A Crazy Fact That Has Recruits Lining Up For Alabama
By: Larry Burton
I was asked the other day how Nick Saban dominates the recruiting wars like no coach has ever been able to do before him. The answer is as crazy as it is simple.
Nick Saban doesn’t approach a young man, 16 to 18 years old and try to appeal to the dreaming little boy inside him and fill his head with dreams of stardom from day one. While other coaches tell him they can see him as a starter from day one and get lots of playing time and many years of showing the NFL scouts just what he can do.
Nick Saban treats them adults, doesn’t present pie in the sky stories or vague promises, he paints a picture of coming to a school filled with players that are at worst, as good as he his and in most cases, better than he is. He is promised that he will have an opportunity to fight for a spot against those players but more than likely, they’ll be a lot bench time to go along with a lot of training and conditioning.
For skill players like running backs and receivers, it’s an easy sell. He’ll tell them that the NFL is full of folks from Alabama.
Then he’ll point to things the recruits already know, but he drives the point home. He won’t promise them three or four years of playing time and then maybe a shot at the NFL. He’ll point to players like Eddie Lacy, who only had one year as a starter, but signed a great NFL contract. And this year, he’ll point to Josh Jacobs, who never quite made it to starter, but is still going to be a first round pick and a millionaire.
He’ll tell them that the reason that the NFL wanted Jacobs so badly was that they knew he wasn’t all used up during three or four years of constant grinding. They still have their knees, still have their shoulders and they’ll be ready for the NFL for the coaching they’ve received.
For the offensive and defensive linemen, the speech may be a little different, but not a lot. He may talk about the number of folks in those positions that signed NFL contracts, he may talk to them about the chance to play for glory and championships too. But he talks to them like adults, he tells them they’ll get a great education and that the priority to make sure that happens is just as big as the priority to win championships. And again, he’ll talk about the number of them that only were starters for a year or two because they had to fight an uphill battle against some of the best players in the country to get that job.
He’ll tell them it will be an uphill battle for playing time, that earning a starting job is no guarantee of keeping that job because only the best have that roll. Then he may say that he’s had lots of linemen made it to the NFL with just one season as a full time starter.
Defensive backs get that same talk. No one is promised anything but lots of hard work and even harder competition in front of them.
And the crazy thing is that most recruits buy it. So yes, while the number of of folks Saban puts in the NFL has a lot to do with it, while all the championships have a lot to do with it, the crazy thing is the dozens of players I’ve talked to over the years have all said the same thing. The crazy thing that has recruits lining up at Alabama, why Alabama usually leads the nation in top classes is crazy and simple. They admire Nick Saban being honest with them, not sugar coating things, not making any promises about guaranteed playing time or fame and in general, treating them adults and not playing to the part of them that wants their butts kissed and just telling them what they want to hear. He won’t talk bad about another school or another coach, he’ll only talk about what is good about his own program and his own school.
While that may not sound crazy to some coaches and some schools, it’s just business as usual for Nick Saban and if schools want to catch up to his prowess as a recruiter, maybe that’s the blueprint they should follow.
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Larry has been published in almost every media outlet for college sports and now primarily writes here for Touchdown Alabama. Follow Larry on Twitter for inside thoughts and game time comments at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter