Great Recruiting Class Puts More Pressure on Nick Saban

by Paul Lyboult
(Syracuse, NY )

The top off-season story in the SEC may have been Bobby Petrino arriving in Arkansas. Around this time last year another former NFL coach was returning to the college game in controversial fashion. Nick Saban left the Miami Dolphins after a disappointing season in 2006, and joined the Crimson Tide in January. He joined the team amid mass confusion due to his constant denial of being interested in the Alabama gig. Fast forward to 2008, and once again Saban is grabbing attention.

His debut season with 'Bama was very disappointing. The team went 6-6, not including the victory in the Independence Bowl. One year ago it was that exact 6-6 record that cost former coach Mike Shula his job. 2005 was a resurgence of sorts for the football program as they rocketed to 10-2 and won the cotton bowl. Still, for a University rich in football tradition Shula was shown the door rather quickly.

What’s the connection here? Asides from both former and current Tide coaches being employed by the Miami Dolphins in the past, they both faced pressure to win. For Saban, this is a very big year for him to win. It isn't just his high salary, or the poor record he had during his first year with the team. The pressure for Saban comes in the form of expectations.

All coaches at one time or another face expectations to win, usually brought upon by the media, fans, or both. All the expectations on Saban this year have been created by Saban himself. The way he joined Alabama, the comments he made during the season that were so ridiculous (comparing a loss to 9/11 & the holocaust), and especially his excellent recruiting haven't helped.

Did I just say "excellent recruiting"? Is it possible for bringing quality players to a mediocre team is a bad thing? Yes & yes my friends. Just ask Ron Zook what great recruiting classes can do. For Saban it cuts down on his time to produce. Instead of being given 3-4 years he may be faced with winning & winning big within the next two years.

Receiver Julio Jones, who is the No. 2-ranked recruit in the ESPN 150, is just one of the crowning jewels Saban reeled in. More classes like the 2008 one produced will make fans even feistier for results. Mike Shula must be loving all of this.

Being 10-2, having a so-so class, going 6-6 the following season & then to add all of that losing your job. Saban should really be taking notes. 7-6 followed by one of the top recruiting classes in the SEC this year means that Saban better bring "Bear Bryant like" results. Anything less could mean Saban being the next former Dolphins employee to be axed by the Crimson Tide.

Check out more Paul Lyboult articles at SEC Football Blog.

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