Nick Saban seemed to be holding a cup of coffee – even though it was after 4pm – when he stood behind the podium at the University of Alabama on February 1, 2017.
It was National Signing Day and Saban was about to discuss a group of rookies who will be among the greatest of all time – part of two national title teams (and a record 51-4) in the last four seasons.
Eleven of them have been selected in the last three NFL drafts, including a whopping eight in the first round and six in the top 15. And that’s just so far. Six more could be seniors for red shirts for the 2022 Crimson Tide, which is again expected to be a contender for the national title.
It was a startling recruitment, so startling that Saban almost looked happy that day. Almost.
“How is everyone?”
Looking at Saban four years later, it’s hard to tell if he really knew what he had. The man is not prone to emotions, especially emotions from what has not yet happened. “Rat poison,” he likes to call it. He focuses on the negative almost immediately.
“I think in this class we hit every place except one,” Saban said. “We wanted to assign one corner, maybe two. This did not happen to us. ”
He will land Patrick Surtein II next year, so don’t shed tears.
“We feel we have some really good defenses,” Saban said. “We have four really good linebacks, we have three really good guys in defense, you know, some offensive commanders, four who are good, some really good, qualified wide receivers, some tight ends, some good running backs, a couple of good quarterbacks, a couple good specialists. “
This is one way to describe the group.
These “really good, qualified” wide receivers?
These include Devonta Smith (winner of the Heisman Trophy in 2020 and selection for the first round of 2021 from Philadelphia), Jerry Giudi (selection of the first round for 2020 from Denver) and Henry Rugs II (selection for the first round). in 2020 from Las Vegas).
The “pair of good” quarterbacks?
Tua Tagovailoa (first round selection in 2020 from Miami) and McJones (first round selection in 2021 from New England).
How about “some” offensive commanders?
Alex Kozhud, first round selection in 2021 in Las Vegas and Jedric Wills, first round selection in 2020 in Cleveland.
“Alex Kozhud has a lot of potential,” Saban said. “Jedrick Wills, we thought he was one of the best guys in the position in the whole country.”
Right and right.
The class was ranked first in the country by any service that composes such a thing, but Saban hailed the award as if he had just bitten a raw onion.
“I don’t know how we are valued,” Saban said. “I didn’t know where these boys were rated and how many stars they had.”
Well, they had a lot of stars. Seven of them in the 2017 class were 5-star rookies from Rivals.com, who made 34 such awards this year. From the NFL’s point of view, it’s like having seven first-round picks in a year.
“I know that everyone likes to go out there and look at all these charts and ratings and all that,” Saban said. “Just like I tell the players in the project: ‘It’s not where they’re going to take you for a draft. This is what you do with your career and how you develop your career. This is not the way you are valued by high school, but the commitment to do all the things we will do here to succeed as a person, as a student and a player. “
He added: “Recruiting, evaluating players is not an exact science.”
No, it’s not. He was certainly close to Tide. Several transferred, mainly in search of playing time. And not all of them will make it to the NFL, but many will, including quarterback Isaiah Bugs (Pittsburgh) and quarterback Xavier McKinney (New York Giants).
Even the team’s long sniper, Thomas Fletcher, was drawn by Carolina on Saturday, although long snipers are rarely drawn.
On the day of the signing, Saban was not much about giving individual praise. Asked about his receivers, he said Rugs and Smith were “very explosive boys.” Very fast, very explosive. “Jodie didn’t even deserve to be mentioned.
Meanwhile, Tagovailoa and Jones entered a program in which Jalen Hurts (currently a starter in Philadelphia) was assigned as a starter. As such, Saban did not mention any of the recruits by name. He noted that “I think it is very important to develop the depth of this position.”
Depth is one way to call two Heisman finalists who have won national championship games.
The closest thing Saban was excited was when he discussed Najee Harris, an fugitive from Antioch, California, who was rated by Rivals.com as the No. 1 player in the country. He was taken from Pittsburgh in 24th place on Thursday.
Even he couldn’t sell Najee.
“Very good all-around,” Saban said. “One of the best players in the country according to many people. It has great dimensions. He has great speed. It is very smooth and athletically smooth. It is very complete. He has very good hands; good runner on the route. He has a special production as a player. “
The press conference took 20 minutes and much of it focused on questions about how football has changed, his recruitment philosophy and his thoughts on what his old friend Bill Belichick, a great coach, is doing (it was Super Bowl week) .
Overall, Saban said he was pleased with the class and hoped to continue recruiting good players in Tuscaloosa.
“We hope that these guys will be able to contribute to the success of the program,” Saban said. “… So we can continue to succeed and the future boys will recognize those successes and want to be part of the program.”
In February, he signed No. 1 to recruit a class … again.
“As I always talk about,” he said in February, “we’re not really interested in ratings or rankings or anything like that …”
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