Alabama's Nick Saban not a fan of players leaving early for NFL

Anniston StarJanuary 21, 2014 

BCS Championship Football

Alabama head coach Nick Saban smiles during a T.V. spot at the Rose Bowl before the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game between Auburn and Florida State Monday, Jan. 6, 2014, in Pasadena, Calif. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)


MOBILE, Ala. -- Add Saban to the growing list of people who aren't pleased with the mass exodus of college football underclassmen to the NFL.

A record 98 players are leaving college early for the 2014 NFL draft.

This year was unlike any of Saban's tenure at Alabama. Since Saban arrived in 2007, 13 players have left for the draft with eligibility remaining with 11 being selected in the first round.

Glen Coffee was taken in the third round in 2009. Eddie Lacy, a projected first-round pick at the time, slipped to the second round of last year's draft due to injury concerns.

The Tide held a press conference for four of the players who are departing early, but never officially acknowledged the fifth in safety Vinnie Sunseri.

Of the five players leaving early, only two are projected first-round picks in offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and safety HaHa Clinton-Dix. Defensive end Jeoffrey Pagan said he received a second-round grade from the NFL Draft Advisory board. Linebacker Adrian Hubbard's grade ranged from the second to fourth round with Sunseri being projected as a fifth-round pick, according to

Saban said his philosophy is very clear to the players.

"If you're a first-round draft pick, we're very, very supportive of you coming out for the draft because of the business decision, the amount of money," Saban said. "But if you're not one of those guys, we certainly feel you should come back to school, graduate from school, use your senior year to develop as a player and try to enhance your draft status for the next year."

Saban said he'll be supportive of any player who ultimately decides it is in their best interest to leave the Tide. Still, he feels the the high number of early entrees is affecting the sport of football in general.

Saban said the culture is changing and that it starts before players even arrive on their respective college campuses.

"It starts with guys when they're in high school," he said. "They get a lot of attention. They get rated. They get a lot of expectation put on them. I think that the natural order of things is for a guy to graduate from high school, to develop as a player in college, graduate and develop a career off the field in college and in most cases that takes three and a half to four years.

"I think more and more we're getting the basketball mentality in football that I can go right from high school to the NBA. More parents, more players are going to college with the idea that I'm going to be there for three years and I'm going to get out as fast as I can to get in the NFL."

The numbers support Saban's sentiments. Of the then-record 73 players that left school early in 2013, only 52 were drafted. Of those 52, just 25 were taken in the first two rounds (first 64 picks).

"(That) is not a very secure future for you in terms of what your career might bring for you, the number of years you might play as well as how much money you might make," Saban said. "How can the NFL develop these players as well as we can develop them in college, where they would have their probably most productive years in a college program. So, I don't think the NFL really wants this. I don't really think the colleges want this. I don't think it's in the best interest of the players. And I don't know what the solution to the problem really is."

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