and five star recruits.
He can and with a straight face say that and have the proof to back it. He can tell a number one high school recruit that he can come to Alabama and become even better, play for championships, have much more exposure than on any other team, or go elsewhere. He’ll sign the 9th best at your position and in one year or two, he’ll have a championship ring on his finger and be more sought out by NFL scouts than the former number one recruit will be come draft time.
With 13 of his 20 commitments for the 2013 class being four star or above, it is very hard to deny that logic.
At the rate Saban lines up recruits, it may not be beyond reality that in a year or two he may have his next signing class all sewn up my the end of September.
At present, Saban’s 2013 class is rated as the second best class in the country and will no doubt be in contention for the top spot again by season’s end. So while fans have been enjoying watching the Tide knock down opponents like pins in a bowling alley, you’ve almost missed the whole recruiting process of the next class.
This class includes O.J. Howard, the nations number one tight end prospect, Johnathan Allen, the nation’s number three defensive end, Cooper Bateman, the number seven quarterback, a top 20 offensive tackle, Derrick Henry, the nation’s number three athlete, Grant Hill, the number five offensive tackle, Tyren Jones, the number 13 running back, Josh McNeil, the number seven tight end, Maurice Hill, the number 15 cornerback, ArDarius Stewart, the number 17 athlete, Altee Tenpenny, the nation’s number four running back, DeMarcus Walker, the number six defensive end, Anthony Averett, an as of yet unranked three star athlete, Leon Brown, a four star offensive tackle, a 40th rated receiver, Walker Jones, the 17th ranked linebacker, Cole Mazza, a four star running back, Parker McLeod, the 34th rated quarterback and Darius Page, the nation’s 41st rated defensive tackle.