Ex-NFL star: Nick Saban built ‘baby NFL team’ at Alabama

Ex-NFL star: Nick Saban built ‘baby NFL team’ at Alabama

The plaza outside Philadelphia’s iconic art museum buzzed Wednesday afternoon. Elaborate displays were under construction as grassy lawns became sloppy mud pits from days of rain.

Across town, the NFL draft prospects were whisked around town from event to event. On the eve of their life-changing night, Alabama’s Jonathan Allen and Cam Robinson appeared at ease. The hard part is over now that they’re in Philadelphia.

As many as five former Crimson Tide stars are projected to be drafted in Thursday night’s first round. The two linemen accepted invitations to experience the moment with a projected crowd of 200,000 on the stage built on the steps made famous by Rocky Balboa.

“I believe, if it was based on on-field performance and based on tape, that we could have seven guys go in the first round,” Robinson said.

Robinson, Allen, Reuben Foster, O.J. Howard and Marlon Humphrey have been projected first-round guys from Alabama.

“I think some people don’t have Tim Williams going in the first round and they don’t have Ryan Anderson going in the first round,” Robinson added. “Based off tape, those are probably the two best outside linebackers in the draft. I don’t see how that correlates.”

Former Pittsburgh Steeler cornerback Ike Taylor said Alabama today reminds him of Florida State, Miami in the 1990s. Should the Tide get a first-rounder Thursday, it would give it a streak of nine years with at least one in the opening round. That would tie Florida (1983-91) for the second longest run, falling behind just Miami’s 14-year streak from 1995-2008.

Should the Tide get a first-rounder Thursday, it would give it a streak of nine years with at least one in the opening round. That would tie Florida (1983-91) for the second longest run, falling behind just Miami’s 14-year streak from 1995-2008.

Taylor, now an analyst for the NFL Network, sees a formula.

“Alabama is a baby NFL team,” he said. “Nick Saban figured it out. Give me big running backs. Give me a big O-line and give some ham hocks on the D-line and I’ll take care of the rest.”

It’s all about creating a competitive atmosphere that fuels the development.

“Oh you think you’re a five star? I have five more coming,” Taylor imagined Saban telling a high-profile recruit. “You think you’re good? Can you compete with so and so? We’ll see. Come to Alabama and we’ll see. When you create that environment and atmosphere, you’re never relaxed because it only takes one mistake or one injury and nobody will ever hear about you again. The last five, six years, if you want to talk about guys coming out of college to the NFL, you have to talk about Alabama.”

Both Allen and Robinson agreed playing in the SEC gives them an advantage in preparing for the NFL.

“Of course. Everyone knows the SEC is the best conference,” Allen said. “That’s just how we feel. We played in it. We just feel like the most talent comes out of it. That’s no knock on any other conference.

‘We’re a very prideful group in the SEC.” 

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Published at Wed, 26 Apr 2017 18:59:54 +0000