Nick Saban’s Comments On Rival NIL Deals Sparks Drama

Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders drew criticism from Nick Saban over NIL and star recruit Travis Hunter
Photo Credit: JSU / Edward Waters

During a media interview, Alabama head coach Nick Saban attempted to reveal his competition’s unscrupulous techniques in bringing recruits — mainly concerning NIL practices — into their institution. During said interview, Saban accused SEC rival Texas A&M of “buying every player,” while also pointing the charge at Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders for paying top recruit Travis Hunter one million dollars to commit to his school.

The college football community was incensed by these accusations, and both head coaches were enraged by what was said about them. Jimbo Fisher was the first to answer, and he delivered a Nas-worthy ether, calling Saban a “narcissist” and saying that some individuals believe they are God.

It’s one thing to poke fun at a competitor, but to accuse them of nefarious business practices is plain unprofessional and makes you appear entitled. The next person who quickly responded was Jackson State head coach Deion Sanders and his number one recruit, Travis Hunter.

These claims were swiftly debunked, with Sanders writing, “We as a People Don’t Have to Pay Our People to Play With Our People.” Even the millionaire recruit chimed in, tweeting, “I got a mill, but my mom still lives in a three-bedroom house with five kids.”

What Does All This Mean

This essentially implies that when it comes to recruiting, every school’s football program is on an equal playing field. While pay-for-play has been practiced in college sports for many years, Saban should not be concerned; if anything, it raises the level of competitiveness.

This coach is known as the Bill Belichick of college football, having sent countless Crimson Tide players to the NFL. It simply appears he feels as if the pressure is coming, and has real challenges ahead.

The SEC has grown a little stronger, and if Alabama is still the powerhouse it has been for the previous ten years, what happens inside another school’s program shouldn’t be their business. Saban’s remarks have undoubtedly made their games against Texas A&M a little more personal this season.

Jackson State Is A Huge Threat

When Jackson State hired Deion Sanders, he immediately transformed that program, putting all eyes on the HBCUs. In his debut season, he led his team to a near-unbeaten season and the SWAC conference championship. He also gained a number of recruits, the most notable being Travis Hunter, the nation’s number one recruit, who switched from Florida State to Jackson State.

Simply put, HBCU football programs are back, and Deion is leading the fight. With him at the helm, it is evident that prospects do not need to attend a big school to flourish; it is possible to do so at an HBCU.

If Hunter can flourish at Jackson State, the sky is the limit for Deion, as countless recruits will follow suit and leave a legacy rather than simply being a part of a winning program. It’s clear that NIL has changed the landscape of college football, and the comments from Nick Saban clearly reflect that.

Washington State Cameron Ward Is The Player To Watch This Season

Washington State QB Cameron Ward is a darkhorse top QB in the 2023 NFL Draft
Photo Credit: wsucougars.com

With all of the buzz about quarterbacks to keep an eye on this season — a list that could include potential first-round picks like Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke or Kentucky’s Will Levis — let me shine a light on a Pac-12 quarterback who recently transferred from an FCS school where he set multiple records. That quarterback is current Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward, a blazing talent cannon-slinger who is a vastly underrated prospect for the 2023 NFL Draft.

Ward most recently attended Incarnate Word, where he starred in head coach Eric Morris’ air raid scheme. The same offense he utilized at Texas Tech when he was coaching a valiant young Patrick Mahomes.

Under Morris, Ward had some of the most jaw-dropping games that captivated college football fans, and he garnered a lot of notoriety. He led his team to a nail-biting overtime triumph over rival Stephen F Austin in the first round of the FCS playoffs at home in front of thousands of fans at Gayle and Tom Benson Stadium.

This man is absolutely fantastic on the field, whether it’s tossing a 40-yard bomb to his favorite target, Taylor Grimes, or making plays with his feet. He concluded the season with 47 touchdowns, 4,648 passing yards, and only 10 interceptions, which are incredible stats. He was among the most anticipated prospects after expressing his intention to enter the transfer portal.

Easy Transition From FCS TO FBS

While there will be many questions about whether his talents can transition from FCS to FBS, there really shouldn’t be. When you have talent in you, it stays with you forever. It also helps that his former head coach is currently with him at Washington State. Ward will join a Pac-12 conference that includes Caleb Williams of USC, Bo Nix of Oregon, and Cameron Rising of Utah.

When the college football season begins, expect to witness a bunch of duels. He begins this season as the sleeper, the underdog, which just adds to his determination to improve as a player.

Ready For The Big Moment

Cameron Ward is more than prepared for the big moment and deserves just as much acclaim as the other quarterbacks receiving media attention for the 2023 NFL Draft. Just keep in mind that once he starts turning heads in the Pac-12, don’t be surprised if the bandwagon becomes a little too heavy.

Paolo Banchero is Here to Save Your Franchise

Potential #1 pick in the NBA Draft, Duke forward Paolo Banchero
Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

While the NBA draft approaches and organizations prepare for the lottery and subsequent workouts with prospects, a particular Blue Devil, Paolo Banchero, screams franchise changer.

Paolo Banchero is Flat-Out Special

During his first year of college basketball, the former Duke freshman excelled by all standards. He took home multiple honors including ACC Rookie of the Year and All-ACC. Paolo averaged 17 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.2 assists. Banchero was a driving force on offense, propelling them to a Final Four appearance before falling to eventual runner-up North Carolina. 

He held his own this season against another future lottery pick, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, outscoring him with 21 points, 1 steal, and 5 rebounds. Following this game, it was clear who was the superior player and should have been picked first.

Paolo is sure to send his next franchise to new heights

There is no doubt about the fact that Paolo Banchero should be the top pick in the NBA draft. His talent is something you can’t afford to pass on, regardless of who picks first. A 6’10 prospect weighing 250 pounds who can shoot, rebound, and dish out assists. With Paolo set to join the league, prepare to see explosions when you plug him in at power forward or center position.

The Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons, and Oklahoma City Thunder are the top four teams with the potential to draft first and win his services. He fits perfectly with any of these young, up-and-coming rosters.

When you look at the Rockets, for example, you have a group that already has rising stars in Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. Adding Paolo to the mix could create something amazing right in front of your eyes.

Paolo would also fit in nicely in Oklahoma City where he would partner with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddy, and Lou Dort, forming a group similar to Oklahoma’s inaugural big four.

Whoever gets the privilege to draft Banchero this summer will be staring down the next face of their organization with the number one overall pick.

Dwayne Haskins: Remebering the Husband, Player, Difference Maker

Former Washington Redskins QB Dwayne Haskins
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

On Saturday, April 9, 2022, the NFL world was struck by tragedy as Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, was struck and killed on a highway in Florida. Haskins, a 24-year-old from New Jersey, was a beloved husband, teammate, and son.

Dwayne Haskins is an Ohio State Legend

Growing up, Dwayne Haskins knew he was destined to be a Buckeye. From his first visit to Ohio State at age 11, he knew. “I’m going to go to college here”, Haskins said in a video at Ohio State in 2008. And he did. He started his career at Ohio State as a redshirt freshman, but what came next was a shock to everyone.

Haskins’ first appearance in a game came during his second season when he replaced injured starting quarterback J.T. Barrett. The remainder of that game is a story that will be told forever as Haskins led his team to 17 unanswered points, and an epic come from behind victory versus Michigan. He would finish his freshman season with 565 yards and four touchdowns.

His sophomore season solidified his legacy at Ohio State. He set an unprecedented 28 school records that season including most total offensive yards in a season (4,939 yards), touchdowns in a season (50), and total passing yards in a game (470).

In 2017, he showed he could beat Michigan despite all odds and in 2018 he did it again. This time, on the backs of a game with 396 passing yards and a monstrous six touchdowns passes. His sophomore season was capped off with many awards including Rose Bowl MVP, Graham George Offensive Player of the Year, and many others. He was also a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. By many accounts, Haskins is considered the best passing quarterback in Ohio State history. For many, when they think of Ohio State football in recent years, they think of Dwayne.

Haskins rode off into the sunset as he declared for the NFL Draft following the 2018 season. His life and legacy will be honored at Ohio State’s spring game on April 16, 2022.

Life in the NFL

Following his unbelievable college season, Haskins was drafted 15th overall in the 2019 NFL draft by his hometown team, the Washington Redskins, now the Washington Commanders.

His time in Washington was short-lived as he parted ways with the team in 2020 before signing with the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2021.

He left his mark in Pittsburgh

Haskins spent the 2021 season as the Pittsburgh Steelers’ third-string QB. His time with the Steelers cannot be seen on highlight reels, but by the impact, he made in the community. Shortly after he signed with his new team, he immersed himself in the city.

At a back-to-school event, Haskins spent time handing out backpacks, school supplies, and hygiene necessities to kids. He also worked with the Salvation Army’s Project bundle up, where he and fellow Steelers players took children shopping for winter gear. His work wasn’t done, however, as he delivered Christmas gifts, shoes, and health care necessities to families in need over the holiday season.

In March, Dwayne and some of his teammates took time to visit elementary schools in the local Pittsburgh area. Here, they read to the children and shared stories of how to overcome obstacles. He gave advice, made the kids laugh, and spent time complimenting and encouraging the youth in his presence that day.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin, called Haskins, “one of our hardest workers, both in the field and in our community”. It is undeniable the impact he had on those around him, including his teammates.

A teammate unlike any other

Since news broke of Haskins passing, players around the league have taken to Twitter to share stories of Dwayne and express their sadness.

Players like Michael Thomas, Trevon Diggs, JJ Watt, Malcolm Jenkins, Julian Edelman, and countless other stars have also taken the time to send love to Haskins and his family.

“The world lost a great person today”, TJ Watt said on Twitter. “Dwayne meant so much to so many people. His smile was infectious and he was a guy you wanted to be around…we are going to miss the heck out of him as well.” Cam Heyward followed.

Members of the media also felt inclined to share the impact Haskins had on them, With Rhiannon Walker sharing a story of the time Haskins showed her outstanding kindness.

You can read more tributes to Dwayne, here.

His life was short, but the impact he left on hundreds of people will never fade. Today, we send our condolences to his wife, Kalabrya, and all those who knew and loved Dwayne. May he live on through memories.

2023 Recruiting Class Update: Spring

How will the early reports of 2023 compare to the 2022 class?

The 2023 recruiting class is in full swing, and were already starting to see highly touted recruits make their commitments.

Sitting pretty:

Leading the pack thus far is the Notre Dame Fighting Irish headlined by five star defensive end Keon Keeley. First year head coach Marcus Freeman is hitting the recruiting trail hard ahead of his first campaign at the helm. Look for more big time commits in the coming weeks with playmakers like wide receiver Carnell Tate (IMG Academy, FL) and Braylon James (Del Valle, TX).

The next team having a surprisingly good start to the cycle is Tennessee. Coach Heupel’s second class at the helm is headlined by five star quarterback, Nicholaus Iamaleava (Long Beach Poly, CA) and four star tight end, Ethan Hill (Collins Hill, GA). The Vols are also in the top 5 schools for wide receiver Carnell Tate(IMG Academy, FL).

The final up-trending team is one completely out of left-field, currently sitting at the number two spot at this time. The Texas Tech Red Raiders are making a splash in the recruiting scene with four 4 stars committed to Joey McGuire’s program thusfar. They’re still in the mix for 4 star safety, Ryan Yaites (Denton, TX). Keep a close eye on this Texas Tech class as they look to load up for the new Big 12.

Off to a slow start:

The first team in this category will not be here for long, the Alabama Crimson Tide are currently 33rd in the nation for the 2023 class. Now we all know how this goes, Bama gets off to a slow start and then dominate the national signing days.

The Tide are in the mix for current consensus number one recruit Arch Manning (Isodore Newman, LA). They are also in the mix for the top 2 running backs, 3 of the top 5 receivers and the top 2 offensive tackles in the class. Don’t expect Saban and company to stay this low for too much longer with kids taking their official spring visits.

The second team off to a slow start is the Texas Longhorns. The ‘Horns are currently sitting at 25th in the national rankings, but are in the mix for some big name recruits. Targets for Texas are headlined by 5* quarterback, Arch Manning (Isodore Newman, LA), but also include 4* receiver Johntay Cook (DeSoto, TX) and 5* running back Reuben Owens (El Campo, TX). Sarkisian and company are off to a slow start, but just like Alabama, will not stay here for much longer.

On life support:

Jumping over to the west coast for the first time today, we spotlight Oregon for our final breakdown of the day. Coach Lanning is off to a very slow start with his first class at the helm. Cristobal leaving for Miami has hurt the Ducks recruiting class as they dropped out of the top 15 for the 2022 class after his departure.

Lanning looks to build his class from the ground up, but sitting at 45th in the nation he is going to need to build momentum and quick. They are in the mix for 5* defensive back Javien Toviano (Martin, TX) and 5* athlete Nyckoles Harbor (Arch Bishop Carrol, D.C.).

Conclusion:

The 2023 recruiting class has barely started taking shape and there is still a lot of time between now and Early Signing Day in December to make moves. Be ready for all teams to really hit the recruiting trail hard after the spring and into the summer for camp and 7 on 7 showcase season.

As always be sure to follow on Twitter @Sam_WaltonFB.