Pete Thamel Yahoo Sports
Saban is the head of the greatest machine in all of college football. And perhaps in the history of it. And if you buy the popular theory that Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State have distanced themselves from the rest of the sport, it’s fair to observe that this College Football Playoff showed how much Alabama has distanced itself from those programs.
Alabama also appears to have surged ahead of the SEC, whose once-vaunted depth has suddenly hit tea-coaster levels. LSU is flailing and risking its future on reviving Joe Brady’s schemes – without Joe Burrow. Auburn has brought in an outsider from Boise to attempt to topple Saban. Tennessee has run out of dumpsters to light on fire. Both Mississippi schools are more interesting than they are threatening.
“I’m not sure that story has been completely written,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey told Yahoo Sports. “There’s another chapter.”
There will certainly be personnel losses, ranging from Smith to offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to the inevitable NFL declaration of quarterback Mac Jones. But considering Alabama lost the most explosive player in college football to injury for a majority of the season (Jaylen Waddle) and that enabled the Heisman Trophy winner (Smith) to emerge, there’s a certain air of inevitability about sturdy replacements being available.
“Times have changed and recruiting has changed,” Hall of Fame coach Frank Beamer told Yahoo Sports about Saban on Monday. “The way they’ve been able to hang right in there for so many years, that’s been pretty impressive. I think about the staff turnover and how it keeps developing. There’s been some talented coaches that have left, and the product is the same the next year.”
Sankey pointed out how Saban has adjusted and endured, as this game offered the latest salvo on an identity transformation that flipped the program from a defensive-first ethos to attacking vertically and outscoring opponents. Saban’s Alabama team has become what he has always hated to defend and once railed against.
As he runs away from the rest of the sport, there are few signs of him slowing down.
“He’s got an incredible fire internally in his belly to keep going, and I’m not talking about the performance on the field,” former Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley said. “You look at the sideline and the way that he grinds and coaches. His energy must be incredible, you can’t do what he does without incredible energy.”
And that energy remains as strong as it’s ever been on the recruiting trail. Nick Saban wakes up tomorrow as a seven-time national champion and with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.
Those GOAT alternative arguments have a chance to be much quieter the next few years.