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Matt's Monday Morning Musings - Week Six: The Real WRU

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

Each week, our Executive Vice President, Matthew Redding (5’11, 185, 4.78 40-yard dash, $4.99 on Wish, 5.49 on TEMU) sits down with a cup of coffee and ponders life in the world of College Football and beyond. Ask him anything on Twitter (@TheBarningMan) and he may answer it next week over his breakfast. This week, he’s wondering if Nick Saban really did build "WRU" at Alabama...

Three things in life have felt certain in the last decade. Death, Taxes, and Auburn never get premier talent at the wideout position in recruiting. That last one changed last month however when Hugh Freeze went into Foley AL and stole away Bama's prized five-star wide receiver commit in Perry Thompson - Dubbed by recruiting experts as the next Julio Jones.

It was a sign of change on the Plains, and a warning sign to the rest of the SEC that Auburn is once again going to be pushing for championships sooner rather than later, and the app formerly known as Twitter almost burned down before it could get re-named.

It almost burned down again when Thompson went on to say he chose Auburn because "[Nick Saban] specializes in DBs, and my main position is receiver and I know Hugh Freeze got a background of developing receivers at a higher level."

Boy, that didn't make anyone mad, right? Wrong. Bama fans were irate. I haven't seen so many Crimson Tide fans upset since San Diego State sent their best men's basketball team home packing in the Sweet 16.

"Devonta Smith won the Heisman!!" they cried. "Didn't he watch the tape on Julio Jones!!" they shouted. (I wonder if Bama fans ever tried shrugging their shoulders and moving on to the next commit, or at least therapy.)

It was a curious statement for sure, and I know that Perry isn't an idiot. He's seen the tape, he knows who went there. Truthfully, there is a strong argument that the talents of Calvin Ridley and Henry Ruggs III were going to go to the NFL regardless of where they went, but they went through Alabama to win championships first.

Curious though, I did a deep dive into Thompson's comments. Here's what I found, starting with wide receivers that have gone in the first round during the Saban era at Alabama.

  1. Julio Jones, 2011, Atlanta Falcons, 6th overall

  2. Amari Cooper, 2015, Oakland Raiders, 4th overall

  3. Calvin Ridley, 2018, Atlanta Falcons, 26th overall

  4. Henry Ruggs III, 2020, Las Vegas Raiders, 12th overall

  5. Jerry Jeudy, 2020, Denver Broncos, 15th overall

  6. Jaylen Waddle, 2021, Miami Dolphins, sixth overall

  7. DeVonta Smith, 2021, Philadelphia Eagles, 10th overall (Heisman winner)

  8. Jameson Williams, 2022, Detroit Lions, 12th overall

Not a bad list. Each one was frustrating to watch in Jordan-Hare, and unfortunately, my Carolina Panthers never drafted one (no disrespect to DJ Moore), each one was certainly recruited to Alabama by Nick Saban, and he remained their head coach during their time there. However, when you think of Nick Saban, you probably think of defense. For good reason. He's a Belichick disciple who has mastered the game of chess. A closer look at the coordinators, however,

  • Jim McElwain 2008-11.

  • Doug Nussmeier 2012-13.

  • Lane Kiffin 2014-16.

  • Brian Daboll 2017.

  • Mike Locksley 2018.

  • Steve Sarkisian 2019-20.

  • Bill O'Brien 2021-22.

Quite a diverse profile of offensive minds. While Saban may have recruited these high-profile athletes to Bama, he is a defensive coordinator by trade, so once on campus that was that. Sure, he probably had relationships with all of them, and there might have been a "Bama mentality" thing with being in Tuscaloosa, but at the end of the day, his offensive coordinators should take the main credit for sending them to the NFL. No one thanked Gus Malzhan for sending Derrick Brown to the NFL.

You can also look at the success each coordinator has had once they left Bama and continued to develop receivers (Kelvin Benjamin under Fisher at FSU, DJ Moore under Locksley at Maryland, Johnathan Mingo under Kiffin at Ole Miss, etc).

The bottom line, Bama will always be a defense-first powerhouse under Saban. They've always shared the title of WRU with Ohio State and LSU these last few seasons, and Perry Thompson simply decided to carve his own path under a guy who had a hand in putting Laquon Treadwell, Evan Engram, and DK Metcalf in the pros. Hugh Freeze will be more involved in the offense than Saban would at Bama, but time will tell if he can make Auburn more known for first-round offensive talent in the future or not.

Perry Thompson is an excellent place to start though.

Matt's Monday Morning Mailbag

"What's next for the SEC after the B1G's recent additions of Oregon and Washington?" - Collin

Once upon a time, conference expansion was a fun "what-if" game we played in our heads. Now, I don't even recognize the landscape of the sport I love, but everything changes for better or worse at some point.

Now that the B1G has effectively killed the Pac-12 and added their four biggest brands (Oregon, USC, UCLA, Washington) the dust seems to be settling. The Big 12 will add the leftovers and the Pac-4 will be left to the vultures, or worse, the Mountain West! All of this, of course, was a massive response to the SEC's sudden additions of Texas and Oklahoma.

From what I understand, the SEC wasn't even looking to expand until both blue bloods came knocking. Now, everyone else has scrambled to match their "power", burning down years of traditions and rivalries in the process.

What should the response be from the SEC?


Quite literally. Nothing. Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Auburn, and Florida have combined to win 13 national titles in the last 17 seasons and the SEC has dominated the NFL Draft every year.

The B1G made more money than the SEC in total revenue in 2022, but that was before the Longhorns and the Sooners came along. The conference can take a "quality over quantity" type approach, and with the talent they pull every year, even raiding the West Coast for some high-profile names like Bryce Young, expansion should be the least of their concerns. They started this wildfire, they can help put it out by sitting still and playing the season.

I fully expect that to change if Clemson and Florida State suddenly become available. That could happen sooner, rather than later from what I've heard, and despite the offers they'll receive from the B1G, there's only one place they have in their sights for joining.

A place where it just means more.

- Matthew



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