Typically, this is the off season for oversigning.com as there is just not a lot of news during the football season and it's usually pretty quiet until the football season ends and the recruiting season takes center stage. However, the Wall Street Journal seems to be busy interviewing former Alabama players regarding their departures from Alabama on the heels of Nick Saban's bloated recruiting classes. The general thinking here at this site is that Nick Saban and Alabama (along with other SEC schools) grossly oversign their roster and find media-friendly ways to get their roster down to 85 scholarship players by the final day before NCAA violations for being over the allowable limit. Obviously, this is done to gain a competitive advantage by sifting through more players to find the best possible players, among other reasons.
We chronicled this journey last year in our March to 85 as Saban went over his projected budget by 10 recruits and sure enough 10 scholarship players hit the bricks. There were 3 medical hardships, a couple of academic casualties, some grey shirt players, and then the mysterious story of Star Jackson. We were told that Star Jackson left because he wanted to go somewhere and start - he believed he had enough talent to start for another school and wanted to get more playing time in hopes of having an NFL career. He ended up at Georgia State as the 3rd string quarterback.
Jackson's stats at Georgia State: 5/10 passing for 42 yards and 8 rushes for 17 yards for the year!!!
Does anyone honestly believe that Nick Saban would let a 3rd string QB at Georgia State take up a QB scholarship at Alabama?
Regardless, as mentioned above, the WSJ has been poking around the Alabama program and questioning former players who have left the program recently and what they are hearing from former players is not exactly complimentary. In a previous piece, they spoke with former Alabama players who were placed on medical hardships who went on record saying they thought they were pushed out in order to make room for new recruits; one player even referred to it as a loophole that was being taken advantage of by Alabama.
Round 1: Alabama's Unhappy Castoffs
In their latest piece, the WSJ spoke with 3 of 4 players who were announced to have been released by Alabama for violation of unspecified team rules. Turns out there is no record of any rule violations and the players claim they left on their own free will and that Saban said they broke team rules to save face in recruiting.
The three players said they believe Mr. Saban falsely portrayed the circumstances of their departures to protect the image of his program. Mr. Saban had previously come under scrutiny by the media for offering scholarships to more incoming recruits than the school could accommodate under NCAA scholarship limits. This relatively common practice, which is known as "oversigning" is not prohibited by the NCAA. It allows a coach to improve his roster by giving him a larger pool of talent to choose from. But it also eventually forces the coach to get rid of a few scholarship players he no longer wants—which can put him at risk of scaring away future recruits.
If Mr. Saban had said the players decided to transfer because they didn't believe they would have a chance to play at Alabama, the players said, it would have provided ammunition for rival coaches competing for the same recruits. But if the players were seen as disciplinary cases, they said, Mr. Saban's recruiting methods wouldn't be viewed as the problem. Mr. Saban, Mr. Preyear said, "was just making himself look good for the media, and making us look bad."
Stay tuned in on this topic as it is very likely that the WSJ is not finished with the topic of oversigning or the University of Alabama. With recruiting season approaching and schools like Alabama and LSU already positioned to oversigning in large numbers given their relatively small senior classes, we anticipate a good bit of news on the oversigning front in the coming months. Of course, all of that could be avoided if SEC coaches simply state up front before national signing day what their number of openings are (85 - [# of Seniors + # of Juniors going to the NFL early]) and then sign what they have room for on National Signing Day.