Satan...I Mean Saban...Reveals The New Face of Recruiting

Submitted by Meeechigan Dan on February 4th, 2009 at 11:32 PM

Over the past four years, Alabama has recruited 107 players to Michigan's 85. That's 22 more players - an entire class - over a four year period (using raw, unadjusted numbers from Rivals). On the heels of national criticism for signing 32 recruits and relying on "attrition" to shoehorn those 32 players onto campus, he unabashedly racks up 27 more including an astounding six on signing day of the four and five star variety:

Kenny Bell WR 6-1 160 - 5.8 Rayville, LA
Kendall Kelly WR 6-4 210 4.45 5.9 Gadsden, AL
Dre Kirkpatrick DB 6-2 180 4.5 6.1 Gadsden, AL
Eddie Lacy RB 5-11 210 4.4 5.9 Geismar, LA
Brandon Moore OL 6-4 313 5.2 5.8 Montgomery, AL
Tana Patrick LB 6-3 215 4.5 6.0 Stevenson, AL

Clearly, Oily Nick has a way of assuring new recruits that the depth chart isn't working against THEM. Look at the two stud WR signing today (and four in this class), despite Alabama having TWELVE underclassman WR on the roster, including ELEVEN freshmen and sophomores:

Wide Receiver

82 Earl Alexander WR So. 1V 6-5/216
11 Brandon Gibson WR Fr. RS 6-1/192
15 Darius Hanks WR So. HS 6-0/190
19 Chris Jackson WR Fr. HS 6-1/190
8 Julio Jones WR Fr. HS 6-4/210
4 Marquis Maze WR Fr. RS 5-9/167
80 Mike McCoy WR Jr. 2V 6-3/199
39 Kyle Pennington WR Fr. RS 5-11/170
1 B.J. Scott WR Fr. HS 5-11/188 Prichard, AL
48 Travis Sikes WR So. 1V 6-2/194 Nashville, TN
45 Sam Snider WR Fr. HS 5-10/163
43 A.J. Walker WR Fr. RS 6-1/185

Or how about seven more OL to go with those 15 underclassmen OL on the roster? Nothing like 22 OL competing for spots on the two deep with those that fall short developing bizarre illnesses and family problems.

Setting aside the coaching transition, what would Michigan have been like with a whole extra class? Three or four more LB to help that weak spot, alternatives to Sheridan, no positions of need such as DL...

Or how about Ohio State, who signed 80 players over that same period of time? How much better would they have been with 27 more players passing through the system?

This is not a level playing field. As long as this loophole exists, southern country club destinations will have a massive advantage over schools that actually regard these players as human beings rather than meat.

The time for limiting the number of recruits to the actual number of available scholarships is way overdue.


Promote RichRod

February 5th, 2009 at 12:01 AM ^

This is appalling. I guess I never really studied the numbers behind it all. Thanks for the post.

It will eventually hit the media in a big way, I think. Some recruit ESPN has hyped will fall short, get cut, then get an interview and spill the beans or something. Who knows, maybe ESPN can do something positive for once?


February 5th, 2009 at 12:26 AM ^

This is pretty egregious, but this has been going on for some time. Heck, even back during Bear Bryant's run, he was notorious for signing kids and plunking them on the bench for the sole reason to keep them from going to other programs. The Alabama administration is complicit in all of this - they know how many kids he recruits every year, they know how many qualify academically each year, and (hopefully) some of them have done the math and realized that he is promising more scholarships to kids than he has on hand. A school that cared about its reputation as a place of higher learning would step in and tell Saban that while they are willing to play ball with him to an extent, this abuse of the rules needs to stop. I doubt that will ever happen, of course, since winning on Saturday seems to trump being respected Sunday through Friday at some of these schools.

EDIT: And this isn't just me whining. What Saban is doing isn't "creative recruiting", and he didn't invent/outsmart other coaches in this approach. People know that you can fudge with the numbers a bit to make virtually any class fit, but it usually requires kicking out 19-year-old kids who are "underperforming", over-promising to 17-year-olds who probably would love nothing more than to don the Alabama uniform, and basically traficking in kids' futures.


February 5th, 2009 at 12:34 AM ^

I used to have to cut 10 players all the time in NCAA 06 back in the day. Even then I wanted to keep them, and I felt bad for the little fake players. This is real life, and he needs to tell 19(!) kids that they need to pack up and that they have been lied to.


February 5th, 2009 at 12:52 AM ^

Up in the north, football is a passion. Down south, it's a religion. When people have a religious fervor about something, they'll excuse if not celebrate any sin, misbehavior, or outright criminal activity as long as it's seen to be in support of that religion.

As a case in point, take a look at the comments after the Bleacher Report article from 'Bama fans. All their comments are about how great the recruiting class is, which means they essentially missed the point of the whole article. I suspect if you asked them about Saban's overrecruiting, they'd look at you with either a blank look of incomprehension or a dark look of overt hostility, since you'd be implicitly criticizing their religion.

Wasn't Marquise Maze a decommit from last year?

MI Expat NY

February 5th, 2009 at 1:06 AM ^

Just curious, but where do these roster numbers come from? I can't specifically tell on the school's roster who is actually on scholarship. Additionally, how many guys are RS JR's who aren't contributors, which even Brian concedes are owed nothing for a fifth year on a scholarship.

What I'm trying to say is, I can't believe that number of 8 available scholarships, pre-shenanigans can be accurate. I'm not defending Saban, and I'm sure he is going to cut some guys in a highly questionable manner, but I think we should have the actual numbers before we heap our scorn.

MI Expat NY

February 5th, 2009 at 11:00 AM ^

I'm not questioning the number of LOI's signed over the last 4 years, that information does appear to be readily available. I was questioning purely the fact that Alabama returns 77 scholarship players.

Just looking at the WR position players listed above, clicking on three to four of their names leads to no information beyond height, weight, etc. That tells me that those guys are most likely walk-ons. My question is, how did anyone determine which guys were the 77 returning scholarship players?

Again... I think Saban is pretty much scum. I think he'll have to squeeze this class in by showing people the door. I'd just like to know how bad it really is.

MI Expat NY

February 5th, 2009 at 11:12 AM ^

ShockFX's link to BleacherReport? That article doesn't say where he came up with the 73 returning scholarship players either.

Besides, didn't Brian openly mock anyone who would relay a BleacherReport posting as fact?


February 5th, 2009 at 12:13 PM ^

Yes he did. However, I'm assuming that they can accurately count eligible players within 5. So if they report 77 eligible players for 2009, then even if they are 10 off, that means they only have 18 scholarships available, but they just signed 27 players.

matty blue

February 5th, 2009 at 11:28 AM ^

the LOI = scholarship equation isn't really true, for any school. every school loses guys before they ever make it to campus. seems like we lose at least one every year or two.

which isn't to defend saban here - it's classic weaselness from the smarmiest coach on earth - but some attrition happens naturally at every single school.

to mangle the punchline of a very old joke - "we've already determined what you are, now we're just haggling over price."

Meeechigan Dan

February 5th, 2009 at 6:10 AM ^

You're right that we should be more accurate, but that information is not readily available to us fans. I KNOW Brian will be after Saban once he gets back; that will undoubtedly be part of his analysis like last year.

However, this class distinguishes itself because he just got done squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeezing in the last class and can't have many scholarships, especially considering his class two years ago was meaty. If it's not eight or nine, it's maybe 10 or 11 - the point stands: this clown deserves our scorn.


February 5th, 2009 at 2:45 AM ^

But *part* of the difference in attrition rates between the areas is due to the academic standing of the kids entering each program. There is a lot more academic-related turnover - kids simply never making it to the school or unable to last while in school - in SEC territory. In these cases it's not so much a matter of the "evil coach" cutting players ... but looking at the numbers above, there are plenty of examples where that will be exactly the case.

p.s. - am I the only one looking at that list and thinking that Marquis Maze would have made a perfect slot receiver at M? Damn reverse snake-oil....


February 5th, 2009 at 9:58 AM ^

I think there's a perception (and I have no idea whether this is true or not) is that the kids who show up and can contribute (i.e. the Julio Jones types) get the extra wink/wink/nudge/nudge help while the kids who look to be buried on the depth chart get left to sink or swim academically on their own. When you consider many of those athletes would never get into the school if not for football, there's a good chance that many of them will fail out if they're not getting the full level of academic assistance. That way the coach isn't actively forcing a player out but they have a pretty good idea what's going to happen.

And again I have no facts to back that up, Jones might be the smartest kid in his class for all I know and maybe the kids who fail out really do get the same type of academic help as the starters but the perception definitely exists. It will be interesting to see how many of Alabama's current players that become academic casualties before next season are contributers vs. bench warmers.


February 5th, 2009 at 10:52 AM ^

"There is a lot more academic-related turnover - kids simply never making it to the school or unable to last while in school - in SEC territory."

Is this the cause of antics like Saban's, or an effect? That is, does the culture of "football uber alles" create a mindset that football players are a commodity and reinforce the lack of concern over academics among the players AND THE SCHOOLS? Because they oversign, the athletic departments have the incentive not to stress academics among the players -- they can afford to lose the ones that don't make the cut.

If more strict regulations were imposed, academics would become a greater priority for the schools and players, then less attrition.

Undefeated dre…

February 5th, 2009 at 7:34 AM ^

Has a great little section about the recruiting of Michael Oher. The best line: "Dealing with Phil Fulmer was like dealing with the town mayor; dealing with Nick Saban was like dealing with the President of the United States."

I agree the loophole has to be closed. As to why Saban can get guys even when the depth chart is stacked, well, he's the friggin' President of the United States! The book leaves no doubt that Saban is a world-class recruiter.


February 5th, 2009 at 3:36 PM ^

how he walks in wearing an expensive suit and immediately complementing Michael Oher's adopted mom on the decoration in the foyer. Reading the description, he just oozes snake oil. The best part is, the book describes Michael Oher as staying quiet the entire recruiting visit, except at the end asking one simple question, "You staying, coach?" Saban's answer, "I've had offers from the NFL before, and I haven't left yet." Of course, he was gone for Miami about a month later...

Six Zero

February 5th, 2009 at 8:18 AM ^

Good research and strong argument.

There needs to be stronger policy and/or penalties against this sort of thing.

Quick story about Alabama... I was in New Orleans over the holidays, and just happened to be driving back up north literally during the Sugar Bowl. The strangest thing was, that despite driving for over two hours in the state of Alabama, I literally saw 14 CARS on the interstate the entire way!! Dude, FOURTEEN!! Everyone was at home watching the Utes tear it up.

I guess what I'm saying is, they probably won't even care about all these poor kids as long as the wins keep comin'.


February 5th, 2009 at 8:54 AM ^

I agree that Saban's tactics are 100% unethical. But it's a little disingenuous to imagine what Michigan's team would look like with an extra class. RR didn't even use up the scholarships he was given the past couple years. It's not like there were a number of 4 and 5 stars he had to turn away because the cupboard was full. Yes, Nick Saban is pulling off some shady shit, but you have to give him credit for getting so many 4 and 5 star players interested in his program.

Meeechigan Dan

February 5th, 2009 at 10:44 AM ^

I agree that Michigan couldn't load its class with the same premium talent that falls ripened from the trees down South, but are you saying that we couldn't sign an extra 5 or 6 three stars stolen from the MAC and the Big East? Some of those guys turn out to be Steve Slaton or Pat White. Give me right now three three star LB or DT to compete and maybe blossom like David Harris!


February 5th, 2009 at 10:20 AM ^

This practice is spreading (See UNC and Ole Miss). If the NCAA doesn't do something about it, it will become common place as schools realize that they are at a marked disadvantage if they don't follow the same practice.

My preferred approach would be to make each signed LOI count against a schools scholarship limit for four years, regardless of whether or not the player remains at the school. This gives the school added incentive to make sure the players get the grades and stay out of trouble. Maybe the limit would need to be increased from 85 to 90, but it still seems workable.


February 5th, 2009 at 1:13 PM ^

We need to get the blogsphere together and organize a method by which we get attention for this. Whether it is trying to drag ESPN into the fray with an Outside the Lines piece, appealing to the NCAA, or something else - I don't know.

Something needs to be done. This is horrible for the kids involved and gives an unfair advantage to certain programs willing to do this.


February 5th, 2009 at 1:27 PM ^

He gets everyone's attention. I remember us watching & counting down last year as 6? fell off the 'Bama wagon due to surprise medical issues, a coke bust, etc.

Maybe he can organize it. I'm thinking Outside The Lines... they don't seem to pull punches lately... maybe ESPN's only attempt at journalistic integrity?

Meeechigan Dan

February 5th, 2009 at 1:31 PM ^

I like that! Why not start a COUNTDOWN CLOCK on attrition for Alabama? If he has to cut 19 players, have a clock and every time one player gets a medical redshirt or xfers or has "personal" problems, we count the clock down. I'd be willing to do it on my site, which I let go dormat after my horrrrrrific prediction for last season (I disqualified myself as a cogent blogger).


February 5th, 2009 at 2:49 PM ^

Somebody from RollBamaRoll or AOL will immediately refute your claims, and when 15 members of the Alabama team suddenly start failing their Electromagnetism classes and have to be regrettably cut due to academic problems, they'll claim that this practice was fine.