Nick Saban vs. Les Miles: Whose Recruiting Style Is Most Effective?

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Nick Saban vs. Les Miles: Whose Recruiting Style Is Most Effective?
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Nick Saban and Les Miles are two of the most dynamic and well-known coaches in the world of college football recruiting, but that's probably the only thing the two have in common.

While both coaches are proven winners and great recruiters, they could not be any more different as far as their personalities are concerned.

One is known for his businesslike and calculated approach, while the other is known for his personality.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
The college football world is surprised when Saban cracks a smile. Miles' nickname is the "Mad Hatter".

Need I say more about the differences between these two?

As with any coach, their personalities and methodologies leak onto the recruiting trial, and that allows them to connect with certain recruits better than others. Both have had tremendous success in recruiting, but which coach's recruiting style is the most effective?

I hate to say it, but there is no true answer to this tough question. These two coaches are so different that it's hard to say one is better than the other as far as effectiveness is concerned. It's more about preference than anything. 

Whose recruiting style is most effective?

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One could point to Saban's championships and No. 1 overall recruiting classes and use that as proof that Saban is indeed the most effective. While I agree it's a way to settle this argument without much dispute, there's much more to winning championships than just recruiting.

Coaching, game-planning, practice, scouting, motivation, preparation and offseason training are all factors to consider as well, so we can't draw a pure line from a No. 1 recruiting class to a national championship.

Bringing in a No. 1 recruiting class is more of a talking point than it is a guarantee of success.

Does it help? Certainly. The point is, championships and class rankings aren't a great way to determine recruiting efficiency, especially when taking personality and style into account.

The fact of the matter is that both coaches are extremely efficient recruiters, just with two very different type of players.

Saban is calculated and workmanlike. He has everything planned to a "T" and there's not much flash about him. From everything I've heard, he's straight to the point on the recruiting trail. You're going to work hard at Alabama, you're not going to screw around and you're going to do exactly what Saban wants you to do. Everything is planned, everything is scripted and at the end of the day, you do it Saban's way or you don't do it at all.

He's very businesslike:

Saban doesn't offer you a dream, he offers you the chance to work hard to accomplish your dreams.

Here's how Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari believes Saban works, according to a cool piece from Alex Scarborough of ESPN.com:

"I would imagine ... he raises the bar and then really pushes them through their comfort level, which is what we do here," Calipari said. "And they understand coming in that if you're coming to Alabama, you're the biggest game on everybody's schedule. If you're not ready for that, don't come here. And the other thing is when you come here, you're not the only guy that can play football. There's going to be 40 or 50 just like you with aspirations to be in the NFL. If you're going to screw around, don't come here, (you) can't do it here."

Alabama cornerback Geno Smith talked about the culture of Alabama football set by Saban (Scarborough):

Freshman cornerback Geno Smith corroborated Calipari's story. The former four-star prospect spurned his home state Georgia Bulldogs to come to Tuscaloosa, Ala., and play for Saban. He knew what he was getting into when he gave his signature to the Crimson Tide. After struggling early in the season, admittedly buckling under a complex playbook, Smith came on late and started at nickelback.

"Every day it's competition," he said. "When we go against scout, we have good scout players, believe it or not. When we go good-on-good, you have to bring it every day because everyone is watching. There's a lot of competition going on out there day in and day out.

Saban attracts elite recruits that know hard work is the only way to win consistently in the game of football. He attracts recruits that want to compete and aren't afraid of challenges. Saban is the coach that you want to play for if you want to push yourself everyday.

We've seen his style work on the recruiting trail, so there's no doubting the efficiency of Saban's approach.

If Saban is "Yin" than Miles is undoubtedly the "Yang". 

They are complete opposites, with Miles succeeding with a different type of recruit.

Let me be clear, this is not to say that LSU doesn't work hard or win under Miles, because the proof is in the pudding. There's just a completely different vibe that surrounds Miles the coach and Miles the recruiter. That doesn't make it bad, and we've certainly seen that Miles can be extremely effective on the recruiting trail.

Miles has become known for taking chances, and he has a very aggressive and outgoing personality. That shows up the most with his defenses, but what doesn't show up on defense is his charm, his wit and his ability to really win over a room.

Can you imagine Nick Saban taking a reporters phone and talking on it during a press conference? 

The room that's most important in recruiting, of course, is the living room. Dave Walker of NOLA.com/ The Times-Picayune had a great piece out in 2012 that featured broadcaster Gary Danielson talking about the differences between Saban and Miles. Here's what Danielson had to say about Miles, per Walker: 

Miles, Danielson said, is a “fascinating character” whose approach to the game was shaped by the time he spent playing under and coaching for Bo Schembechler at the University of Michigan. Player loyalty, and Miles’ reciprocal loyalty back, are a program hallmark, and it comes from those years, Danielson said.

“Anybody would trust their son with Les,” he said, an attribute that also contributes to Miles’ reputation as a legendary recruiter. “He’s a real charmer in the living room.”

Contrast that with what Danielson said about Saban (Walker):

“Nick has his own (recruiting) style, which is, ‘I’m going to teach your kid to be an NFL player,’” Danielson said. “Nick is like that gymnastics coach (Bela Károlyi). God, who would want to give your daughter to that guy? Except he might get her a gold medal. Might be worth it for three years. That’s how it is with Nick. ‘Dad, please send me there, because I want to learn to be an NFL linebacker.’"

Like I said, Saban takes the businesslike approach to recruiting. Miles is definitely more of a players coach.

He loves his team and his team loves him. He's funny, he's charismatic and he isn't afraid to make a big splash or take a big chance.

Recruits that want to have a close relationship with their head coach, be part of a tight locker room and have fun but still win, generally gravitate towards Miles.

Les Miles doing the Harlem Shake, via TheBigLead.com
I imagine Saban would tell his recruits that they can have all the fun they want lifting that crystal ball at the end of the year. Miles might say that the fun is in the journey, but the end destination and goal is still the same. 

It's impossible to determine which recruiter is the most effective, simply because they cater to two very different audiences. Saban seems like the blunt disciplinarian that finds great joy in the end result. Miles is undoubtedly the players coach that isn't afraid to have fun, but still values winning. 

Two different personalities attract two different types of recruits. Both are equally as effective.

I know not everybody will agree with my assessment, though, and that's the beauty of this argument, so take to the comments section and let me know your thoughts. Perhaps we'll find a common ground, or maybe, much like Saban and Miles' respective personalities, we'll be on completely opposite ends of the spectrum.

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