How Nick Saban Has Revolutionized College Football

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterSeptember 18, 2012

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 08:  Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide converses with AJ McCarron #10 during the game against the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 8, 2012 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Thanks to his infrastructure practices and his detail-oriented approach, Nick Saban can most certainly be viewed as having a revolutionary impact in the college football world.

Certainly others, like Rich Rodriguez or Dana Holgorsen, fit into the "genius category" when it comes to their recent impact on the game. Personally, I think Bud Foster and Dick Bumpas also deserve credit for crafting innovative defensive schemes.

However, in the last decade-plus, there have been few who have had as far reaching an impact on the game as a whole as Saban. Teaching and schematically, Saban is certainly on the cutting edge, but his real impact comes before his teams ever take the field.

Teams are now starting to mimic Saban's approach to recruiting.

Obviously, his former assistants, like Derek Dooley, Will Muschamp and Jimbo Fisher, subscribe to the principles, but the game as a whole is seeing more advanced recruiting techniques. That means identifying kids and qualifying them by more than just film. 

Saban is looking at heights, weights, speeds and the ability to grow into their frame and carry more weight, all in an effort to seek out the prototypical players for each position.

That means if a guy is too short, the Tide is more than likely going to pass on him—unless he has some wildly exceptional skill. The prototype moves don't always work. Saban did not help his case with Keenan Allen by insisting the now-All-American-caliber wide receiver would make a great safety. Ultimately, Allen is happy at Cal playing with his brother Zach Maynard, and Saban missed out.

That said, that prototype tracking and targeting is the reason Alabama's linebacking corps appears to be stamped from a mold—big, physical football players who get downhill in a hurry and are capable against the pass. They lose Dont'a Hightower, and his shoes get filled with another player who will likely be NFL-bound soon.

It is more than just identifying targets where Saban has helped push football forward.

The manner with which his staff conducts business is quite intriguing. Much like he is looking for players to specialize in certain areas of football—not "tweeners"—so too is Saban a specialist in constructing his staff—his entire football support staff, not merely a coaching staff. 

At Alabama, with the help of athletic director Mal Moore, Saban has constructed a machine that runs smoothly because every piece does its job.

Those in charge of cutting film cut film. Those responsible for mailings handle the mailings. Those who work the player tours know their roles and don't get outside of themselves. The system works, and as Saban's has expanded, so too have those at other locations in an effort to take work off the coaches' plates and allow them to focus on winning ballgames.

Generally, when you talk about guys revolutionizing the game, the mind goes to new schemes or systems. Truth be told, Nick Saban is running things that have been around the NFL and college football for quite some time.

His impact on the game comes with getting players better than everyone else—players so good that teams know what's coming and still have no answer for how to stop it.