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Alabama Crimson Tide: Top 10 Players in the Saban Era

The hiring of Nick Saban in 2007 was a game changer for Alabama. The Crimson Tide and its fan base were tired of being mediocre and wanted a coach who could take them to the next level.

In seven seasons, Saban has placed Alabama atop the pinnacle of college football. The Crimson Tide has won three national titles in a five-year span. Saban has done more than change the team; he’s changed the culture of Tuscaloosa.

Saban loves to recruit players that fit his scheme. He searches for players with toughness, passion, talent and character. It’s the ones who do the little things right that are guaranteed a spot in Saban’s army. Here is a list of the top 10 Alabama players in the Saban era.

Top 10 players in the Saban Era

10. Dont’a Hightower (2008-11)

  • Hightower became Alabama’s elite pass rusher after Rolando McClain.
  • He finished his career with 235 tackles (21.0 tackles for loss), 5.0 sacks, 25 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
  • In 2010, he captained Alabama to the No. 1 ranked defense in all five major categories.
    • Scoring Defense: 8.8 points per game
    • Total Defense: 191.3 yards per game
    • Rush Defense: 74.9 yards per game
    • Passing Efficiency Defense: 83.9 yards per game
    • Pass Defense: 116.3 yards per game
    • Hightower was a two-time BCS national champion (2009 and 2011 seasons)
    • He was an SEC champion (2009 season).
    • Hightower racked up various achievements, including Consensus All-American (2011) and First-team All-SEC (2011)
    • He was a finalist for the Lombardi Award, Chuck Bendarik Award, Butkus Award and Lott Trophy in 2011.
    • Hightower was selected in the first round (25th pick) of the 2012 NFL Draft by the New England Patriots.
    • In two seasons, he’s totaled 157 tackles, 5.0 sacks and an interception.
    • Hightower made two playoff appearances with New England and is a two-time AFC East Champion.

9. Mark Barron (2008-11)

  • Barron was the definition of a hard hitting safety at Alabama.
  • He racked up 237 tackles (13 tackles for loss), 22 pass breakups, 12 interceptions, five sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in his career.
  • Barron’s finest performance was in 2009.
  • In 2009, he had 76 tackles, 11 pass breakups and seven interceptions.
  • Barron led the SEC and was third in the nation in 2009 with seven interceptions.
  • He was part of the 2011 Alabama defense that led the nation in all five major categories.
  • Barron was a two-time First-team All-American (2010, 2011).
  • He was a 3x First-team All-SEC (2009, 2010, 2011)
  • He was an SEC champion in 2009.
  • Barron was a two-time national champion (2009 and 2011 seasons).
  • He was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the 7th pick (first round) in 2012 NFL Draft.
  • Barron has 176 tackles, three interceptions, two sacks and a forced fumble in his career.

 8. Terrence Cody (2008-09)

  • Though he was a JUCO transfer, Cody became an impact player at Alabama.
  • Despite being 400 pounds, he displayed exceptional movement at nose tackle.
  • Cody totaled 51 tackles (10.5 tackles for loss), 0.5 sacks, five quarterback hurries, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries and two blocked field goals in his career.
  • He is most remembered for saving Alabama’s undefeated season in 2009.
  • Against Tennessee, Cody blocked two Daniel Lincoln field goals, including a 44-yard attempt late in the game. Alabama won 12-10.
  • He was a two-time AP All-SEC First Team (2008, 2009)
  • Cody was a two-time AP All-American (2008, 2009)
  • He was a Sports Illustrated All-American in 2008 and a Nagurski Award finalist in 2009.
  • Cody was an SEC champion in 2009 and a national champion with Alabama in the 2009 season.
  • He was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens as the 57th pick (second round) of the 2010 NFL Draft.
  • Cody has totaled 87 tackles in his career.
  • He achieved an AFC title in 2012 and a Super Bowl Championship in the 2012 season.

 7. Barrett Jones (2008-12), Chance Warmack & D.J. Fluker (2009-12)

  • The trio of Jones, Warmack and Fluker paid dividends for Alabama under Saban.
  • These gentlemen guided Alabama to its first SEC and national title since Gene Stallings (1992 season).
  • Behind the trio, Mark Ingram totaled 3,261 yards rushing, 42 touchdowns (career) and hoisted the Heisman Trophy in 2009.
  • Trent Richardson recorded 3,130 rushing yards, 35 touchdowns (career) and was the Doak Walker Award recipient in 2011.
  • The trio helped Eddie Lacy notch 2,359 yards rushing and 30 touchdowns for his career.
  • Jones, Warmack and Fluker guided T.J. Yeldon to 1,108 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns in 2012 (Yeldon’s freshman season).
  • Barrett Jones was versatile. He played left guard, right tackle and center.
  • Chance Warmack was an athletic left guard and D.J. Fluker was exceptional at right tackle.
  • All three players were two-time SEC Champions (2009, 2012) and three-time national champions (2009, 2011, 2012 seasons).
  • Jones finished his career collected numerous awards, including Wuerffel Trophy (2011), Outland Trophy (2011) and Jacobs Blocking Trophy (2011).
  • Warmack was a unanimous All-American in 2012.
  • Fluker made First-team All-SEC and All-American in 2012.
  • Warmack (10th pick—Tennessee) and Fluker (11th pick—San Diego) were taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
  • Jones was selected with the 113th pick (fourth pick) in the 2013 NFL Draft by the Saint Louis Rams.

 6. C.J. Mosley (2010-13)

  • Mosley was an instinctive linebacker with great lateral quickness
  • In 2012 and 2013, Mosley was the captain of Alabama’s defense.
  • He finished his career with 319 tackles, 6.5 sacks, five interceptions, 15 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
  • Mosley’s three career interception returns for touchdowns tied and Alabama record.
  • Mosley is a Southeastern Conference Champion (2012 season).
  • He is a two-time BCS national champion (2011 and 2012 seasons).
  • Mosley was a recipient of numerous awards, including SEC Defensive Player of the Year (2013). First-team All-SEC (2012, 2013), First-team All-American (2012, 2013) and Butkus Award winner (2013).
  • The Baltimore Ravens selected Mosely in the first round (17th pick) of the 2014 NFL Draft.

 5. AJ McCarron (2009-13)

  • McCarron was labeled as a game manager, but possessed the talents in being an effective quarterback.
  • McCarron’s passing statistics improved each season he was under center.
  • In 2011, McCarron completed 66.8 percent of his passes for 2,634 yards, 16 touchdowns and five interceptions.
  • His finest season through the air came in 2012.
  • As a junior, McCarron completed 67.2 percent of his passes for 2,933 yards, 30 touchdowns and three interceptions.
  • He passed for 3,063 yards, 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions as a senior,
  • McCarron finished his career as Alabama’s passing record holder ( 9,019 yards passing, 77 touchdowns, 15 interceptions)
  • He posted a 36-4 record as a starter.
  • McCarron is the winningest quarterback in Tide history (two SEC titles, three BCS titles).
  •  He took home the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award and the Maxwell Award in 2013.
  • McCarron finished second in the Heisman voting in 2013.
  • He was taken with the 164th pick (fifth round) in the 2014 NFL Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.

 4. Marcell Dareus (2008-10)

  • Dareus was the first big time pass rusher on the line for Saban at Alabama.
  • He had his most prolific season in 2009.
  • Dareus had 33 tackles (9.0 tackles for loss), 6.5 sacks, one interception, two pass breakups and seven quarterback hurries in 2009.
  • He collected 71 tackles (20.0 tackles for loss), 11 sacks, one interception, six pass breakups and 20 quarterback hurries in his career.
  • Dareus is mostly known for his performance in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game against Texas.
  • He knocked out Longhorns’ quarterback Colt McCoy and returned a 28-yard interception off Garrett Gilbert for a touchdown.
  • Dareus was named Defensive MVP for his performance in the title game
  • He won an SEC title with Alabama in 2009.
  • Dareus won a national title with the Tide (2009 season).
  • He was named First-team All-SEC in 2010.
  • The Buffalo Bills selected Dareus with the third pick (first round) in the 2011 NFL Draft.
  • He has 153 tackles, 18.5 sacks and a forced fumble with Buffalo so far.
  • Dareus went to the Pro Bowl in 2013.

 3. Mark Ingram (2008-10), Trent Richardson (2009-11) & Eddie Lacy (2009-12)

  • Shaun Alexander was a dominant back in the 90s, but the trio of Ingram, Richardson and Lacy took it to a new level.
  • In 2009, Ingram totaled 1,658 yards rushing and 17 touchdowns.
  • Ingram collected numerous awards in 2009, including SEC Offensive Player of the Year, unanimous All-American, Sporting News Player of the Year and the Heisman Trophy.
  • Richardson came in 2009, but took over after Ingram left in 2011.
  • Richardson totaled 3,130 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns for his career and won the Doak Walker Award in 2011.
  • Lacy was known for his patented spin move.
  • Lacy amassed 2,359 rushing yards and 30 touchdowns.
  • All three backs were SEC Champions (2009 and 2012) and national champions (2009, 2011 and 2012 seasons)
  • Mark Ingram was selected (first round—28th pick) by the New Orleans Saints in the 2011 NFL Draft.
  • Trent Richardson was selected (first round—3rd pick) by the Cleveland Browns in the 2012 NFL Draft.
  • Eddie Lacy was selected (second round—61st pick) by the Green Bay Packers in the 2013 NFL Draft.
  • Lacy put in a memorable rookie season with Green Bay.He rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 touchdowns.
  • Lacy collected numerous awards in 2013, including AP Offensive NFL Rookie of the Year, PFWA Rookie of the Year and SB Nation Rookie of the Year.
  • In three seasons (2011-present) in New Orleans, Ingram has totaled 1,296 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.
  • Richardson has recorded 1,513 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns with the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts combined.

2. Rolando McClain (2007-09)

  • It was McClain who guided Alabama’s defense back to prominence in 2009.
  • As a jack of all trades, McClain was a pass rush specialist that could also stop the run and cover well.
  • His most prolific season was in 2009.
  • McClain recorded 105 tackles (14.5 tackles for loss), 4.0 sacks, 14 quarterback hurries, two interceptions, 3 pass breakups and a forced fumble.
  • McClain led the Tide’s defense to its first SEC and national title in the Saban era (2009).
  • He collected many awards in 2009, including the Lambert Award and Butkus Award.

1. Julio Jones (2008-10)

  • Jones was the first big time recruit to come to Alabama under Saban.
  • Jones ushered in the big play, physical receiver to Alabama.
  • He totaled 179 receptions for 2,653 yards and 15 touchdowns in his career.
  • Jones had eight career 100-yard receiving games (second in school history).
  • His best seasons were in 2008 and 2010.
  • As a freshman, Jones recorded 58 catches for 924 yards and four touchdowns.
  • In his senior season, he had 78 catches for 1,133 yards and seven touchdowns.
  • Jones put in two rushing touchdowns in his career.
  • He was named First-team All-SEC in 2010.
  • Jones was an SEC champion in 2009.
  • He was a national champion (2009 season).
  • Jones made three bowl appearances with Alabama.
  • He was selected in the first round (6th pick) of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Atlanta Falcons.
  • In three seasons (2011-13), Jones has recorded 174 receptions for 2, 737 yards and 20 touchdowns.
Great Alabama Players under Saban

Players

Years Played

Greg McElroy

2006-10

Courtney Upshaw

2008-11

Javier Arenas

2006-09

Kareem Jackson

2007-09

Kevin Norwood

2009-13

DeMarcus “Dee” Milliner

2010-12

De’Andre “Dre” Kirkpatrick

2009-11

Robert Lester

2009-12

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