Happy Thursday, everyone. Recruiting for 2020 is all wrapped up, and Alabama landed another outstanding class. First, we will parse through some of Nick Saban’s comments.
— Saban downplayed rankings and ratings in recruiting, saying he felt like Alabama got quality people and players who want to get a good education. He said sometimes there are unrealistic outside expectations for some players that make it difficult for players to focus on their development and not their outcome. There have been a lot of freshmen who have contributed but Saban said there is also a responsibility to not play freshmen who are not ready.
- Saban says he does not know which players will develop quickly and hopes they have enough depth to avoid playing freshmen who are not ready.
Saban has maintained the theme of “quality people” throughout this recruiting cycle. At the beginning of last season, he was pleased about a lack of “energy vampires” on the team, that most attributed to both coaches and players including a couple of transfers that shall not be named, and coaches who had their eyes on other prizes, in late 2018. Alabama was reportedly the first to pull away from Zach Evans, pulling his offer and giving it to Jase McClellan in December. Jase is already in Tuscaloosa while nobody has a clue where Zach is headed and many schools have completely moved on from him.
It’s also telling that Saban twice mentioned having to play guys who aren’t ready, as it impacts both team success and the players’ ability to “build value for themselves.” No game tape is far better than bad game tape. For those who wondered why Saban didn’t pin last year’s relative lack of success on defense, despite still ranking near the top per advanced metrics, on Pete Golding you have your answer. Guys were playing who flat out shouldn’t have been.
Bad news for everyone else, though. Saban isn’t slowing down one bit.
The 2021 class — the one that Saban spent his day calling — will probably focus on offensive linemen, wide receivers and cornerbacks. It will also include another quarterback — Alabama already has a commitment from 6-foot-5, 210-pound prospect Drake Maye — because in the Age of the Transfer Portal, quarterbacks can come and go so quickly.
Thirteen of the Crimson Tide signees, including quarterback Bryce Young, are already on campus, a trend Saban feels is positive since it “accelerates the learning curve.”
He’s already hyper focused on the 2021 class, where he currently ranks 13th with three commitments. Needless to say, that will change, and having so many early enrollees should add some quality depth to this year’s team. If you would like to hear all of Nick’s comments, we have you covered below.
Moving on, it’s rather heartbreaking when a local kid desperately wants to go to Alabama but doesn’t quite make the cut. That was the case with Calera product Jayson Jones, though he was offered a blueshirt.
Late September on a Monday, Alabama called me and told me that they’ll be looking at me for Offensive Line from now on. In the long run, I had no problem playing offense because I’ve played it for 6 years alongside DT for even longer. What shocked me and left me questionable was that they were going to BLUE SHIRT me. Basically saying, I do not get an in-home visit, official visit, I don’t come in until August 1st, and they did not contact me from November to Mid-January. They basically , “unrecruited” me. Now tell me, would you accept that?
February 3rd, 2020, they’re now talking about bringing me in even later (revisit my starting date) if i was to sign with them.
The important takeaway here is that Alabama did the right thing with him. By informing him of the blueshirt in September, they gave him two full months before the early signing period and four months before NSD to look around, and he found an immediate scholarship that he liked. Blueshirts cannot be recruited by rule, so as he said there were no visits, and based on his last comment he apparently didn’t understand that blueshirts are not allowed to join the team until the fall. It’s completely understandable that he would go elsewhere, but be happy with Alabama’s process. Winning is the name of the game, and other players were higher on the board. They did fine by Jayson.
On the other end of the spectrum lies McKinnley Jackson.
Despite saying he made his decision more than a year ago, Jackson kept it close to the vest. His last conversation with Alabama coaches was Tuesday afternoon.
“I told them I wasn’t sure if I’d be signing with them or not,” Jackson said.
Shortly after, he told his family to go get the Texas A&M shirts ready for the ceremony.
“It’s all gig ’em,” Jackson said. “I told coach Jimbo (Fisher) a week ago that I was going to Texas A&M. He said it felt like Christmas, but he couldn’t open the present yet...”
“It wasn’t about the coaches, because I know coaches can come and go. It was about what Texas A&M can do for me as a person and beyond football. It’s all about brand building.”
First off, it feels as if we always have to note that none of us has one single issue with a player going elsewhere. College football coaches try to pull the best class for their programs, and players look for the best opportunity for them. Jackson felt that A&M was the best fit for him, and that is perfectly fine.
That said, McKinnley is a liar. To be frank, if he’s admitting to blatantly lying to Alabama coaches that “he wasn’t sure” after he had already committed to Jimbo, then there’s no reason to believe that he didn’t actually tell the coaches he was coming. Combine that with choosing a school for “brand building” purposes, and young McKinnley may not be a great fit for the type of character players Saban is looking to bring in.
Of course, being that this is the second defensive lineman to lie to Alabama’s staff just before signing day, with both ending up at Texas A&M, perhaps all of the ire shouldn’t be focused on Jackson. Maybe dragging Ed Orgeron and Nick Saban to the same restaurant and nursing home that Jimbo had visited was some of that brand building, eh?
Cecil notes a tough stat for basketball.
Here is the statistic that is frustrating to @alabamambb fans. Since 2017 (three full seasons plus two games in 2020), the Crimson Tide is now 11-21 in SEC regular season games in February/March including a 6-10 record at home. (1/2)— Cecil Hurt (@CecilHurt) February 5, 2020
Late season swoons are definitely getting old. I like the attitude on this year’s team - even last game, many of the mistakes and fouls looked more like pressing than anything else. Kira Lewis made a few lazy passes, but you have to wonder if fatigue is setting in for he and John Petty. Both have had to play an extraordinary amount due to the lack of depth on the roster, and neither has shot the ball well recently. Hopefully they can find a second wind, but losing Herb Jones for at least three weeks is only going to make fatigue worse.
Last, a couple of coaches are taking a hard line on transfers per Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.
Fuente’s comments drew attention because of his recent discussions with Baylor. He told reporters Wednesday that Baylor and Virginia Tech are the only schools he has talked to about jobs while already serving as an FBS coach. Fuente went to Virginia Tech from Memphis in November 2015. He declined to say Wednesday whether Baylor had offered him the job.
He also had this quote from Connecticut’s Randy Edsall:
”Sometimes these guys from the portal think that they’re enabled or entitled to something. You know, maybe it didn’t work out because you didn’t stay there and finish.”
Edsall notes a key distinction with junior college transfers, essentially saying that those guys are coming in with something to prove rather than a sense of entitlement. They didn’t discuss grad transfers, but you have to believe that a kid who has put in a minimum of three years and graduated is looking to prove himself as well.
In any case, this is an interesting observation from two head coaches and it makes one wonder how many coaches have similar thoughts. We don’t call it the “quitter hole” for nothing, am I right?
By the way, in case you missed it, Auburn’s best running back is in the quitter hole as we speak. You hate to see it.
That’s about it for now. Have a great day.