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.

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.

2021 CFP: Can Cincinnati Beat Alabama?

Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder will face Alabama for a chance at a National Championship
Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

It’s been a storybook year for Cincinnati – an undefeated season that now has the G5 team facing perennial powerhouse Alabama. Can the Bearcats continue this run and pull off a major upset against Alabama? They are currently a 13.5-point favorite over the AAC champion, which is understandable.

No matter what you think about the media and the SEC, Alabama has faced a tougher schedule than the Bearcats. The AAC is not a murderer’s row and, to be fair, UC did struggle at times. That said, there is a way that UC can stay in this game and possibly win. Let’s take a look at they keys to a win for Cincinnati against Alabama.

No John Metchie

First, the defense needs to take advantage of the absence of Alabama wide receiver John Metchie. Ahmad Gardner and Coby Bryant need to shut down Alabama quarterback (and Heisman winner) Bryce Young’s remaining weapons and force the Tide into running the ball. Alabama turned in poor rushing performances late in the season (six yards against LSU) and taking Young and Jameson Williams (his top receiver) out of the picture will be beneficial for the ‘Cats.

Win time of possession battle

Second, the offense needs to control the ball. Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder will present a major problem for the Alabama defense. A true dual threat, he can beat this defense through the air and on the ground. That said, Ridder and crew will need to control the ball on the ground, then take shots when available. This where Jerome Ford comes in.

Ford rushed for 100 yards five times this season and nearly 200 against Houston in the AAC Championship game. If he can put up this sort of production in the Cotton Bowl, keeping the ball out of Alabama’s hands, Cincinnati could pull off the upset. Positive yardage on first and second downs to keep manageable third-down situations will also help Ridder be effective throwing the ball.

DISCIPLINE

Finally, luck and eliminating mistakes. Face it, UC is the underdog and what does the underdog need to pull off the major upset? Luck. At some point, the ball is going to have to bounce Cincinnati’s way. Perhaps a deflected pass that ends up as an interception, a dropped hand-off that bounces right to a defensive lineman, a gadget play at just the right time to catch Alabama off guard — something weird will happen and it has to go the Bearcats’ way.

Also, Ridder and crew have to protect the ball. Cincinnati can not give this Alabama offense additional opportunities to score – it will be tough enough to stop them without turning the ball over.

Can Cincinnati Beat Alabama?

Is a Cotton Bowl victory and shot at a National Championship in UC’s future? Not many people think so, but if the Bearcats can take advantage of Alabama’s injuries on offense, control the ball, and get a bit of luck … it is possible.

Be sure to check out Around The Block for more coverage of the CFB playoffs.

Is Kayshon Boutte set to hit the Transfer Portal?

LSU wide receiver Kayshon Boutte seems set to hit the transfer portal

Huge news out of Baton Rouge, and not of the good variety for LSU fans. Star wide receiver, Kayshon Boutte, is considering entering the transfer portal — but that might not be the worst of it for LSU. Could a transfer to Alabama be on the way?

Why is Kayshon Boutte transferring?

With Ed O gone and a mass exodus of players leaving LSU, Boutte figured it’s his turn. Brian Kelly and his staff seem to be losing any and all veteran talent. The prime example being Eli Ricks going to Alabama. Boutte is a former Freshman All-American, and has huge upside who could easily be a WR1 on many teams in college football.

Kayshon Boutte is a guy who can catch anything that’s thrown his way. However, with sub par quarterback play, he is being been held back. A leg injury ended Boutte’s 20211 season with the Tigers, and a change of scenery now seems necessary. Where will he end up? Well, if you look at his twitter, it feels pretty obvious.

Where will Kayshon Boutte transfer to:

Now, with teammate Eli Ricks headed to Alabama, and the Tide being his number two out of high school, it seems fairly clear that Nick Saban and Alabama are early front runners for Kayshon Boutte. Pete Golding, Bama’s defensive coordinator, tweeted this on December 13th:

Which Boutte then liked. Out of high school, Golding recruited Boutte to Alabama along with Holmon Wiggins who is also still at Alabama. The Tide feel like the top contender for the top wide receiver.

If not Bama then where else:

Honestly, this is a little tricky. I don’t think there is another option, Boutte could always surprise us and choose someone out of left field, but there isn’t really another spot that makes sense. Justin Stepp, who recruited him to Arkansas is now at South Carolina, and the other two teams in his top five have different staffs all together.

I believe Kayshon Boutte is Alabama bound, but be wary of the surprise team that could always pop in and take him.

Falcons Dueling Mocks

Will Stevie start a win streak? Or will his competitors dethrone him?

Falcons Dueling Mock
(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Welcome back to another Falcons Dueling Mocks article brought to you by the Falcons ATB team. Stephen won last week after Adam’s dominant run as the title holder. Will Adam regain his crown? Will Hunter finally taste success? Read the mocks and vote on the Falcons ATB Twitter page.

Hunter’s Falcons Mock (@hthompsonNFL)

Decided to go with this route of “my guys” for most of my picks this week, I had to have confidence in my players and myself to pick these guys because I’m getting desperate for a dub. So if you’ve seen them before, it’s because these are guys I’d be pounding the table for.

Round 1 Pick 12: Jordan Davis, NT, Georgia

  • Dear God watching Carolina run all over us was brutal. So here we have Jordan Davis being the first pick of my mock for the first time this season. He is a mountain in the middle of the field who can do it all for the Falcons. He has absoluetly dominated at the point of attack all season for UGA and would help free up Grady Jarrett and other pass rushers, and Davis would help create holes for our undersized LB group to go make plays.

Round 2 Pick 47: Derion Kendrick, CB, Georgia

  • So full transparency, Derion Kendrick is the only guy on this mock that isn’t one of “my guys” but he is still a great talent. Kendrick has dominated in college ball for years now. He is a high ceiling CB who is still learning the position after switching over from WR while at Clemson. Kendrick works well in both man and zone and really gives Arthur Smith and Dean Pees the ability to trust him against opposing WR’s like they do with AJ Terrell.

Round 2 Pick 63: Zach Charbonnet, RB, UCLA

  • Tweeted out the other day that Zach Charbonnet has a very real chance to become my highest rated RB this draft cycle. He has carried UCLA this season and has shot up draft boards each week. He displays good vision, hits the hole hard, and has great size at 6’1″ 220lbs to be a bell-cow in the Arthur Smith offense. If Atlanta lands Charbonnet, the running game will immediately improve and help the team get back on track.

Round 3 Pick 78: Jalen Tolbert, WR, South Alabama

  • I absolutely have loved Jalen Tolbert ever since Devin Jackson (@RealD_Jackson on Twitter) put him on my radar. You’ve seen me draft him before, but the 6’3″ vertical threat has sticky hands and is a great contested catch player. Tolbert is explosive with the ball in hand and could thrive as a YAC Daddy in the Arthur Smith offense. He needs some work in the route running department, but would still be a welcome addition to our weak WR Room.

Round 4 Pick 115: Cade Otton, TE, Washington

  • In this mock, I pick Cade Otton the 6’5″ 250lb TE from Washington. Otton lets us move on from Hayden Hurst without a massive dropoff. Otton is just a very solid player who does everything. He’s a solid pass catcher, solid size, and a solid athlete. He’s just solid. He does need to work on his blocking a bit, but other than that, feels like grabbing a guy who will let Arthur Smith keep running the two and three TE sets here is good value.

Adam’s Falcons Mock (@Damski32)

Round 1 Pick 12: DeMarvin Leal, DL, Texas A&M:

  • DeMarvin Leal makes his way back here. Other than Jordan Davis I’m still convinced Leal is one of the more logical fits for this defensive fronts. A&M uses a ton of over/under fronts and Leal lines up everyone and gives you juice. Coming off the EDGE is ideal in my opinion, but I don’t hate trying to work him inside along with Grady on twists and stunts. Brings some much needed size/nastiness to this front that’s been needed for a long, long time.

Round 2 Pick 47: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, Florida State

  • Jermaine Johnson makes his first of what I’m sure is many visits to a mock draft for me. Johnson is a perfect fit for Pees scheme as an OLB or can stick his hand in the dirt and rush out of a 3-point stance. Johnson shows great length in his rushes but also shows incredible power while destroying gaps in the run game, he really could find himself in the first round come next years draft.

Round 2 Pick 63: Brandon Smith, LB, Penn State

  • Brandon Smith is a BIG physical LB that shows fantastic range and can be a really good asset for ATL in terms of having a guy that can play man-up on TEs. Pees has shown that he wants to play a bunch of man, but doesn’t yet have that TE eraser. Combine that with the fact that ATL might lose one of their star ILBs this coming off-season due to the salary cap, Smith makes a ton of sense as a tone setter and just giving some really good talent on the defensive side of the ball.

Round 3 Pick 78: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama

  • Jameson Williams is a walking home run threat for Alabama, it’s something ATLs offense sorely needs as the group here is really missing some real big time talent. Williams gives ATL something they don’t have in a big play WR that can also be a machine in getting YAC. Jameson is still a smaller WR, but he shows ability to go over the middle and play the ball well while maintaining explosive speed.

Round 4 Pick 115: Amare Barno, EDGE, Virginia Tech

  • Amare Barno is another EDGE (yes, that’s four total trench picks) and I’m well aware of what I’m doing. Arthur Smith came out after the Carolina game and you could tell he was upset at the trench play, so I really made a focus to attack the front in a big pay and Barno is that next guy. He shows surprising strength for his size, but also is able to bend the corner. A bit of a liability in the run game, but I want him to be a dominate pass defender/rusher.

Stephen’s Falcons Mock Draft (@stevieraylee)

*Cues the Ric Flair intro music* You’re mock draft heavyweight champion is back with another banger! I ruffled enough feathers with my shameless (but successful) fan service mock draft last week, so this week I’m going back to something a little less tongue in cheek. The battering Atlanta took against the Panthers showed precisely how ineffective this team is in the trenches. 2022 is the year we try to turn that around.

Round 1 Pick 12: Jordan Davis, DT, Georgia

Y’all will get sick of seeing Davis’ name in these mocks by the time we get to the draft. I’ve said that already, and I’ll keep saying it. It’s not the most entertaining start to a mock draft, but watching Ameer Abdullah and Chuba Hubbard post a 70%+ rushing success rate isn’t fun either. Atlanta’s defensive front is broken beyond the point of scheming around weaknesses. This Atlanta defense will never be effective if they can’t win at the line, and Davis is a one-man wrecking crew at nose tackle. Plug him in and watch everyone around him get better. My only concern is he’ll be gone before we get a chance to pick him.

Round 2 Pick 47: Trevor Penning, OT, Northern Iowa

  • It’s a challenge to present new names in these mock drafts, of course. That said, I was happy to see that no one’s brought up the massive offensive tackle from UNI. Penning has an outstanding combination of size and athleticism, landing him on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks list for 2021. At 6’7 with 35″ arms, he has elite length and reportedly runs a 5.0 forty at 340lbs. Penning’s tantalizingly rare mix of size, strength, and athleticism will shoot him up draft boards this spring. Technically he’s more advanced than you’d expect from a small school prospect, but there is still work to be done there. Still, I’d much rather take a player that can do things you can’t coach and teach him the rest. Atlanta needs another option at tackle, a fact that is torturously apparent after watching Brian Burns and Haason Reddick assault Matt Ryan for 60 minutes on Sunday.

Round 2 Pick 63: Jermaine Johnson, EDGE, FSU

  • I’m going to enjoy taking Johnson here for as long as I can, but I suspect he’ll move into the first round in most projections before too long. It would be easy to phone it in playing for a Florida St. team that is dreadful, but Johnson is playing like his hair is on fire. He’s piled up 7.5 sacks and routinely finds himself in opposing backfields. He has the size and frame to play with his hand in the dirt and the athleticism to handle the coverage responsibility Dean Pees doles out to his outside linebackers. The defensive front is far and away Atlanta’s biggest weakness, and Johnson, especially paired with Jordan Davis, is a huge step towards solving this perineal problem.

Round 3 Pick 78: Zion Tupuola-Fetui, Edge, Washington

  • Making his second appearance in my mock, ZTF completes my phase one rebuild of the defensive front. Atlanta has been bullied at the point of attack because they lack size and power. Tupuola-Fetui is a multiple tool pass rusher with the size and power to set the edge in the run game. After largely ignoring the defensive front, adding a mammoth NT and two 260+lbs edge rushers in the first three rounds is the type of heavy investment that should pay immediate dividends for the Falcons.

Round 4 Pick 115: Kenneth Walker III, RB, Michigan St.

  • Walker is another example of a player that won’t be available in the middle rounds for much longer. He’s here now, though, and I’ll happily sprint to the podium to get him with the 115th pick. Walker is the new favorite to win the Heisman after posting a five-touchdown performance this week. Walker’s contact balance and burst are exceptional. Pair that with his NFL-ready size, and he’s got the makings of a standout lead back.

Come vote on who’s mock was best over @falcons_atb on Twitter.