Sometimes it takes the smallest nudge — like the apple that bonked Sir Isaac Newton in the head and started his theorizing on gravity — to open up all sorts of interesting ideas. The same thing holds true with football philosopher Nick Saban.
The apple in the equation was the weekend commitment of California quarterback Bryce Young, who decided to change his college choice to Alabama after a year or more of heading to Southern California. The question that Saban fielded in his Monday press conference was couched in NCAA-friendly terms. Young’s name was never mentioned, as Saban can’t comment on recruits until they sign in December or February. Like most quarterbacks these days, Young is expected to sign early and enroll in time to go through spring practice. Since Saban couldn’t be specific, a quick summary is that Young plays for perennial prep power Mater Dei, is the No. 1 dual threat quarterback in the country and plays like (that means “in a similar style,” not “is already as good as”) Kyler Murray.
Instead, Saban was asked about signing a quarterback in every class, even with other quarterbacks on the roster. (Being that it is still 2019, the time for a debate about Alabama’s post-Tua direction can wait until after the season.)
“The importance is to sign a ‘good’ quarterback,” Saban said with a pronounced emphasis on “good.”
“That’s probably most important, not just signing a quarterback. It’s more apparent in college football now than it’s ever been that teams that have a legitimate chance to have really good seasons, most of them, have pretty good quarterbacks.”
Clemson concurs. So do Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Georgia, all of whom have been a part of transfer portal roulette, with some quarterbacks coming and others going, in the last 18 months.
“That doesn’t mean that just because you have a good quarterback, you’re going to have a good season,” Saban continued. “You have to have good players to play around them. It certainly helps because that guy distributes the ball to every guy on the team so his ability to be effective and efficient enhances everyone’s chances to be successful. But it’s also the most difficult position to play if you don’t have good players around you, so it’s important to surround a quarterback with good players so that everyone has a chance to be successful.”
One can extrapolate from that answer — a good response from Saban, the most informative press-conference coach in America — precisely what Saban said to Young and his family. That doesn’t mean he was negative about Southern Cal. Young, who lives in Pasadena, knows all about the Trojan roster and the possibility of coaching turmoil after the season. (Alabama opening against USC just adds more spice to that 2020 mix.) Saban just had to point out Alabama’s positive. There may not be a Jeudy or Ruggs on next year’s team but there will be a Waddle and a Metchie and more talented offensive recruits — maybe even some lured by Young’s commitment — ahead.
The 2019 season hasn’t even really started to unfold, even though it is already one-third of the way to the end. Normally, you wouldn’t think about recruiting. But sometimes an apple — or a commitment — bonks you on the head and you have to ask.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt