Theme for Bay Area CFP marketing blitz: ‘GUESS WHO’S COMING?’

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In the Trenches: Outland Trophy Matchups Week 5

Our weekly installment of In The Trenches takes a look at a pair of primetime battles that with likely have College Football Playoff implications. Ohio State travels to Happy Valley to take on Penn State for early bragging rights in the Big Ten, while Notre Dame renews its rivalry at Stanford in another Top 10 matchup. Both games feature five players from the preseason Outland Trophy Watch List.

http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/outland/inthetrenches180929.pdf

While you’re at it, we ask that you follow all of the FWAA’s endeavors online:
@TheFWAA
@OutlandTrophy

We have partnered with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and their #FightFlu campaign this season, so we ask that you join spokesman Joe Thomas, a 2006 FWAA All-American and the Outland Trophy winner, in supporting the cause.

Steve Richardson
Executive Director

 

Deadline approaches for 2018 Armed Forces Merit Award nominations

Fort Worth, Texas — The deadline for nominations for the 2018 Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) is October 1.

Armed Forces Merit Award

Coordinated by the staff at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA was created in June 2012 “to honor an individual and/or a group with a military background and/or involvement that has an impact within the realm of college football.”

With the 2018 recipient being announced the week of November 4, 2018, nominations for the 2018 Armed Forces Merit Award will be accepted through October 1 when a selection committee of five FWAA members and two representatives from the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl will review the list of candidates for the seventh annual presentation.

“We are pleased to join with the Football Writers Association of America to honor an individual with a military background or group that works with our armed services that has an impact within college football,” said Brant Ringler, the executive director of the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl.

FWAA president Stefanie Loh of the Seattle Times echoed Ringler’s sentiments along with adding that the group is “we have an outstanding list of candidates each year and it is difficult to honor only one recipient when there are several individuals and programs that are very deserving of the honor.”

With 38 nominations considered for the 2017 award, Kansas State and its football team was announced last November as sixth recipient of the Armed Forces Merit Award for the university’s partnership with the United States Army that created a bond between the school’s athletic department and the Iron Rangers at Fort Riley.

Nate Boyer of the University of Texas was the initial recipient in 2012.  Other recipients were Brandon McCoy of the University of North Texas in 2013, Daniel Rodriguez from Clemson University in 2014, Bret Robertson of Westminster College (Fulton, Mo.) in 2015 and Steven Rhodes from Middle Tennessee State University.

Boyer (long snapper), McCoy (defensive lineman), Rodriquez (wide receiver) and Robertson (defensive back) served in the Army before playing collegiate football.  After his military service with the Marine Corp, Rhodes played four seasons at Middle Tennessee, including an appearance in the 2013 Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl with the Blue Raiders.

In the Trenches: Outland Trophy Matchups Week 4

Our weekly installment of In The Trenches takes a look at a pair of key early-season conference matchups on opposite sides of the country. Clemson and Georgia Tech do battle in Atlanta in the afternoon, following by a telling Pac-12 matchup between Stanford and Oregon in Eugene in prime time. Both games feature notable Outland Trophy candidates and are likely decided by the ground game.

http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/outland/inthetrenches180922.pdf

While you’re at it, we ask that you follow all of the FWAA’s endeavors online:
@TheFWAA
@OutlandTrophy

We have partnered with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and their #FightFlu campaign this season, so we ask that you join spokesman Joe Thomas, a 2006 FWAA All-American and the Outland Trophy winner, in supporting the cause.

Steve Richardson
Executive Director

 

Members: Nominate your daughter or son for the Volney Meece Scholarship

The FWAA is now accepting applications for the 22nd annual Volney Meece Scholarship.

For an application please contact Dave Sittler, 8314 S. Jamestown Ave, Tulsa, OK 74137. His email is davesitt@aol.com and his cell phone is 918-629-3851 (text).

Applications must be received by Dec. 15, 2018.

The scholarship is awarded annually by the FWAA and named for the late Volney Meece, who served 22 years as the FWAA’s Executive Director and was the organization’s President in 1971.

The $1,000 annual grant for four years is awarded to a deserving son or daughter of an FWAA member. Since the program started in 1997, the FWAA has distributed $83,000 in scholarship money to deserving children of FWAA members.

The winner will be announced at the FWAA’s Annual Awards Breakfast at the media hotel in conjunction with the College Football Playoff  National Championship Game on Jan. 7, 2019, in San Jose.

Past winners of the Volney Meece Scholarship
1997  Brett Goering  Topeka, Kan.
1998  Kelly Brooks  Denver, Colo.
1999  James Butz  Schaumberg, Ill.
2000  Sara Barnhart  Atlanta, Ga.
2001  Patrick Davis  Coventry, Conn.
2002  Jacqueline O’Toole  Gaithersburg, Md.
2003  Garrett Holtz  Denver, Colo.
2004  Katie Hersom  Oklahoma City, Okla.
2005  Katie Wieberg  Lawson, Mo.
2006  Kaylynn Monroe  Winter Park, Fla.
2007  Nate Kerkhoff  Overland Park, Kan.
2008  Jack Caywood  Lawrence, Kan.
2009  Haley Dodd  Overland Park, Kan.
2010  Donald Hunt  Philadelphia, Pa.
2011  Alaina Martens  Papillion, Neb.
2012  Emily Alford  Tupelo, Miss.
2013  Sarah Helsley  Edmond, Okla.
2014 Robert Abramson Palos Verde, Calif.
2015 Danielle Hoover Tulsa, Okla.
2016 Dolen Helwagen Pataskala, Ohio
2017 Elizabeth Schroeder Norman, Okla.

In the Trenches: Outland Trophy Matchups Week 2

Our second installment of In The Trenches takes a look at key Outland Trophy matchups in college football this weekend. The spotlight is on Mississippi State at Kansas State and Wyoming at Missouri, a pair of under-the-radar games that pit Outland Trophy candidates against each other.

http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/outland/inthetrenches180908.pdf

Please follow our Outland Trophy endeavors on Twitter:
@TheFWAA
@OutlandTrophy

We have partnered with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and their #FightFlu campaign this season, so we ask that you join spokesman Joe Thomas, a 2006 FWAA All-American and the Outland Trophy winner, in supporting the cause.

Steve Richardson
Executive Director

 

Reveal Suits to present national team of the week

DALLAS – The Football Writers Association of America is proud to announce a new presenting sponsor for its National Team of the Week. Reveal Suits, a Texas-based custom clothier, will present the weekly award, which will continue for its 17th season.

Each Monday during the 2018 season, the Reveal Suits National Team of the Week will be announced exclusively between 4-7 p.m. ET on ESPNU Radio on SiriusXM during “Off Campus with Mark Packer,” The initial winner will be announced next Tuesday, after the completion of the season’s first full weekend of games. The FWAA’s All-America Committee selects the weekly winner and all Division I FBS and FCS schools are eligible to be selected as the Reveal Suits National Team of the Week.

“Reveal Suits is thrilled to be part of a prestigious tradition by joining the Football Writers Association of America as the presenting sponsor for the National Team of the Week,” said Reveal Suits Owner and CEO Carlton Dixon. “We look forward to an exciting season and inviting the best in collegiate football and their universities into our Reveal Suits family. Our brand carries a winning tradition just like what these teams exemplify on and off the field each week, and we couldn’t be more proud to honor these fine squads.”

In all, 88 different schools have earned National Team of the Week honors with 56 earning the honor multiple times. Michigan State has been the FWAA’s National Team of the Week seven times to lead the nation. Oklahoma, Stanford and TCU have each been so honored six times.

“From the beginning in 2002, the FWAA National Team of the Week has been a great addition to our awards inventory,” said FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson. “Each year, we enjoy sharing in the joys of some of the season’s best wins by rewarding those deserving schools, while also engaging our prestigious All-America committee.”

Reveal Suits’ reputation and image has been established by the specialization of customized suits to show the pride of each organization and personal brand it represents. Located in Grand Prairie, Texas, Reveal was formed on June 1, 2018, by Owner/CEO Carlton Dixon, a former men’s basketball player of the University of Texas. For more information, visit revealsuits.com.

Founded in 1941, the Football Writers Association of America consists of 1,400 men and women who cover college football. The membership includes journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern areas that include game-day operations, major awards and its annual All-America team. For more information about the FWAA and its award programs, contact Steve Richardson at tiger@fwaa.com.

Related links:
All-time FWAA National Teams of the Week

In The Trenches: Outland Trophy Matchups Week 1

Our first installment of In The Trenches debuts with a look at key Outland Trophy matchups in college football each week. We start with Michigan at Notre Dame and Washington vs. Auburn in Atlanta. Both games feature four players on the preseason watch list and should be a great way to start the season for award watchers.

http://www.sportswriters.net/fwaa/awards/outland/inthetrenches180831.pdf

While you’re at it, we ask that you follow all of the FWAA’s endeavors online:
@TheFWAA
@OutlandTrophy

We have partnered with the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and their #FightFlu campaign this season, so we ask that you join spokesman Joe Thomas, a 2006 FWAA All-American and the Outland Trophy winner, in supporting the cause.

Steve Richardson
Executive Director

Houston’s Ed Oliver will try to double-down on the 2018 Outland Trophy

By Gene Duffey

Special to the FWAA  

The University of Houston’s Ed Oliver grew up wanting to be first. So far, so good. He wasn’t the first born in his family, having to settle for being the third of four boys, but he couldn’t help that.

He wanted to be the first one remembered among the string of outstanding defensive linemen to come out of Westfield High School in Houston. Check. He wanted to be the first five-star recruit to play at the University of Houston. Check. He wanted to become the first sophomore to win the Outland Trophy. Check.

“I was the first to do a lot of things,” he said. “I was the first recruit this high to come to Houston. I take pride in being the first sophomore to win the Outland. That’s an amazing accomplishment. I could have done it as a freshman. See, I’m kind of hard on myself.”

Ed Oliver’s value system is different from most. Good is never good enough. The best can still be better.

That is why he wants to be the best interior lineman in college football once again this fall. If he claims the 2018 Outland Trophy presented by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, Oliver will be only the second player to receive the award twice. Nebraska center Dave Rimington achieved the first double Outland Trophy haul in 1981 and 1982.

“I do things differently,” he said. “I have a different mindset. Sometimes I get down on myself. I just want to work out and get better. The more people tell me I’m good, the more I come down on myself. Nobody could be harder on myself than me.

Ed Oliver of the University of Houston is interviewed by ESPN’s Chris Fowler after receiving the 2017 Outland Trophy at the College Football Awards Show. Photo by Andy Crawford.

“Even though I might sugar coat it in front of people, it’s always in the back of my head what I did wrong. I could have done better on this play. When I watch film, I (look for) what I could have done better, not how good I am.”

Oliver began receiving extra attention from opposing offensive lines when he started on the varsity as a sophomore in high school. Double teams became a way of life.

He continued to prove himself worthy of the extra attention right away as a freshman in college. Oliver started the opening game of the 2016 season against No. 3 Oklahoma, made seven tackles, including two sacks, and helped the Cougars spring a 33-23 upset.

“The biggest thing that surprised me was how fast it happened,” said A.J. Blum, Houston’s defensive line coach who also coached Oliver in high school. “I knew he was capable.”

There was no need to redshirt Oliver. He began dominating from day one. The double teams returned early in the season. They didn’t bother Oliver, or stop him.

“If you keep your pad level low, you can beat them,” he said. “What makes it even sweeter is when you make a tackle out of a double team. It’s so much better. If you put one guy on me, that’s not fair. I’m ready to make a play look too easy.”

Blum, the defensive line coach at Houston, previously worked as Westfield’s defensive coordinator. “(Being double teamed) was inevitable for Ed,” Blum said of Oliver’s days in high school. “It’s just part of playing inside.”

Westfield played a 4-3 defense and the offense focused on Oliver no matter where he lined up. By his senior year he was ranked the No. 2 defensive tackle in the country and the No. 2 player in the state of Texas.

The double teams followed him to college. “The bodies just get bigger,” he said.

He declared after his sophomore season at Houston, after winning the Outland Trophy, that he would be leaving college following his junior year to play in the NFL. The Cougars were grateful that the NFL doesn’t allow any “one and dones.”

“They’ll probably one-on-one block me in the NFL, because they’re professionals, mano-on-mano,” Oliver said with a smile. The prospect excited him.

Oliver’s exploits in high school received national attention. But he didn’t get carried away with all the attention in recruiting. He took only two official visits, to Houston and Oklahoma.

Naturally, Texas A&M and Texas wanted him. Baylor, too. So did Alabama and Notre Dame. And LSU and Mississippi.

“If I had gone (to visit) some place like LSU or Ole Miss, I would have been more tempted to go there,” said Oliver. “Once I made my decision, I wanted to be true to myself, so I decided to stay home.”

“Ed’s a different guy,” said Blum. “He didn’t want to do the whole (recruiting) process. He always had a cellphone, but it was broken.”

Oklahoma was the first college to offer Oliver a scholarship. Jerry Montgomery, the Sooners’ defensive line coach who went on to join the Green Bay Packers staff, saw Oliver in the spring of Oliver’s freshman year, before he had played a game of varsity football.

“It was something you couldn’t hide,” Blum said of Oliver’s talent. “He’s like a skilled player in a defensive lineman’s body.”

Oliver knew little of the Oklahoma tradition. Or Houston’s. He didn’t pay attention to college football. He liked to play football, not watch it on television.

Blum first spotted Oliver as a seventh grader, running around the gym, hanging on the basketball rim. Oliver played a little basketball and baseball outside of school, but football was always his game.

His father, Ed Sr., who went on to be a construction worker, had played running back at Northwestern State, a I-AA (now FCS) school in Natchitoches, La. His older brother Marcus also played football and Ed just followed along.

“I started because of my brother and I grew to love it,” he said. “Everybody wants to be like your brother. Marcus and me are almost like twins. I ended up playing with his friends, who were two years older than me. That may be why I’m so good now, playing against guys older than me. I was a big kid.”

Houston held a relative edge in recruiting Ed Oliver. Marcus was already at UH. Marcus played in every game on the offensive line as a true freshman and started seven games at offensive tackle as a sophomore. “You can be a big guy here,” Marcus told Ed.

Marcus was not the same caliber player as his younger brother coming out of Westfield. When Houston offered him a scholarship, it was a big deal. Two years later it made Ed’s decision easy.

“Probably the biggest factor was Marcus being here,” Oliver said of choosing Houston. “I trusted my brother. I figured I’d get my two years in here (while Marcus was still on the team), and if I don’t like it, leave. But I like it here.”

Ed and Marcus roomed together for one year in college. But Ed didn’t like the idea of going one-on-one against his older brother in practice. They had faced each other only once in practice in high school.

Marcus moved to guard for his junior year at Houston, which could have lined him up against Ed in practice.

“Marcus is pretty good,” said Ed. “I only beat him a couple of times. He beat me a handful of times. That’s a lot to say right there. He’s got really fast feet. I went to finesse him. He’s (our) most athletic guard.”

Tom Herman, the offensive coordinator of Ohio State’s 2014 national champions, parlayed that into becoming coach at Houston for the 2015 season. He led the Cougars to a 13-1 record in his first season, even without Ed Oliver, climaxed by beating Florida State 38-24 in the Peach Bowl.

Herman continued his success in the offseason by signing Oliver. Houston had built its football reputation by recruiting players that Texas, A&M and other Big 12 schools didn’t want. Texas tried to recruit quarterback Andre Ware, who won the 1989 Heisman Trophy at Houston, as a defensive back. Getting Ed Oliver was a big deal.

“When I got here coach Herman told me, ‘We’re going to put you and your brother together,’ ” Ed Oliver said of the practice schedule. “I said I would not do that. That’s my brother. I don’t want to go against my brother for your pleasure or the coaches’ pleasure. I felt like that was messed up. We did end up going against each other some. And I won. I don’t feel as strongly about it now, but it really upset me then.”

After a 9-4 record in Oliver’s freshman year, Herman bolted for Texas. Oliver felt a little betrayed. But the offer was too good for Herman to turn down.

“It did bother me, but my Dad talked to me,” said Oliver. “If a guy is making $30 on a job and someone offers him another job for $60, you would be a fool to stay. I understood what he said 100 percent. You can’t fault anyone for trying to better themselves. If I could stay at UH four years and leave after three, people will be mad at me, but they shouldn’t be.”

Houston didn’t hire A.J. Blum in an attempt to sign Ed Oliver. Blum joined Major Applewhite, Herman’s successor, a year after Ed Oliver arrived. The two had built chemistry during their days at Westfield.

“He’s shown me the ropes,” Oliver credited Blum. “Shown me what to do. I wouldn’t say he’s like a brother, or like a father, but like an uncle.”

Playing for Blum as a sophomore, Oliver only got better.

He made 69 tackles in 2017, including 14 ½ sacks, earning defensive player of the year honors in the American Athletic Conference, chosen by the league coaches. Winning the Outland was next in line.

Oklahoma junior offensive tackle Orlando Brown and Notre Dame senior guard Quenton Nelson were other finalists for the award.

“That was surprising, to be honest,” admitted Blum, not expecting a sophomore to win the Outland. “Those were his goals, to be nationally recognized. We have always talked (about him winning the Outland.) That’s the big dog for defensive linemen.”

At 6-2 and 290 pounds, he is not exceptionally large by today’s defensive line standards. What separates him?

“It’s his quickness and ability to react,” said Blum. “He’s like a wrecking ball out there that turns into a pinball. He can bounce off people and keep his feet.”

Oliver knew he might be special when people mistook him for a senior his freshman year of high school. Wearing a beard his sophomore year in college and with a baritone voice, he could easily pass for 25.

His easy going personality belies the intensity he displays on the field. “He’s a goofball,” said Blum, who gives no special treatment to his best player in practice.

Oliver requested to wear No. 94 at Westfield. But the coaches had something else in mind. They knew Oliver was special. They unretired No. 11 and presented it to Oliver.

A former linebacker named Herman Mitchell had worn No. 11 at Westfield. His junior year Mitchell helped Westfield to a 13-1 record and the regional semifinals. He committed to Oklahoma before his senior season. Then, Aug. 23, 2007, the day of a scrimmage, Mitchell was shot and killed at an apartment complex by a one-time friend.

Ed Oliver learned the legend of Herman Mitchell.

“I guess they felt I could fill the shoes,” said Oliver. “It was an honor. It’s ironic that I took a visit to Oklahoma. When they gave me 11, it gave me a purpose bigger than myself. Every day I competed like I wanted to be the best in the nation.”

Wearing No. 11 proved ideal for Oliver because he occasionally lined up as a fullback in Westfield’s goal line offense. He enjoyed that. No need to change jerseys for offense.

The Ed Oliver bobble-head created by UH to promote his candidacy for 2018 awards.

Wearing No. 10 at Houston made sense. But he didn’t carry the ball until the final game of his sophomore year. Oliver scored the first touchdown in Houston’s bowl game, a one-yard plunge in a 33-27 loss to Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl.

Ed Oliver is kind of a Cougar cowboy. He loves to ride, go-karts, motorcycles, horses. He has three horses on his Dad’s farm in Marksville, La.

Before the 2018 season, Houston created a bobble-head as a promotion for Oliver. This one is rather unique: Ed is riding a horse named Oreo, who in real life was maybe the most stubborn horse that Ed had ever ridden since he was 8 years old. Oliver credits riding Oreo for one of the reasons he is the player he is today.

Oliver has promised not to go through the motions his junior year at Houston, even with the NFL awaiting. He played through five games in 2017 with a nagging knee injury, but still impressed enough to claim the Outland Trophy.

“There’s a lot to be accomplished, so you’ve got to watch me,” he said, speaking more like a guy trying to sell tickets than inflate his ego.

“I want to do everything I did, and be healthy the whole year. I want to show people what they missed last year if I hadn’t gotten hurt. They saw a glimpse of Ed Oliver, a sneak peek. I could go forward pretty fast, but couldn’t move side-to-side. That’s what took away from my game.

“I’m not on cruise control, but I am going to enjoy my time. Once I leave, I can’t come back. I can’t put on that red and white and step on that field. The first couple of months I’ll probably miss it and coach Blum’s voice.”

The Cougars will miss him more.

2018 Best Enterprise: Christopher Walsh, Part 10 of 10

By Christopher Walsh

SEC Country

Last of 10 Parts

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — In this case, the one called Angel doesn’t want to think about it.

In December 2016, Angel Taylor and her husband Anthony were the 16th recipients of a house built by Habitat for Humanity in partnership with the Nick’s Kids Foundation. While the organization named in honor of Nick Saban’s father was originally created to help children in need, it expanded its directive following the devastating tornado that hit in 2011, including the building of a home for every Alabama football national championship.

It changed her family’s life “dramatically.” While Angel was still feeling the effects of heart surgery, and Anthony was trying to earn a master’s degree in religious studies while also working as a shuttle driver, they were living in a dilapidated house handed down from her grandmother. It was deemed unsalvageable from storm damage.

“My kids can live in a house in which the structure is sound and the air is good,” she said. “Big change.

“We’re definitely big Alabama fans.”

What Angel doesn’t want to think about is where her family might be had Saban not agreed to leave the Miami Dolphins to take over the Crimson Tide in 2007. Without him there’s probably no national championships over the last decade, no statue in front of Bryant-Denny Stadium and no “16 for 16” effort.

There’s also no Rocky Block, dismantling of Notre Dame or onside kick against Clemson.

But that’s only the beginning.

“I think his going to Alabama has been incredible for college football,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said. “Having Alabama on its 10th year of the dynasty has been outstanding for college football. Maybe not if you’re at Auburn or LSU, or are an SEC fan competing against Alabama, but any time you have a program that’s raising the bar and forcing other coaches and other programs to try and compete with them, I think it’s awesome.”

Now imagine it didn’t happen. The entire landscape of college football would be altered, from the rulebook to TV ratings.

Similar to the movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, in which Jimmy Stewart’s character is shown by an angel what would have happened had he never been born, the repercussions would have been extensive and wide-ranging.

“I believe there would be success, but certainly not at the level we’ve seen,” Tuscaloosa mayor Walter Maddox summarized. “Saban is a once-in-a-generation coach who’s not only been able to sustain success, but sustain excellence in a system that doesn’t promote it.”

It’s more remarkable when considering the things that had to fall into place for former athletic director Mal Moore to hire Saban. They include Dennis Franchione sneaking out of town, Mike Price blowing his opportunity, Tim Tebow opting for Florida over Alabama, Mike Shula losing to Mississippi State and Rich Rodriguez turning down an offer to stay at West Virginia.

What if Miss Terry had never let Moore in the front door before Nick called to say he’d decided not to meet with him? Or Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga had persuaded Saban to stay and fulfill his contract?

“I think it would have been a tremendous letdown if he hadn’t gotten Saban, there’s no question about that,” said Steve Townsend, Moore’s former special assistant and author of the 2014 book Crimson Heart: Let Me Tell You My Story. “As for Plan B, there were some people who probably would have been considered and done a good job, but I don’t think there was any doubt that Saban was his guy.”

The most popular alternate-reality theories center around the Sabans sticking with the NFL for at least another season. Had Miami signed free agent Drew Brees, whom Saban wanted to add only to be overruled by the team’s medical staff due to the quarterback coming off reconstructive shoulder surgery, he might not have been coming off his only losing season as a head coach.

Instead, Saban’s departure set off a chain reaction that changed football forever.

“It’s widely believed among Louisiana football fans that had the Dolphins signed Brees then Saban would have had a better 2006 season, making him more likely to stay in Miami, Bama hires someone else and of course the Saints might not ever have won the Super Bowl,” said Scott Rabalais, columnist for the Advocate in Baton Rouge.

But that’s well into the ramifications.

First, consider the epicenter, Alabama, and the most important people in all of this, the players. Saban’s first full recruiting class in 2008, which turned the Crimson Tide into instant contenders, doesn’t happen.

Running back Mark Ingram Jr. is the first person you could scratch off the Crimson Tide roster. He came to Alabama because of the relationship his parents had developed with Saban at Michigan State. Ingram lived in Flint, Mich., and wasn’t considered an elite prospect, with some services rating him only a 3-star talent.

If the program’s first Heisman Trophy winner didn’t attend Alabama, one must wonder about the other as well, especially since Derrick Henry also was from out of state. “Without you,” Henry said in reference to Saban during his Heisman acceptance speech, “I wouldn’t be here.”

The Crimson Tide might not have signed any of the running backs who wore crimson and white over the last 10 years, along with most of the top prospects at every other position.

“I probably wouldn’t have,” said B.J. Scott, Saban’s first consensus 5-star signee with the Crimson Tide.

Although he ended up transferring to South Alabama in 2011 for more playing time, Scott was considered the catalyst for the initial class. He helped influence other players to join him, and the coaches establish a strong foothold in the talent-rich Mobile area.

It paid off immediately with prize additions like wide receiver Julio Jones, who at one point appeared destined for Oklahoma, and safety Mark Barron.

“Once I was committed, I was committed all the way,” Scott said. “I don’t know who else would have.”

Alabama also plucked linebacker Dont’a Hightower out of Lewisburg, Tenn., two-time All-American defensive tackle Terrence Cody from the junior college ranks and linebacker Courtney Upshaw out of Eufala, Ala., a part of the state long established as Auburn territory.

Without Saban and running backs coach Burton Burns, who got an offer he couldn’t turn down to leave Clemson, Alabama would have had a much tougher time drawing top players out of Louisiana.

Players like Landon Collins, Eddie Lacy and Cam Robinson might have stayed in the Bayou along with strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran, who was with the NBA’s New Orleans Hornets (now called the Pelicans). Similarly, Alabama probably wouldn’t have hired head trainer Jeff Allen from Central Florida or director of performance nutrition Amy Bragg from Texas A&M.

If Kirby Smart didn’t follow Saban to Alabama and become his defensive coordinator, he wouldn’t be the head coach at Georgia. Jim McElwain wouldn’t be the head coach at Florida. Jeremy Pruitt might still be at the high school level. The coaches Saban threw a lifeline to, including Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian and Tosh Lupoi, could be in very different places.

Flip it around, and consider who could be coaching some of Alabama’s rivals.

Where would Tommy Tuberville be today? In 2007, Auburn was in full control of the Iron Bowl rivalry and won its sixth straight in the series that season. The following year, though, Alabama won in crushing fashion, 36-0.

Having lost six of the last seven games in 2008 and missing out on a bowl while Alabama played in the SEC Championship, Tuberville was the third in the league to commit coaching suicide that season. Mississippi State’s Sylvester Croom and Tennessee’s Phillip Fulmer had already stepped down.

Alabama hasn’t lost to either program since, and the man who accepted Croom’s resignation — Greg Byrne — is now the Crimson Tide’s athletic director.

“There might have been a little more success that Auburn might have enjoyed,” speculated Tommy Hicks, former Football Writers Association of America president. “The presence of Saban, what it has become in college football, there’s always going to be a natural comparison.

“That’s not to say Auburn hasn’t done well. It has. Like most programs, though, it’s had its ups and downs, but its biggest issue is that shadow of the No. 1 coach in the country.”

If Alabama hadn’t been in Florida’s way in 2009, the Gators might have won back-to-back titles and Tebow his second Heisman instead of finishing a distant fifth in the voting. There would have been a strong argument about whether he’s the best player in college football history.

Instead, that was the night Urban Meyer went to the hospital with chest pains, starting his path out of Gainesville. He had lost nearly 40 pounds by doing things like chasing Ambien with beer to fall asleep, and later told HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel he was depressed and mentally “broke.”

“Preparing for the 2009 game is what set him off the deep end,” said Pat Dooley of the Gainesville Sun. “It’s an easy scenario to say that Nick Saban at Alabama led to Urban leaving Florida. It’s probably a factor. Was it everything? No.”

There’s a much stronger correlation with LSU, where Les Miles won the 2007 national championship. But he was eclipsed by Saban, especially after the Crimson Tide won their famous rematch for the 2011 national title.

How many other conference and national titles would the Tigers have won had Saban not gotten in the way of the program he initially took to national prominence? Instead, Miles was forced out last season before Alabama notched its sixth straight win in the rivalry.

“Even conservatively, I think LSU at least wins the 2011 title,” Rabalais said. “Assuming Les beats Bama even one more time in that subsequent span, yes, I think he still has more than enough political capital to be LSU’s coach.”

Another possible consequence of the 2011 national title game was the demise of the Bowl Championship Series. After an all-SEC matchup, it was abandoned in favor of the College Football Playoff. The BCS had achieved its goal of pairing the consensus No. 1 vs. No. 2 teams, but even President Barack Obama said after seeing Alabama beat LSU 21-0 that the game was ready for the next step.

“I believe the playoff would have happened regardless,” CFP executive director Bill Hancock said. “It was time to discuss whether to extend the BCS for a fifth four-year cycle, or try something different. We knew fans were hoping to see a new model and we were open to considering innovative options even before Alabama-LSU happened.”

A similar parallel can be drawn on campus.

Enrollment still would have gone up, but possibly not at the same rate. The southern end zone expansion that filled in the last upper-deck gap of Bryant-Denny Stadium probably would have happened, but not as quickly. The school had been considering a new weight room for years, but it took Saban for the 37,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility to become a reality.

As for Tuscaloosa, one can guess how the tornado recovery would have gone without Saban’s presence and having won the 2009 national championship. But there’s no doubt it sped it up.

“A lot of us were living in the past and thinking about how things used to be,” said Mike Reilly, CEO of Randall-Reilly business publishing, which is headquartered in Tuscaloosa. “He sort of smacked us in the face when he got here and said, ‘It’s time to stop talking about the way things used to be, and make them the way things should be.’ I think he got the attitude of the town back right.”

The list goes on and on, and yes in some ways it does compare to Bedford Falls sans George Bailey (Pottersville). For example, this past week there was a significant spike in the number of babies born in Tuscaloosa. What happened nine months ago? The Iron Bowl.

So one doesn’t need an appearance from Clarence the Angel to know that Alabama wouldn’t have been the same without Saban.

“It’s a totally different world,” said Ken Gaddy, director of the Paul W. Bryant Museum, who used a football analogy to express what it would have been like with nearly any other coach.

“Everyone would have thought 8-4, 9-3 was a great year.”

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