Quick recap: We addressed Alabama's recruiting numbers and the situation they are in this year (same as the last two years and the same as almost every year while Saban has been in the SEC) in an earlier post, here. Basically, Alabama had 66 players returning on scholarship on signing day and they signed 29 recruits to LOI's. 66 + 29 = 95. 11 of the 29 enrolled early and counted towards last year putting the roster at 77, thus leaving 18 in this class but only enough room for 8 to stay under the 85 limit. Therefore, 10 players have to hit the bricks. With the loss of Grant and Spikes, that number is now down to 8. Robby Green, previously thought to have been booted from the team for rules violations, is still on the roster for now. He is awaiting due process...
Details on Sikes and Grant here:
The loss of Sikes is a complete non-issue. Hey was a greyshirt signee from several years back under Mike Shula, and never made any impact whatsoever. He never caught a single pass in his career, nor did he ever play a meaningful snap. The height of his career was playing special teams in a few games in 2007, but he redshirted in 2006 and did not play in a single game in 2008. This past year in the Crimson Tide's national championship run, the only playing time he saw was some mop-up duty against Chattanooga. He was a good kid and it is certainly good to see him get his degree -- both for him personally and for us (APR purposes) -- but he was just never a meaningful contributor in any real sense, and frankly I'm not even sure that he was still on scholarship towards the end.
With Terry Grant, however, it was a different story. He was the highly-touted tailback signee in 2006 out of Lumberton, Mississippi -- though in hindsight, it was clear that Rivals dramatically overrated him -- and at one time he seemed to have a relatively bright career in front of him. Of course, though, that was before surgeries for a sports hernia, and it was also before the arrival and emergence of players like Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, Glen Coffee, Eddie Lacy, and Jeramie Griffin. You hate to see it for the young man, but as I mentioned yesterday, it is simply the harsh reality for some by having a roster so loaded with talent and depth.
Interestingly enough, though, it seems that Grant didn't necessarily just give up football, but instead is probably looking to go out the way of the medical scholarship.
The article above mentions having a roster loaded with talent and depth, but neglects to mention that it is also a roster that is oversigned.
Saban comments on Grant:
"He's been injured two years in a row," Alabama coach Nick Saban said of Grant, who had two surgeries for a sports hernia.
"He decided because of injuries -- he's already graduated -- that he would not come back for his fifth year. He does qualify for a medical, if we need to do that, so he can continue academically. ..."
We're not exactly sure what "qualifying for a medical" means, but we assume that it is some sort of hardship case that enables players to remain in school on some sort of scholarship, but it frees up a scholarship for football--we would like to know more about this. Also, not sure what "if we need to do that" means either; does that mean if Grant is unhappy about being cut and wants to stay in school they will give him the "medical?"
Grant and Spikes both used red-shirts already and still have 1 year of football eligibility left, despite already finishing their undergraduate degrees. The bottom line here is that although they both have eligibility left it is clear that they will not see the field due to the depth at their positions, and the fact remains that due to Saban's oversigning, 10 players have to leave the team.
The fact that both players have graduated eliminates any APR implications for Alabama and makes the story a little less egregious; but it now raises another interesting point. Schools avoid APR penalties by making sure players don't leave the team with either not graduating or not transferring to another school. We find it very interesting that Alabama's graduation rate was the second highest of any BCS Bowl team this year. You see where we are going here, don't you. With a higher rate of graduation you have a larger pool of players to "cut" without facing APR penalties. Probably a bit of a stretch on our part, but it should be noted that Alabama traditionally hasn't had high graduation rates.
What is the issue here? The issue is that without oversigning Saban would not have 10 extra new recruits (from a top 5 recruiting class mind you) to squeeze into his roster and guys like Grant and Sikes would probably still be on the team. Does anyone really believe that Grant and Sikes walked into Nick Saban's office, unaware of the numbers crunch, and told the coach they just decided not to return? If Saban had not oversigned then we would believe a scenario like that, but given the fact that players have to go or Alabama will face NCAA penalties, it is highly unlikely that these two guys just happened to quit football on their own accord. Also, without the extra 10 players in this recruiting class, would Saban be so willingly to let a player like Grant leave the team or would he encourage him to use the last year of his eligibility?
"Spring is a time where we're going to fiddle around with the roster a little bit," Saban said. "Depth chart means nothing in the spring. Mostly it's for organizational purposes."
What a luxury to have several extra guys in the bank during spring evaluations and practice. Saban calls it "fiddling" we call it oversigning, but of course he makes $4 Million a year and we write this blog for free; guess the joke's on us.
Here's what would have happened if Saban was required to announce his recruiting budget before signing day and had been permitted to only take enough recruits to stay within his budget. Saban would have announced 66 returning scholarship players and he would have been given 19 scholarships to offer, not 29. In addition, had Saban announced 66 and signed 19 AND Grant and Sikes still left, then Saban would have been faced with a scholarship shortfall, similar to the kind of shortfall Lloyd Carr was talking about here:
"I think it's a positive change from the standpoint of being able to be on the same playing field with a lot of the teams in other conferences," Michigan coach Lloyd Carr said. "Especially when you look at our bowl hookup with the SEC in the Citrus and Outback Bowl, it's an important rule. I can remember going to bowl games with 77, 76 guys on scholarship against a team with 85 ... In bowl games against conferences that have an advantage of doing that, Big Ten teams were at a severe disadvantage."
We've posted this before, but it is the perfect example of how recruiting classes should be managed and bears repeating here. Tressel's recruiting method is in sharp contrast to Saban's approach. In the video below, Tressel is upfront about the number of vacancies and explains the importance of not going over the limit, or even to the limit. His method rewards walk-on players for sticking it out 4 or 5 years, whereas Saban's method simply discards those that are not able to produce anymore to make room for new players.
Both methods are within the NCAA rules, but Tressel's method is also within Big Ten Conference rules which do not allow gross oversigning, whereas Saban, residing in the SEC, does not face those same rules. There is no way a coach in the Big 10 would get away with signing 10 players more than they have room for on signing day, but in the SEC it's just another day at the office because like it or not attrition is simply a way of life.
More on Tressel's class: At the time of this video (National Signing Day) Tressel was still waiting to hear from Seantrel Henderson, the #1 player in the country and the 2nd OL that he hoped to sign in the class, and Ohio State was sitting at 18 players signed to fill their 20 vacancies. Shortly after this video, Henderson opted to go with USC and Tressel was left with very little or no options at the OL position they wanted to fill with two prospects. Therefore, with 20 vacancies and 18 players signed, Tressel's class was done - 2 short of 85. A week or so later Tressel awards a scholarship to Archie Griffin's son, a relatively unknown prospect who originally wanted to walk on. This leaves Tressel with 1 scholarship in the bank either for another walk-on or for next year; this is a total night and day difference from Saban's situation where he has 10 players too many and needs to start dropping bodies to avoid NCAA rule violations.
Essentially, when you look at the 19th scholarship in Tressel's class, he traded the #1 player in the country for a walk-on, but he almost had to - he didn't have three other OL signed because had they all made it academically that would have put him over the limit and he would have to cut players to make room, players like Garrett Hummel and Ryan Schuck who will never see the field at WR with all the depth at that position or a guy like Tyler Moeller who suffered a possible career-ending head injury off the field (Moeller's career story is almost identical to Terry Grant's, both red-shirted and both had a lot of potential, the difference is that Moeller will get his shot to come back and use his last year of eligibility, whereas Grant, due to Saban's oversigning and need to shed players will not); conversely, with the departure of Grant and Sikes, Saban just traded out two spots with new recruits from a top 5 recruiting class for two guys that would have never seen the field this year. That is a drastic difference.
Nevertheless, the march continues and the number is at 8. We're waiting for the announcement of a gray shirt or academic casualty next.