Nick Saban is not in Atlanta for the SEC Football Championship Game this weekend. Instead, he drives recruits in a rental car and doesn’t exactly look enthusiastic.
Alabama, ranked No. 1 in the AP poll after the season began, lost twice to Tennessee and LSU in 2022. As a result, the two-loss Crimson Tide didn’t win the SEC West for the third time in nine years and was stuck on the outside looking into the college football playoffs.
Where Saban is used to training for a conference championship on the first Saturday in December, he is not. The 71-year-old is back in Tuscaloosa trying to retain talent for the future so this “falling year” doesn’t become a recurring trend.
With early signing day lurking around the corner, coaches across the country who aren’t playing for a conference title are recruiting. Some of them boarded private jets and flew from state to state to meet with families, players, and high school coaches, while others took them down the recruiting path.
Nick Saban is the latter.
Alabama is hosting a group of high-profile recruits for official and unofficial visits this weekend. Among them is Yhonzae Pierre, a four-star linebacker from Yellowhammer State.
In recent years, recruiting has become an even bigger production than ever before. Programs spend a lot of money on visiting weekends and image plays a big part.
Which team can make it bigger, better and flashier?
Part of this quest for “clout” pertains to the recent trend of fancy cars. Recruits love taking photos in and around luxury whips, especially when the head coach is behind the wheel.
Lane Kiffin drove recruits around in his Porsche and posed for icy pictures with his Aston Martin last season. This year, Saban is taking a page from his former offensive coordinator’s playbook.
However, he looks a lot less excited to do so.
Pierre posted an Instagram Story from his visit to Alabama on Friday night that showed him driving in a Mercedes S580 — which was clearly rented, due to the paper floormat on the passenger seat. In the video, Saban can be seen seemingly chauffeuring his linebacker goal around the state with a chauffeur very forced happy expression on his face.
To Saban’s credit, recruitment is by far the most frustrating and exhausting part of the coaching process. Pretending to be friends with 16/17/18 year olds who may not even play for your school is not a glamorous or fun thing to do. Especially if you’d rather play for a conference championship against Georgia and a spot in the CFP.