Nick Saban prepares players for NFL

Alabama leads country in first-round draft picks under Saban

Anniston StarJanuary 26, 2014 Updated 16 hours ago

Tennessee Alabama Football

Alabama head coach Nick Saban applauds following a score against Tennessee during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

DAVE MARTIN — AP

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- After having no players selected in the 2008 NFL Draft following Nick Saban's first season, Alabama has had 14 players taken in the first round since the 2009 draft.

In that span, no team in the country has had half that many. For perspective, Oregon, Florida State, Ohio State and Notre Dame don't have 14 first-rounders combined during that time.

Alabama has had a player taken in the first round for four consecutive years, tying the school record (1978-1981).

And with three projected first-round picks heading in the 2014 draft, the Crimson Tide's run will likely continue on.

But what separates the Tide from other programs?

For Senior Bowl Executive Director Phil Savage, it's all about the pool of elite talent that the Tide brings in on a consistent basis under Saban.

"Once you kind of establish that, players come back and talk about their experiences," Savage said. "Great players like to be around other great players. You don't see the Alabama player shy away from competition. They're around it everyday and if you're not getting the job done, they'll find somebody else.

"That's what the NFL is all about. I think that prepares them from a mental standpoint in terms of knowing what they're going to face at the next level."

Saban has secured the No. 1 recruiting classes for three straight years, according to 247Sports, so talent is at a premium.

But one scout said it's not just talent, but also the work ethic players develop under Saban. The scout also credited Saban's business like approach to the college game as one of many factors that gives Alabama players a leg up.

Former Tide offensive tackle D.J. Fluker echoed those sentiments. Fluker was the No. 11 overall pick of the San Diego Chargers in the 2013 draft. In a recent interview with Tide 99.1-FM in Tuscaloosa, he explained part of the reason for his success.

"Playing at Alabama, practice-wise, is probably a lot harder than playing in the NFL," Fluker said. "Being under coach Saban and the practices he makes each and every day was like an NFL game. That prepared me the most, being in that environment every single day. ... Coach made everything organized, just like being in the NFL."

Former Tide linebacker Adrian Hubbard said Alabama prepares players for how to handle situations on and off the field.

"How to mature and respond to adversity in a professional way," Hubbard said. "Some guys really don't know how to respond to adversity and at Alabama, they taught us that even if things aren't going too well, you still have to be able to triumph in those situations."

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