Every year, Alabama has several juniors who have to make one of the toughest choices of their lives in whether to forgo a final season of eligibility to enter the draft. Saban has long been on record suggesting that players who are very likely first rounders should go, but those who have a better than average shot of falling out of the first should return and fine tune for another year. The logic is simple: you will not only make more money as an early-to-middle first rounder, but another year of development gives you a better chance at earning early playing time for coaches that really don’t have the time to put into developing your individual skills.
Mack Wilson’s decision went down to the wire, and for the entire month of December, most around the program thought he would return. Alex Byington of the Montgomery Advertiser has the details:
Even Wilson’s own mother believed he’d return for his senior season, telling the Montgomery Advertiser in mid-December: “My baby, you know, he told me that he wasn’t ready. He wasn’t ready to go to the next level yet because I guess there’s certain goals that he’s set that he’s trying to accomplish.”
Sandra went on to say that she wanted Mack to do whatever was best for him and that she’d have his back no matter what, which is exactly what you’d hope to hear from a parent.
Unfortunately, there was another party involved, Mack’s godfather Todd Dowell, who Byington describes as “a well-known mentor in the Montgomery area.” When Saban called to talk about Mack’s future, Dowell interfered.
“You’ve had him 3 years. What are you going to do in a year that you haven’t done in three?”
Dowell said Saban fell silent.
“He couldn’t answer,” Dowell recalled.
In a last-ditch effort, Saban suggested he’d fly to Montgomery that Sunday for a face-to-face meeting with Wilson and his family.
“I was like, ‘There’s no need, there’s no need for that,’” Dowell said.
Four names, Mr. Dowell: C.J. Mosley, Jonathan Allen, Reggie Ragland, Reuben Foster.
All had arguably better junior seasons than the one Mack just put up, and all improved their draft position by returning. To answer your horribly misguided question, Saban wasn’t going to do anything different. Mack would have had another year to improve in Scott Cochran’s program - you may recall that Foster lost ten pounds to become a “Ferrari” going into his senior year - and a second spring and fall as the leader of the defense. Believe it or not, players get a better feel for reading scheme and pursuit angles by playing ball, and that’s the only way to get it.
One can only hope that Dowell truly had Mack’s best interests at heart, but there’s only one explanation for his not wanting Saban to meet with Mack face to face: he was worried that the head man would convince Mack that he’d be better served with another year under his belt.
Obviously, we hope that it all works out for Mack. We’re rooting hard for him to blow up at the Combine and workout circuits, get drafted high, and go on to have a productive career. Still, it’s hard not to wonder if he got the best advice.