Even though he will not get anything out of attending the first round of the NFL draft in New York other than being there for his former players and promoting the football program, this could be another record-setting day for Nick Saban and the University of Alabama.
As noted earlier this week in the Crimson Tide draft preview, by having 12 players invited to attend the NFL Scouting Combine, which is a pretty strong indicator for whether someone will get selected, Alabama appears to be on the cusp of at least tying the school record of 10 selections in a single draft. That dates back to 1945, when its last player went in the 32nd round.
Nowadays, the draft is just seven rounds, but Alabama had nine players taken last year and eight in 2012—the most chosen from a school that year.
But that’s just the beginning.
Through the 2013 NFL draft, 111 players Saban either coached or recruited had been selected over the years, an average of just under one per round (.933). Among them were 33 Crimson Tide players chosen between 2009-2013, whose initial contracts combined added up to more than $280 million.
During those same five years, Alabama led all teams with 14 first-round selections after not having any between 2000 (Chris Samuels and Shaun Alexander) and 2009 (Andre Smith), and no draft picks at all in 2008.
The 11 first-round picks from 2011, 2012 and 2013 alone equaled the output of the previous six Alabama coaches and 22 years combined.
“Remarkable,” ESPN analyst Todd McShay said last year about the back-to-back four first-round selections in 2011 and 2012. “It’s up there with one of the more impressive feats from a school that we’ve seen in a long time.”
With that in mind, here are six other ways Alabama and/or Saban can make history during Thursday night’s first round (Note: Draft statistics are credited to the coach from the previous regular season, so the 2014 draft counts toward the coach from 2013):
1. Most first-round draft picks by an active coach
Defensive lineman Jadeveon Clowney will be a top pick for South Carolina on Thursday, but the only program that appears to be a lock to have more than one first-rounder this year is Texas A&M with quarterback Johnny Manziel, tackle Jake Matthews and wide receiver Mike Evans.
2. Highest career average of first-round selections by any active coach
Right now, Les Miles has a better career average at 1.17, compared to Saban’s 1.12.
Since Miles took over LSU in 2005, the Tigers have had 12 first-round selections, although at least six of them were were recruited by Saban. Miles also had two first-round selections at Oklahoma State (2001-2004).
Should wide receiver Odell Beckham be a first-round pick as expected, Miles will have 15 in 14 years, for a 1.07 average.
If Saban has two first-round selections Thursday night, his career average will be 1.17.
3. Most first-round selections for an Alabama coach
Should Alabama have only one first-round selection in this draft—and safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, linebacker C.J. Mosley and offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio are all strong candidates—he’ll be Saban’s 15th first-round selection at Alabama, a program record.
Paul W. “Bear” Bryant had 14 when he was at Alabama (1958-1982), although Joe Namath was a first-round pick in both the AFL and NFL before the leagues merged.
Factor in the schools they coached previous to Alabama, and both Bryant and Saban have had 19 career first-round selections.
4. Longest consecutive streak of top-10 selections
If either Clinton-Dix or Mosley ends up as a top-10 pick, Alabama will set the record for longest consecutive streak of top-10 selections during the common draft era (since 1967).
It’s currently tied with Southern California (1993-1997) with five straight years, while LSU and Texas A&M both have active three-year streaks.
5. Unprecedented first-round numbers
Saban is averaging 2.33 first-round draft picks per draft at Alabama (2007-2013). No one in college football history compares.
Pete Carroll had a 1.6 average at Southern California, and Jim Tressel was 1.4 at Ohio State, but both programs ran into trouble with the NCAA.
Otherwise, only three other prominent coaches have averaged at least one first-round selection a year: Frank Leahy (1.23, mostly at Notre Dame), John McKay (1.13, USC) and Barry Switzer (1.00, Oklahoma).
6. Saban could move into the top five for all-time first-round selections.
Joe Paterno, who coached for 46 years at Penn State, had the most first-round players with 33, just edging Bobby Bowden’s 32 at Florida State.
At his current pace at Alabama, Saban will catch Paterno during the 2018 draft.
Christopher Walsh is the lead Alabama football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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College football teams can have as many as 105 players on their rosters, yet no more than 85 can be on scholarship. The rest must pay their way and are known as walk-ons.
By and large, walk-ons are former standout high school players who weren't considered good enough to earn a free ride but still possess enough value to help a team out in terms of depth and practice flexibility. When a school finds itself with some extra scholarships, sometimes a select few walk-ons will pick up an award for a season or two.
And then there are the success stories, the players who go from nobody to key contributor to star to...the NFL?
Each year, the NFL draft features a few players who began their college careers as walk-ons, completing the ultimate rags-to-riches journey. That list includes current NFL stars such as Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.
We've identified eight such former walk-ons who have a shot at hearing their names called in New York City this weekend.
Nobody seems to care about defense in the Pac-12 anymore. It's all about the experienced quarterbacks, the up-and-coming crop of receivers and the powerful offensive lines at schools like Stanford and UCLA.
You'll see the occasional note about a pass breakup or tackle for loss during spring practice, but that's not what gets fans going anymore. Who had the most dazzling performance on offense? How much better is QB1 or RB1 than he was last season? And what's the 40-yard time of the guy returning punts?
All of those questions are hot topics, but you aren't going to win without getting stops. Believe or not, offenses still have to game-plan for opposing defenses; they don't just shred 'em without preparation.
Which defenses are the hardest to prepare for? And more specifically, which guys keep players like Brett Hundley, Marcus Mariota and Nelson Agholor up at night?
That's the subject of today's piece, which takes a look at the five scariest defenders in the Pac-12. Buckle up!
All stats via cfbstats.com
Jerome Baker is a 4-star athlete from Cleveland who has many schools after him. The 6'1", 205-pounder can excel on offense as a running back, but he may have a brighter future as an outside linebacker.
Baker has many options, yet he revealed to Blake Alderman of InsideTheGators.com (subscription required) in April that several programs were high on his list.
Baker will ultimately have to decide on one school, but he'll need to weigh the pros and cons of his top suitors to make the right choice.
Just about every prospect in the country aspires to play in the NFL. However, several 2015 college football recruits possess NFL genes.
Being a great prospect is one thing, but when a family member has already paved the way to the professional ranks, a recruit can have an advantage. A 5-star offensive lineman is the nephew of a former NFL defensive tackle, while a guard for the Tennessee Titans has a brother following his path.
Plus, an NFL draft prospect is the relative of a dual-threat quarterback.
Bill Snyder has a knack for finding the best-kept secrets, just ask Collin Klein or Darren Sproles.
Jake Waters is the next one you'll be asking about.
Waters has been successful everywhere he's gone. In high school, he won two state titles and went 37-2 as a starter. He won a national title at Iowa Western Community College, and he became the first quarterback since 2002 to win a bowl game at Kansas State.
So why has Waters been so overlooked in his career?
Well, in high school, he was a three-sport star at a small-town school in Council Bluffs, Iowa, an area not seen as a hot-bed for blue chips.
So in the age of recruitment rankings, Waters was never able to fully commit himself to the recruiting process.
"Because he was a three-sport star he wasn’t able to go to all these camps," said Scott Strohmeier, Waters' head coach at Iowa Western. "He felt a little bit that people were missing out on him. They thought he didn’t play high enough level of ball.”
Iowa Western gives Waters a chance
Waters was forced to go to JUCO route to pursue his football career. Scott Strohmeier noticed immediately that Waters came into his team with something to prove.
"Once he got here, he had a chip on his shoulder," Strohmeier said.
In his first season at Iowa Western, Waters went 9-2 with the Reivers. But he was still getting adjusted to the college game that first year in 2011.
So Waters decided to fully dedicate himself to football for the first time in his life—pouring over film and attacking the weight room.
"He prepares the way Peyton Manning prepares. That’s the approach he took," Strohmeier said.
After his first season, the dam blew and Waters exploded.
The Reivers went undefeated and won the NJCAA National Title in 2012. He was the National Player of the Year and set the national JUCO record for completion percentage (73.3 percent), a mark previously held by Heisman winner and NFL superstar Cam Newton.
Still overlooked, Waters chooses Snyder
Christian Corona of The Dallas Morning News called Waters the nation's best JUCO quarterback after that 2012-13 season. But still, according to 247sports, Waters was rated as just a three-star prospect. His only three offers from BCS conference schools were from Kansas State, Penn State and Houston.
"He was under recruited," Strohmeier said. "But I'll tell you what, if I was ever in the situation I could start a team, he’s the guy I want. If you’re trying to start something, the guy that does absolutely everything, outworks everybody and its pretty dang talented, it’s him.”
Waters' choice came down between the Wildcats and Nittany Lions. In the week before Waters' commitment, he hosted Bill O'Brien at his house.
Uncertainty overcame Waters during his recruitment. Strohmeier says that shortly before he chose Kansas State, he sat with Waters for hours to try and make the right decision.
"The big thing was that K-State recruits JUCO kids, that’s a huge benefit of what maybe steered him a little bit," Strohmeier said. "I know it came down to the wire, and I didn’t know two nights before he announced, I’m at his house with his mom and dad till 11:00 at night going over different things."
They walked away with the Wildcats in mind, but there was still waffling.
“He made the decision pretty much that night, but he was going back and forth," Strohmeier said. "That night when we left, the next morning I texted him and asked are you still good, and he was pretty much set."
So on December 13, 2012, Waters selected Kansas State. He enrolled that following spring and immediately began competing with Daniel Sams for the starting job.
The competition dragged on all the way until the week leading up to Week 1 of the 2013-14 season, when Snyder announced that Waters would be the starter.
But Waters didn't get off to a great start in Manhattan.
In Waters' first start for K-State, the Wildcats fell to FCS North Dakota State at home. After two wins against bottom-feeder FCS teams, Waters and Co. dropped the first three games of the Big 12 season.
In Week 6 against Oklahoma State, Snyder had seen enough and, although he "started," Waters was benched for most of the game in favor of Sams. The same was true the next week against Baylor. Both games, though, were losses.
Up to that point, Waters had just four touchdown passes, five interceptions and was throwing for fewer than 175 yards per game.
“At the beginning of the year last season...I was trying to get that home run ball," Waters said.
He was trying to do too much. Waters wasn't letting the game come to him like he had in high school and with the Reivers.
"It wasn’t that he wasn’t confident, he was unsure of some things," Strohmeier said. "He tried to do too much early on."
Snyder echoes Strohmeier's sentiments, saying that if Waters was going through a rough adjustment process to the college game, that it was his fault and not Waters'.
“If he was trying to do too much, that’s because we put too much on his plate," Snyder said.
The waters calm
With Kansas State sitting at 2-4 and at risk of missing a bowl game, they squared off against Big 12 bottom-feeder West Virginia. It was that game that saw Waters slowly but surely come out of his shell.
He completed 10-of-13 passes that afternoon for 198 yards and also had three touchdowns in the 35-12 win.
"I am proud of him," Snyder said after that game. "When things don't go your way that is what you are supposed to do. We are all supposed to do that. That is what life is all about."
The Wildcats went on to win four of its next five games, giving the team bowl eligibility. Over that span, Waters took more and more control of the offense away from Sams. His best game arguably came in the team's only loss in the second half of the season: a 348-yard, three touchdown showing against Oklahoma.
The reason for Waters' turnaround? He wasn't going for that home run ball anymore. He started to let the game come to him.
If anything, that opened up the deep ball for Waters. Against TCU, he had two touchdown passes of over 70 yards. Against the Sooners, he found Tyler Lockett for a 90-yard score.
In the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against Michigan, Waters continued to find his stride and torched the Wolverines to the tune of 271 yards and three touchdowns on 21-of-27 passing. He became the first quarterback to win a bowl game for the Wildcats since Ell Roberson back in 2002.
"It was my feeling going into the bowl game that Jake is gonna have a breakout day," Strohmeier said. "He was starting, and I just had a feeling that that was gonna be the start of it."
"Now, his confidence is rolling over."
The next step
It was Waters' second season at Iowa Western that saw him breakout. So is he poised for the same type of season in 2014, his second year in Manhattan?
Snyder thinks so.
“I like his approach right now,” Snyder said. “He really is all business, he’s dedicated to continuing the improvement that he has made."
Not only does Waters have a year of experience under his belt, but he has one less person nipping at his heels this year.
Sams, the guy who was vying for playing time over Waters, is switching to wide receiver after it became apparent that Waters had taken the reins over for good.
"Having me kind of be the guy, I can take that next step and leadership role," Waters said. "That gives me a little bit more confidence in knowing that if I make a bad play here or there, we’re not going to bring me out or something. I’m just trying to take control and get us where we need to be.”
That hasn't necessarily hurt the connection between him and Sams. The two connected on a pass in Kansas State's spring game, and the two were best friends last season, high-fiving each other after one took the other out.
Now Waters is the team's ambassador. When Snyder put in Kaiden Schroeder, a 9-year-old battling cancer, to run the ball in for a touchdown in the spring game, it was Waters that guided him.
Waters is trying to put last season's acclimation to the Big 12 behind him, and he appears well on his way.
"You’ve got to settle down and just play," Snyder said. "He’s just made headway throughout, and I don’t anticipate it will be any different other than he’s got a great foundation to build on based on last year.”
All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.
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The NFL draft is only hours away, and several former Brigham Young Cougars hope to hear their names called. Despite an extremely deep draft class, there are a few Cougs that have a great chance of being selected.
But where will they land? No one knows for certain, but several experts have predicted solid placements for the BYU players. Read on to find out where they may be drafted.
Kyle Van Noy
Kyle Van Noy left BYU as arguably the best linebacker in Cougar history, although his placement in the draft may not suggest so. Bleacher Report's Matt Miller predicted that Van Noy will fall to the 52nd pick (second round) and be drafted by Arizona.
The Cardinals currently have John Abraham as their starting weak-side linebacker, so unless they have plans to deal him, Van Noy may be stuck as a backup for years to come. Arizona primarily runs a 3-4 defense, similar to BYU, but there are better fits for Van Noy.
Van Noy definitely has the potential to be taken as high as the first round. It will come down to which teams need a pass-rusher and are willing to use an early pick.
Statistically speaking, Cody Hoffman is the best receiver in BYU history. But with a poor performance at the combine and questionable potential, he may fall all the way to the draft's final round.
Matt Miller predicts that Hoffman will be selected with the 230th pick, going to Pittsburgh. The Steelers started two receivers in 2013 who stand under six feet tall (Markus Wheaton and Antonio Brown), so a 6'4" target like Hoffman may be exactly what they need.
Hoffman may not immediately start, but wearing black and yellow could be beneficial.
Uani 'Unga, Daniel Sorensen and Eathyn Manumaleuna
Unfortunately, Miller predicted that only two former Cougars will be taken in this year's draft—Van Noy and Hoffman. The other three Cougs who received combine invitations will hope to hear their names called over the weekend, but if that doesn't happen, a free-agent contract could be possible.
The NFL is a business. For athletes, all they can do is work their hardest on the field and hope for good results. I'd bet that every former Cougar has done all they can to be drafted, and the best of luck goes out to them.
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It's a debate that should be had over cold beers at the Linebacker or hot burgers at CJ's. But with football still months away in South Bend and the interminable run-up to the NFL draft almost over, there's no better time to debate Notre Dame's best NFL football players.
The Irish's rich history of sending football players to the professional ranks will continue tomorrow, when up to three different players could hear their names called in the first round. While it's a great indicator of future success, it's by no means a lock. After all, while Hall of Famer Alan Page was the first-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings, Joe Montana didn't come off the board until the third round.
The competition for this list is incredibly stiff. No bust in Canton? You've got some work to do.
Let's take a look at Notre Dame's best NFL players of all time.
It's hard to start any list with anybody but Montana, arguably the greatest NFL quarterback of all time. A four-time Super Bowl champion with the 49ers, Montana was named the game's MVP in three of those victories.
The eight-time Pro Bowler was the ultimate triggerman for Bill Walsh's West Coast offense and finished his 15-year career with two winning seasons for the Kansas City Chiefs as well. He was elected to the NFL's Hall of Fame in 2000.
That illustrious pro career wasn't all that easy to predict when he came out of Notre Dame, where Montana played from 1975-78 for the Irish. He was selected in the third round after completing 54.2 percent of his passes with 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions in a Cotton Bowl-winning season for Dan Devine.
There has been no more dominant defender to come out of Notre Dame than Page, who was selected by the Minnesota Vikings in the first round and immediately became one of the league's premiere players. Page was a part of the Minnesota's fearsome Purple People Eaters, leading a defense that made appearances in four Super Bowls.
Page played in an era before sacks were official statistics, but the numbers he put up were still mind-numbing. He recovered 23 opponent fumbles. He unofficially blocked 28 kicks and recorded 173 sacks as a defensive tackle, a number that would put him in the top three in league history.
Page's career off the field was just as impressive. After being a consensus All-American at Notre Dame and spending 16 years in the NFL, he became a lawyer and was elected to the Minnesota Supreme Court.
One of Notre Dame's seven Heisman Trophy winners, Hornung is also a member of the NFL's Hall of Fame. He was a two-time Pro Bowler and a member of four Super Bowl champions. Hornung was the first overall pick of the 1957 NFL draft, playing halfback, fullback and quarterback for the Packers.
At Notre Dame, Hornung was a consensus All-American in 1955 and won the Heisman in 1956. The Golden Boy has lived up to that colorful description both during and after his playing days.
An undersized linebacker leaving Notre Dame, Buoniconti played 14 years in the NFL after being drafted in the 13th round of the AFL draft by the Boston Patriots. Buoniconti played in five AFL All-Star games with the Patriots before continuing his career with the Miami Dolphins.
In his seven seasons with the Patriots, he made 24 interceptions at middle linebacker, still good for seventh in team history. After heading to the Miami Dolphins, Buoniconti became the leader of Miami's "No-Name Defense," played in three Super Bowls (winning two) and featured in the famed 1972 undefeated season.
At Notre Dame, Buoniconti finished second on the team in tackles in 1960 before becoming an All-American in 1961.
A letterman on the 1918 Fighting Irish, Lambeau founded the Green Bay Packers in 1919 and was either its star player or coach for over 30 years. While illness forced him to leave Notre Dame, one season under Knute Rockne helped Lambeau become one of the premier innovators in the NFL, utilizing the forward pass with star receiver Don Hutson.
A consensus All-American at Notre Dame in 1946 and 1947, Connor was the fifth overall pick in 1946 by the New York Giants and ended up with the Chicago Bears, where he became a dominant player. During his eight seasons in Chicago, Connor was named to the All-NFL team at three different positions—offensive tackle, defensive tackle and linebacker.
At 6'3", 240 pounds, Connor was one of the earliest prototype linebackers, moving to the position out of necessity for the Bears. A knee injury ended his career early, but Connor was enshrined in the Hall of Fame in 1975.
After playing both offensive tackle and tight end for Notre Dame, Casper was a second-round selection by Al Davis' Oakland Raiders. He became one of the NFL's premier tight ends, catching 378 passes and 52 touchdowns in his 13-year NFL career between the Raiders, Oilers and Vikings.
Nicknamed "The Ghost" by his teammates in Oakland, Capser was a first-team All-Pro four times and an NFL Pro Bowler five times. The Bemidji, Minnesota native was a consensus All-American for the Irish in 1973.
Like Lambeau, Trafton only spent one season at Notre Dame. But he became one of the most fearsome players in early professional football, playing on both sides of the football for the Chicago Bears (and their early iterations).
Trafton is credited with being the first center to snap the football with one hand and was a part of six all-league teams during his 12 seasons. Per the Hall of Fame's official website, fabled running back Red Grange called Trafton the "meanest, toughest player alive" and a newspaper writer once wrote that Trafton was disliked in every NFL city except Green Bay and Rock Island—where he was hated.
Millner was a consensus All-American for the Irish in 1935 before joining the Boston Redskins the following year. According to the Hall of Fame website, Millner's head coach Ray Flaherty was so excited about the prospect that he promised to resign if Millner didn't lead the Redskins to a title.
The Redskins won the division, and Millner was a big reason. He teamed with Hall of Fame quarterback Sammy Baugh to become one of the most dynamic pass-catchers in NFL history and also excelled as a two-way end.
Millner was enshrined in the NFL's Hall of Fame in 1968 and also entered college football's Hall of Fame in 1990. He was one of the heroes of the Irish's 1935 victory over Ohio State in one of the earliest "games of the century."
It won't be long until Brown joins the rest of this group in Canton. Notre Dame's most recent Heisman Trophy winner, Brown played 17 seasons in the NFL, 16 of them as one of the most fearsome weapons on the Oakland (and Los Angeles) Raiders.
Named to nine Pro Bowl teams, Brown was one of the most dynamic players of his era. He had nine-straight seasons of 1,000 yards receiving or more. He had 100 receiving touchdowns in his career and was also one of the NFL's most dynamic return men.
Brown played from 1984-87 for the Irish and was a consensus All-American in 1987, the same year he won the Heisman Trophy and Walter Camp Award.
Also soon to see his bust in Canton is Jerome Bettis. The Bus, one of the premiere big running backs in NFL history, was named to six Pro Bowls during his 13-year NFL career after being picked 10th overall in the 1993 NFL draft.
In Bettis' first nine seasons in the NFL, he rushed for an average of 1,208 yards a year, with an injury-shortened 1995 season limiting him to 637 yards. Bettis' 13,662 yards are sixth-most in NFL history. He retired after winning the Super Bowl with the Steelers.
Bettis has been a Hall of Fame finalist in each of the last four votes, falling just short in each vote. Bettis played three years for the Irish, leaving after his junior season to head to the NFL.
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The Georgia State Panthers, one of the newest teams in FBS football, have reportedly submitted a proposal to repurpose Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves, as their new home stadium.
University President Dr. Mark Becker and Atlanta real estate development firm Carter provided the Atlanta Journal-Constitution an exclusive look at the proposal on Wednesday. The idea is more than just a stadium. They want to build a $300 million development that will include retail, residential and student housing and will be paid for through a mix of public and private funds.
Turner Field and the surrounding 77-acre area has been the subject of intense speculation since the Braves announced they were to going to build a new stadium in Cobb County that will open in 2017. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said on April 17 that he had already received as many as four proposals for the property.
A $300 million development project is a hefty sum for a small athletic university, although according to Roberson, GSU President Mark Becker does not plan on increasing student fees to finance it.
GSU's football program only launched in 2008. Despite going 1-10 against FCS competition and losing nine games by 21 or more points, the Panthers moved up to the FBS ranks in a transitionary phase last season. They promptly went 0-12 as a member of the Sun Belt Conference, improving slightly in the second half of the schedule.
To date, the team has played its games in the 74,000-seat Georgia Dome—home of the Atlanta Falcons—but kept it at a capacity of 31,994. According to Roberson, the highest capacity they have ever reached was a little over 30,000 in their inaugural game four years ago. And it still made the Dome look "cavernous."
If permitted and fiscally possible, the move to Turner Field would prevent GSU home games from feeling so empty, even it's mostly just an optical illusion. It is also unique and would be a boon for the Panthers on the recruiting trail—or at least they hope that's the case.
The Panthers have already fast-tracked their birth and infancy like few (if any) programs before them, and this would be another move toward becoming a legitimate program as soon as possible.
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