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.

A Tale of two Safeties

It only took two seasons for the Miami Dolphins to find a replacement of who this current coaching staff thought Minkah Fitzpatrick could be. With the 36th pick in the NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins selected Jevon Holland out of Oregon.

Last week there was a report that came out From Jason La Canofra that Brian Flores wasn’t all in on Tua Tagovailoa, Benjamin Allbright tweeted Miami doesnt know what they have In Tua.

This is not a Tua Tagovailoa article, I urge you to read Rishi Desai’s article on why you shouldn’t be worried about Tua.

Instead I wanted to talk about the story on what The National Media Coverage on the Dolphins and what the Dolphins are actually trying to do. This idea was spurred into my head by Jeremiah Bogan who has a Podcast with Scott Robinson Jr.-check it out.

You might’ve seen my reaction when the Dolphins selected Jevon Holland on the PhinManiacs livestream and On Campus host Jeremiah Bogan delving into the reason why he initially did not understand the pick of Holland. We were led to believe that Miami wanted a Defensive Back (safety) who has good range in the defensive backfield with good Ball Skills, an Earl Thomas type of player.

However, Jevon Holland is not that guy at Safety, from what everyone said Miami needed. Lance Zierlen tweeted below that he thinks Holland is Comparable to Fitzpatrick. In a sense- Zierlein is right

Let’s take into Context what Kind of Player Minkah Fitzpatrick is first and foremost from Zierleins scouting report on him:

Strengths

“Loves ball, lives ball

Extremely competitive play demeanor with a history of showing up big in the biggest games

Versatile chess piece with experience all over the field

Can step right in and cover the slot, play high safety or handle nickel linebacker responsibilities

Good feet with ability to transition backward and forward smoothly around the field

Gets to top chase speed quickly

Can become rangy safety

Able to stick a foot in ground and drive to the ball

Plays with “ball-man” vision of an off-ball defender in basketball

Has awareness from zone to make loads of plays

Has nine career interceptions and four pick-sixes

Has downhill mindset as a hitter

Plays off of blocks and into tackling position

Dangerous blitzer off the edge

Attacks line of scrimmage from high safety look in run support and welcomes physical challenges

Special teams ace with 22 career coverage tackles”

Weaknesses

“Plays with some hip tightness that limits lateral agility in coverage

May not have pure cover talent to play full-time cornerback

Allows some separation out of breaks

Feet are more quick than explosive when chasing receivers from the top of the route

Still needs to improve his awareness when asked to play deep safety

Has to learn to dial back urgency and play with more patience on the next level

Comes in hot as tackler and will run himself out of position to finish”

I, also wrote up a scouting report on Jevon Holland, you can find it here

He’s a solid tackler, although he’s more likely to have issues with more physical receivers and backs at the next level, unless he can add weight to his frame without losing quickness. Holland’s best trait might be his versatility; his cover skills are good enough for him to be used interchangeably at free safety and slot corner.

A blurb of my scouting report on Jevon Holland

When you read the scouting report there are some similarities in the play style; however, when you put on the tape both Fitzpatrick and Holland are two very different types of players. Fitzpatrick and Holland may be “versatile” DB’s but they have different versatilities and play styles.

Below is Lance Zierlein’s scouting Report on Jevon Holland:

Strengths

“Looks, feels and moves like a pro player.

Versatility to move around in the secondary.

Proper eye balance between quarterback and route traffic from zone.

Adequate route-break anticipation from off-man.

Looks to smother and find entry point to play the throw at the top of the route.

Timing to open and sprint into phase with receiver.

High school receiver with excellent ball skills and competes hard for the football.

Tools for continued ball production on the next level.

Consistent punch and separates from perimeter blocks.

Flies into developing run lanes to greet runners near the line.

Makes centered, aggressive strikes as downhill tackler.

Flashed impressive punt return talent.”

Weaknesses

“Scouts have some concerns about long speed.

Loses coverage effectiveness as route progresses downfield.

Had trouble catching up once he got behind in man coverage.

Gets caught flat-footed at times.

A little labored transitioning from his pedal.

Average range as sideline-to-sideline tackler.

Needs to be quicker coming to balance and getting tackle-ready.

In 2019, pushed around at point of attack by Washington tight end Cade Otton.”

In Measurables both Holland and Fitzpatrick are comparable, skill level- not so much.

The Minkah Fitzpatrick Dilemma

Minkah Fitzpatrick is suited to play Slot Corner and the Free Safety position. Before even being drafted by Miami, Fitzpatrick was highly touted by Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban- Saban let Fitzpatrick into the coaches film sessions to breakdown what happened in the previous game and plan for their next opponent- it’s said Sabans mind is Minkah Fitzpatrick on the football field.

“I thought Derrick Henry (who won the Heisman Trophy at Alabama in 2015) was one of the hardest workers I’ve ever seen,” Harris says. “And he is, but then I watched Minkah. To me, Minkah is the standard of this program.”

Nick Saban on Minkah Fitzpatrick

Once drafted by Miami, he played primarily slot corner and a tad bit of safety under then head coach Adam Gase. He played some outside corner once Xavien Howard was sidelined by and injury. In Matt Burke’s defensive system Fitzpatrick was used where he was primarily comfortable with and had familiarity in the scheme.

It all changed once Brian Flores was Hired and brought his philosophies to Miami, Fitzpatrick was asked to play more multiple positions. At times he would play in the slot, deep safety and as a box safety. More often than not, Fitzpatrick was tasked with being near the LOS in 2019 as the team lacked significant talent on the defensive side of the ball- he was asked to load the box and tackle more. Fitzpatrick is primarily a Free Safety that can cover the defensive backfield and roam around the ball.

This ultimately led to Fitzpatrick wanting out of Miami and his sour dismissal from the team. He did not like the way Flores and the Dolphins were using him. Fitzpatrick, while did play the box and run at Alabama, was not successful and could not play the run at the NFL like he did with the Crimson Tide.

Now, in a recent interview with Tyler Dunne who was with Bleacher Report at the time, Fitzpatrick broke down some of the many issues that he was having as a member of the Dolphins with the first grievance he reflected on was his belief that Dolphins head coach Brian Flores misused the former first-round pick.

“Flores had Fitzpatrick playing the Patrick Chung role in his scheme, which Fitzpatrick believed completely misused his gifts,” “Oh, he was perfectly fine with moving around. As a rookie, Fitzpatrick had shifted from outside corner to nickel to free safety to strong safety to even 20-some snaps at linebacker. But now? Now, Flores wanted him to play all strong safety and all linebacker, where he could not use his athleticism or his mind.

“He felt as though Flores had no clue who he was as a player and didn’t care to find out.”

A lot of Dolphins fans did not like Fitzpatrick’s attitude and the way he spoke about the situation and it did indeed lead to him being traded to Pittsburgh where he is thriving as a deep safety. It’s not that the Dolphins failed to properly assess how versatile of a player is, it’s the fact that Brian Flores and then Defensive Coordinator Patrick Graham had to rely on Fitzpatrick to gel the Dolphins atrocious defense together- in the end Minkah was not comfortable doing what he can’t do.

There were murmurs about Fitzpatrick’s mother in his ear to request a trade, but we might not know unless it comes to light. Did Chris Grier and the Dolphins muff on the selection of Fitzpatrick?

It’s hard to say concerning the circumstances but there was another safety who in turn could do everything Fitzpatrick could, Derwin James who was taken six spots later.

Derwin James has done pretty much everything in college and has done it in the NFL, albeit his recent injuries has not put him on the field much, Minkah Fitzpatrick might be versatile in some things; however, Derwin James is the epitome of versatility as he can play outside, inside, deep safety, box safety and even EDGE rusher.

Jumping to the Future with Jevon Holland

It only took two seasons for the Miami Dolphins to find a replacement of who this current coaching staff thought Minkah Fitzpatrick could be. With the 36th pick in the NFL Draft, the Miami Dolphins selected Jevon Holland out of Oregon.

In 2018, Holland primarily played at Safety and per PFF’s Ryan Smith and put up a 59.9 coverage grade with 26 completions on 43 targets while only giving up 325 yards, two touchdowns and hauling down five interceptions. Furthermore in 2019, where Holland played most of his snaps at slot corner he notched a 68.5 coverage rating while allowing 45 completions on 72 targets for 487 yards, two touchdowns and four picks.

Jevon Holland is not the guy who would be roaming the defensive backfield like an Earl Thomas; instead, Miami undid the Minkah Fitzpatrick dilemma by drafting Jevon Holland who is a better fit in Coach Flores and Josh Boyers system. Now while Holland did play wide receiver and does have great ball skills it does make sense for him to play the back end safety a little in certain situations.

However, I believe that Holland is suited to play the overhang and box role Minkah Fitzpatrick could not. Holland can be the Patrick Chung type of player Coach Flores wants him to be. He can excel in the slot position, defend the run while playing in the box and occasionally be in the backend of the defensive backfield in zone and play man to man a little bit.

With a shutdown corner in Xavien Howard on one side, an athletically gifter corner in Byron Jones on another side and Eric Rowe who matches with opposing Tight Ends well, Holland is put in a position to succeed and can play to his strengths.

We talked about how Minkah Fitzpatrick was Nick Saban on a plate, Jevon Holland is Brian Flores to a T.

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