Five years after Nick Saban planted roots in Tuscaloosa, The University of Alabama has once again established its program as the current alpha males of college football powerhouses.
In addition to winning two of the last three national championships, Saban has also turned the Crimson Tide into an assembly line for the NFL.
Alabama has always been a tradition-rich school with a strong contingent of alumni in the NFL—with Hall of Famers like Joe Namath, Ozzie Newsome and the late Derrick Thomas amongst others—but Saban has turned it up a notch in terms of producing next level talent.
There are 17 former Alabama stars on current NFL rosters that were coached by Saban for at least two years—including four first-round picks in the 2011 NFL draft.
Considering that Alabama will likely match or top that number in the first round of the upcoming draft, Saban is helping the school raise the bar for getting college players to the next level.
Nine players off of last season’s national championship team were invited to last month’s combine—the most of any school in the country.
The coaching staff’s ability to get the most out of the talent on its roster should be noted, but Saban’s gift for acquiring talented recruits and putting them in NFL-oriented schemes is second to none in the college game.
When speaking to reporters at the Senior Bowl two months ago, Saban described what makes his program his successful in preparing players for the next level.
"There's two things: the fact we play sort of a pro-style offense, defense, special teams and sort of approach the things we do the same way the NFL does,” Saban said to al.com’s Izzy Gould.
"But I think the second thing is they make a better transition because we take pride in the fact that we try to teach our guys being responsible for their own self-determination, which is accountability. So when someone defines their role or what their job is they can be accountable to it, and I think that helps them make a better transition in the NFL when you don't have all these support personnel like we do in college around them."
While players like Julio Jones, Marcell Dareus and Javier Arenas have adjusted almost seamlessly to the pro game, Alabama may not approach the level of success that, say, the University of Miami has enjoyed with several of its players becoming the NFL’s biggest stars.
But considering the volume at which players from Alabama are entering the NFL, it may not be long until the Crimson Tide NFL fraternity outgrows its competitors.