Tale of the Tape: Beamer vs. Saban

Kevin C. Cox

With plenty of recruits snubbing the Hokies for the University of Alabama in the name of "Saban puts players in the NFL," is Saban' really THAT much better than Beamer?

Korren Kirven.

Jonathan Allen.

Dashawn Hand.

What do those guys have in common? They are all Rivals Top 10 ranked recruits from Virginia each of the last 3 seasons who elected to play their college football at the University of Alabama.

Michael Barnett.

Who's that guy? The latest Hokie decommit. He surely didn't read my last piece on the Hokie decommit curse. (Did you? If not, check it out here.) Barnett, a South Carolina prospect, committed to the Hokies in November of 2013 during his junior year. He gave Rivals such lovely quotes about the Virginia Tech, including:

"I really like the coaching staff and their tradition on defense...I really love the campus and the facility and how the coaches are. I love how it's like a family there...I just like that the fans are with you 100% win or lose. It's like whatever happens, they're there for you. They've got your back, no matter what...I'm gonna stay with Virginia Tech. I'm not looking around no more." (courtesy of Rivals.com, found here--subscription required)

Then, he broke the heart of Hokienation not 3 months later, when he decommitted the day before Valentine's Day...incidentally, the very next day after he was offered by the University of Alabama and coach Nick Saban, saying:

"Coach Saban told me he gets the best coaches to help his players get to the next level." (courtesy of 247Sports, found here--subscription required)

Gosh. We know Saban's that good, but is Beamer that bad at getting players to the NFL? Let's take a closer look.

Beamer vs. Saban: no holds barred.

The First Round

In terms of the players drafted from both Virginia Tech and LSU during Saban's stint in Baton Rouge (2000-2004), the numbers are comparable in terms of selections. In terms of on-field productivity, it pretty much comes down to the Tigers' Devery Henderson vs. the Hokies' DeAngelo Hall. It could be argued that either side truly wins here, as Henderson earned a ring with the Saints, but Hall has been to 3 Pro Bowl to Henderson's zero. I'll call it an even draw.

The Battle Continues

Alabama Draft Selections in the Saban Era (2007-present)

Javier Arenas DB 2nd Chiefs 2010 4yrs in (Chiefs) Reserve
Mark Barron DB 1st Bucs 2012 2yrs in (Bucs) Starter
Antoine Caldwell OL 3rd Texans 2009 4yrs, out
James Carpenter OL 1st Seahawks 2011 3yrs in (Seahawks) Starter, 1x SB Champ
Josh Chapman DL 5th Colts 2012 2yrs in (Colts) Reserve
Terrance Cody DL 2nd Ravens 2010 4yrs in (Ravens) Reserve
Glen Coffee RB 3rd 49ers 2009 1yr, out
Kenneth Darby RB 7th Bucs 2007 4yrs, out
Marcell Dareus DL 1st Bills 2011 3yrs in (Bills) Starter
Brandon Deaderick DL 7th Patriots 2010 4yrs in (Jaguars) Reserve
Quinton Dial DL 5th 49ers 2013 1yr in (49ers) Reserve
DJ Fluker OL 1st Chargers 2013 1yr in (Chargers) Starter
Donta Hightower LB 1st Patriots 2012 2yrs in (Patriots) Starter
Mark Ingram RB 1st Saints 2011 3yrs in (Saints) Reserve
Kareem Jackson DB 1st Texans 2010 4yrs in (Texans) Starter
Marquis Johnson DB 7th Rams 2010 2yrs, out
Nico Johnson LB 4th Chiefs 2013 1yr in (Chiefs) Reserve
Rashad Johnson DB 3rd Cardinals 2009 5yrs in (Cardinals) Reserve
Barrett Jones OL 4th Rams 2013 1yr in (Rams) Reserve
Julio Jones WR 1st Falcons 2011 3yrs in (Falcons) Starter, 1x Pro Bowl
Dre Kirkpatrick DB 1st Bengals 2012 2yrs in (Bengals) Reserve
Eddie Lacy RB 2nd Packers 2013 1yr in (Packers) Starter. 1x Pro Bowl, Off. RoY
LeRon McClain RB 4th Ravens 2007 7yrs in (Ravens) Reserve
Rolando McClain LB 1st Raiders 2010 3yrs in (Raiders) Reserve, 1x SB Champ
Greg McElroy QB 7th Jets 2011 3yrs in (Jets) Reserve
DeQuan Menzie DB 5th Chiefs 2012 1yr, out
Dee Milliner DB 1st Jets 2013 1yr in (Jets) Starter
Trent Richardson RB 1st Browns 2012 2yrs in (Colts) Reserve
Ramzee Robinson DB 7th Lions 2007 3yrs, out
Brad Smelley TE 7th Browns 2012 2yrs in (Giants) Reserve
Andre Smith OL 6th Bengals 2009 5yrs in (Bengals) Starter
Courtney Upshaw LB 2nd Ravens 2012 2yrs in (Ravens) Starter, 1x SB Champ
Chance Warmack OL 1st Titans 2013 1yr in (Titans) Starter

# Bama Selections By Year

2007 3
2008 0
2009 4
2010 6
2011 5
2012 8
2013 7

Virginia Tech Draft Selections in the Saban Era (2007-present)

Xavier Adibi LB 4th Texans 2008 5yrs, out
Duane Brown OL 1st Texans 2008 6yrs in (Texans) Starter, 2x Pro Bowl, 1x All-Pro
Roc Carmichael DB 4th Texams 2011 3yrs in (Eagles) Reserve
Kam Chancellor DB 5th Seahawks 2010 4yrs in (Seahawks) Starter, 2x Pro Bowl, 1x SB Champ
David Clowney WR 5th Packers 2007 3yrs, out
Danny Coale WR 5th Cowboys 2012 2yrs in (Cowboys) Practice Squad
Chris Ellis DL 3rd Bills 2008 3yrs, out
Brandon Flowers DB 2nd Chiefs 2008 5yrs in (Chiefs) Starter, 1x Pro Bowl
Brandon Frye OL 5th Texans 2007 2yrs, out
Corey Fuller WR 6th Lions 2013 1yr in (Lions) Practice Squad
Cody Grimm DB 7th Bucs 2010 3yrs in (Bucs) Starter
Justin Harper WR 7th Ravens 2008 1yr, out
Macho Harris DB 5th Eagles 2009 2yrs, out
Jayron Hosley DB 3rd Giants 2012 2yrs in (Giants) Reserve
Josh Morgan WR 6th 49ers 2008 6yrs in (Redskins) Starter
Vinston Painter OL 6th Broncos 2013 1yr in (Broncos) Reserve
Carlton Powell DL 5th Broncos 2008 1yr, out
Aaron Rouse DB 3rd Packers 2007 3yrs, out
Eddie Royal WR 2nd Broncos 2008 6yrs in (Chargers) Starter
Tyrod Taylor QB 6th Ravens 2011 3yrs in (Ravens) Reserve
Ed Wang OL 5th Bills 2010 1yr, out
Ryan Williams RB 2nd Cardinals 2011 3yrs in (Cardinals) Reserve
David Wilson RB 1st Giants 2012 2yrs in (Giants) Starter
Jason Worilds LB 2nd Steelers 2011 4yrs in (Steelers) Starter

# VT Selections By Year

2007 3
2008 8
2009 1
2010 3
2011 4
2012 3
2013 2

Let's Go To the Scorecard

Saban Beamer
# Players Drafted 33 24
Avg. Draft Round 3.18 4.16
Avg. Career Length 2.28 yrs 2.33 yrs
% Still Active 82% 63%
% Active Current Starters 44% 53%
Pro Bowlers 3 2
All-Pros 0 1
Super Bowl Champs 4 (all in 2013-14) 2 (all in 2013-14)

Saban has a much higher percentage of active players than Beamer, but that's largely due to the fact that the last two seasons, our programs have been headed in opposite directions. The Tide's number of selections during that time dwarfs Hokies' 15 to 5; it's only natural that those young guys would still be in the NFL. Also, it seems that Saban's boys get drafted slightly higher, but Frank's seem to hang around a little longer. From a pure "dollars and cents" perspective, what does that mean? It depends. Higher draft position = more cash in the short-term, but longevity = higher earning potential over the long-term.

A classic case of The Tortoise vs. The Hare? Perhaps.

So Why Do Recruits Choose Bama?

  • 1. On-field Success
It's hard to argue with the ol' "scoreboard" argument. Since taking over in Tuscaloosa, Saban has amassed a record of 74-15. That includes 5-2 bowl record, including 5 BCS bowls (3-2 record) and 2 3 BCS National Championships. That's 6 straight 10-win seasons, if you're keeping score, Frank. Beamer's boys since 2007? 68-27 with a 3-4 bowl record, including 4 BCS bowls (1-3 record) and 0 crystal footballs, but 3 ACC rings. Eh, by record alone, the two are fairly comparable. But, check out the last two seasons: Bama - 24-3, 2 BCS bowls, 1 National Title (and one tail-kicking, courtesy of the Sooners); VT: 15-11, 0 BCS bowls, 1-1 bowl record.

Why does it matter? Because for the newly-inked Class of 2014 and the upcoming '15 boys, those two seasons mark their sophomore-senior years of high school--the ones they really start to hone in their attention on programs to see where they'd be a good fit. If you're a blue-chip recruit, where would you rather fit in--24-3 with 1 crystal football or 15-11 and a loss to perennial ACC bottom-dweller Duke?
  • 2. High Profile Coach(es)
Like him or hate him, Saban knows how to stay in the news, thus remaining relevant. Case in point: at the end of the season, was ESPN and mainstream sports media hashing and rehashing Bama's collapse vs. Auburn and BCS loss to Oklahoma? Nope. Why? Because they were too busy playing the "Will he or won't he" game with Saban concerning his alleged jump to the University of Texas. Did he really have intentions of leaving, or was he just dangling tidbits to make Alabama extend his contract and raise his salary? Perhaps. But, it sure shifted the discussion away from negative reporting on his team back to him personally, which, I believe, was the ultimate point.

Also, you can't discount the offseason hiring of Lane Kiffin. While he is largely regarded as quite a tool, Kiffin proved to be an effective recruiter. The fact that Bama has an offensive coordinator with NFL head coaching experience (as much as you can consider the Raiders the NFL these days...), is a fact I'm sure Saban & Co. will market to potential offensive recruits.
  • 3. Ridiculous Fan Support
Folks in the south live and breathe their football, particularly in Alabama. If you need confirmation of their fanaticism, try to catch ESPN's SEC Storied documentary Roll Tide/War Eagle. Check the papers for Alabama babies being born, and see people naming their son  "Krimson Tyde (insert last name here)," or their daughter "Ally Bama (insert last name here)". Oh, and remember Harvey Updike? He went to jail for poisoning the trees at Auburn's beloved Toomer's Corner after his beloved Tide lost to Cam Newton's Auburn Tigers in 2010.

Come to think of it, not sure if I would describe the Alabama fan-dom as ridiculous in a good way or bad way. Regardless, it's certainly intense.
  • 4. The "Bandwagon" Effect
Saban's Tide has claimed 6 of the last 7 Rivals Recruiting National Titles. What does that mean? A lot, apparently. Nine of the last 11 teams to have finished the recruiting class rated #1 according to Rivals have played for the BCS Championship within 3 years, with 8 winning the title. The only exceptions to this are the USC classes of both 2006 and 2010. From the perspective of a blue-chip recruit, what's better than going to a school that's 24-3 with a national title win in the past 2 seasons, a nationally relevant head coach, and rabid fans? Going there with 5 or 6 of your Rivals 5* friends. All it takes is one high-profile commit to get the ball rolling, and plenty more can't seem to jump in the ship fast enough. VT is definitely not the only team to feel the effects here.
  • 5. The Error of Recency
Of his 33 total draft selections from Alabama, Saban has sent 15 of those players to the league in the last 2 seasons (2012-2013) and of those, 9 were 1st or 2nd round picks. Contrastingly, Beamer has only sent 4 Hokies to play on Sundays during those years, and only David Wilson was a first rounder. What difference does that make? Millions of dollars, literally. Dollar signs upon dollar signs are quite appealing to anyone, let alone a 16-17 year old boy. Don't think Tide coaches aren't quick to bring up their recent success rate--and their former players' contract amounts--when talking with the next generation of recruits.

The Hokies are consistent with putting 2-4 players in the league annually. The last two years, the Tide has been churning out pros at a rate which has never before been seen. Beamer's consistent track rate of success doesn't sound nearly as sexy as Saban's huge splash of 15 selections in 2 seasons. But, can he sustain such a high level of success? To teenage boys, of course he can! Teenagers lack foresight and can't see an end to the Bama dynasty. To an adult with a bit more life experience, these things move in cycles. Eventually, Bama will lose its shiny luster to recruits and another school will become the next "it" school. It's just a matter of time.

The question is, which school will be the next "it" school? All it takes is one successful season to put you on the map: look at the increase in talent level of incoming Hokie commits after Michael Vick and the '99 title game appearance. And, with an incoming class ranked #24 by Rivals, (Which doesn't sound that cute, but considering it's ranked ahead of Oregon, Michigan, defending Big Ten champion Michigan State, and the Big 12's upstart Oklahoma State, and of course our dear ol' Wahoo friends, it's not too shabby.) this could be the class to power us out of the current black hole of mediocrity in which we currently find ourselves.

And maybe then, we can make our own Saban-sized cannonball splash in the recruiting world.

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