Our old pal Ian Rapoport is still keeping up with the Tide all the way up in Boston, today posting about the NFL readiness of the Alabama players heading into this year's draft:
Alabama coach Nick Saban opens up his practices to scouts from all NFL teams, an easy decision for him, but something that not all coaches do. And when the Crimson Tide players look over to the sidelines, they can’t help but notice a lot of Patriots staff members.
"You always see the Patriots (scouts) there a lot (at practice)," Peek said yesterday. "It’s because coach Saban has already groomed us to be NFL players who work in that system, who understand the same philosophy, the team-first (attitude). That’s why the Patriots would probably show interest in Alabama guys."
Emphasis mine, since I wanted to highlight a few things about this.
1. Remember during last year's draft (or possibly the year before, but pretty sure it was last year's) when Tony Dungy gave Southern Cal a free recruiting commercial by gushing about how the Trojans and Pete Carroll produce NFL ready talent due to their system? That's one of the biggest reasons Carroll was able to get pretty much anyone he wanted from around the country (that and the cash, zing!)...come play for USC and you'll spend your college career getting ready for the pros by playing in NFL schemes, not running the spread/air raid/option/whatever.* And that's exactly what Saban has been doing since he got to Alabama. Though most consider his time at Miami a failure, I wholeheartedly believe that experience has turned him from a very good college coach into a great one. He understands the college game and the advantages it represents (i.e. recruiting the guys you want/need instead of dealing with salary caps and trades and etc.), but now also has experience in running an organization devoted entirely to football and managing every last detail to keep everyone and everything working towards a common goal. It's the best of both worlds, really, and by recruiting at the level he has he is able to not only run NFL schemes, he is able to develop his roster into NFL caliber players while playing college ball.
2. Allowing pro scouts into practice from any team that wants to is just one more aspect of fostering the "we're going to do everything we can to get you to the next level" environment that allows Saban to recruit elite talent despite not running a flashy system. It also helps ensure his players are going 100% in practice instead of dogging it if the coaches aren't watching if they know a pro scout is watching as well.
All of that is to say those who want to attack Saban for being a soulless coachbot and too much of an NFL guy have a point. He is an NFL guy, and everything he does is coldly calculated. But where they are wrong is in claiming that this is a bad thing.
UPDATE: Instead of doing another post or just fanshotting them here's a few more quotes, this time from Kausler's story in the Birmingham News:
Alabama runs a pro-style offense and a 3-4 defense. Does that give Crimson Tide players an advantage as pro prospects?
It certainly doesn't hurt, said Scot McCloughan, the San Francisco 49ers' general manager.
"It makes it easier for us to figure out what they can and can't do, on tape," he said after talking to reporters from a podium at the NFL Scouting Combine.
"It's just a system. But it makes my life easier when you watch an Alabama or a USC, you can see them more at a position where they would be playing for us."
But the real advantage Alabama players have is Nick Saban, their coach who has extensive experience in pro football as well as the college game.
"He gets them not just ready from a standpoint of understanding offense and defense, but mentally, he makes them tough, he makes them competitive, he makes them strong," McCloughan said.
"That's what's so important for young guys coming into the league," McCloughan said. "It's not that the physical doesn't fit in. It's the mental toughness. It's the hard work. It's the understanding that each day is a new day and you've got to bust your (rear), which is what Nick instills in them. That's great.
"You feel better about taking a guy like that knowing what you're getting for sure."
*I'm not saying anything is wrong with running or playing in those systems and think all the "Meyer should have been getting Tebow ready for the pros" critics need to shut it. Meyer's job is to win games for the Florida Gators, not develop talent for pro team X. As much as people may consider NCAA football an unofficial "farm league" for the NFL, its a separate multibillion dollar industry that has its own concerns, so get over yourselves NFL people.