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November 4, 2011

Roundtable: Saban vs. Miles in recruiting

MORE ROUNDTABLES: Oct.28 | Oct.21 | O14 | S30 | S23

Rivals.com football recruiting analysts weigh in on topics in a roundtable format.

LSU coach Les Miles and Alabama coach Nick Saban go head-to-head Saturday in 2011's biggest regular-season game. Their personalities are quite different, yet both do very well in recruiting. Whose style is more attractive to recruits?

Mike Farrell: Miles has the more attractive style because he's more personable to recruits. However, Saban wins many battles because he wins over the parents with his no-nonsense approach and they feel more comfortable sending their sons off to play for him. In this day and age, a personality such as that of Miles is the norm and more attractive, but none of that matters if you win and a lack of perceived personality or salesmanship can easily be overcome with two NCAA title rings and a third possibly coming this season for Saban.

Adam Gorney: Both are fantastic recruiters and each program really sells itself but I think more players are drawn to Saban because one of his biggest selling points is his NFL coaching experience. There's no doubt Miles gets fantastic players but Saban can use that NFL experience to his advantage when they're going up against each other for prospects. Since the Crimson Tide are so elite, every recruit has to consider his professional aspirations and for sure Saban is using his resume during the recruiting process. Getting top players to LSU or Alabama is not difficult. The key at that level is getting more players than the other elite coach and Saban seems to hold an edge there.

Josh Helmholdt: Both Miles and Saban have their appeal with recruits, but they definitely possess different styles. Miles is an old throwback coach, not unlike his mentor Bo Schembechler. He's the type who talks tough, sounds tough and can rally his troops. Saban is a rock star. People name their children after him. Recruits come away starstruck after meeting him. Their styles appeal to different types of kids, and it is tough to say one's style is more attractive than the other. Considering Alabama has won the team recruiting title in three of the last four years, though, I have to give the edge to Saban.

Chris Nee: I'd give the nod to Saban, but by a slim margin. Both can coach, no debating that. Miles is a bit more of an offensive gambler while Saban is considered a defensive genius. But neither can be knocked for the performance of any segment of their teams. I think it depends on the prospect and their personality, a serious defensive prospect would fit Saban while an offensive firecracker who loves flare in offensive playcalling would likely move toward Miles.

Keith Niebuhr: As with any coach, it depends on the kid. I don't know either personally, so it's really impossible for me to say what type of personality each has. I know what I've read about each, but the truth is the media doesn't really know these guys. Behind closed doors and around prospects, they could have completely different personas than what we see during games and TV interviews. Some kids like the laid-back type. Some crave discipline and are open to playing for stricter coaches. They all, however, have the goals of winning big and playing in the NFL. Seems to me, each of these men is pretty good on both fronts.

Brian Perroni: Although a lot of prospects seem to want a players' coach, I think that Saban has a bigger effect on them. He is ultra serious and players can tell he is all about winning. That really makes a big impression on a lot of the ones that I have talked to.

The early signing period in basketball begins next week. Should football adopt a similar early period and - if so - when should it be and how long should it last?

Mike Farrell: Yes, without a doubt there should be an early signing period and it should be in August and last one week. This way players who have taken unofficial visits, been to camps and have made their decisions can get things over with before their senior year begins and they won't be hassled despite a commitment. Once they sign, they sign. And if a head coaching change takes place they should have an immediate appeal process in place for players to be released from their letters so they can sign once again in February if need be. But I think you'd see the majority of players who signed in August would stick with their choice regardless of coaching situations. Let them get it done and over with before Sept. 1 when everything gets crazy.

Adam Gorney: I support an early signing period for football. It would allow football coaches and their budgets to focus on uncommitted prospects much more effectively. A lot of coaches complain that once a player commits, other schools don't back off and thus have to continue recruiting them as if the prospect hadn't made the pledge. Allowing kids who are certain they want to attend a certain school sign early would let those players move through their senior season without being recruited and coaches wouldn't have to keep recruiting them. One of the issues would be official visits and that's the tough question. Would they start in a prospect's junior year? Could they happen over the summer? There would be some serious revamping of the recruiting process. In short, I support an early signing period because it just seems reasonable to let players not have to deal with recruiting all the way through to National Signing Day.

Josh Helmholdt: There are recruits making college commitments almost two years before they can sign a national letter of intent. The vast majority of prospects in the Rivals250 were committed to a school before the start of their senior seasons. Asking coaches to continue recruiting those kids until February or their senior seasons, and asking recruits to have to continue dealing with the recruiting process for as many as 20 months or more after they have made their decision is unfair to all involved. Official visits need to be allowed immediately after a player finishes their junior year of school, and an early signing period should take place right away in September of their senior years.

Chris Nee: Football should have an early signing period. Have one set for Aug. 1, but also allow prospects to take official visits far earlier in the process - at the latest during their summer prior to their junior year. The process, and commitments, are speeding up and no sense in not allowing things to be finalized earlier on.

Keith Niebuhr: No. I've thought about this a lot and I just don't buy that there are really any benefits here, regardless of what others say. I like the system how it is for football. Signing day is well after a player's senior season, giving schools and prospects plenty of time to figure things out.

Brian Perroni:There should be one right before the football season, just like basketball does it. Let it last a week so a lot of these kids can get things out of the way. The recruiting process gets so hectic in the fall that many players are not fully focused on their senior seasons. With my region especially, the majority of players have made their commitments by the beginning of September so I would just go ahead and let them sign.

If you could name one position that seems to be losing its importance a bit to college recruiters in the last 10-15 years, what would it be?

Mike Farrell: The obvious answer is fullback if you are going back 10-15 years. It has simply been phased out of many offenses because of the spread. And the position that is gaining importance as a result is tight end, especially the athletic, pass-catching ones who can flex out and do damage from the slot. The fullback is headed the way of the dinosaur, at least for now.

Adam Gorney: It has to be fullbacks. With spread offenses being more prevalent in the college game the use of fullbacks is definitely not needed as much. Many pro-style teams still use them but at the high school level it's tough to sometimes recruit them. So what coaches do is sometimes use utility men - guys who are big running backs, or could play somewhere on defense, as a fullback in their system. Some say tight ends are going away as well but I still think they serve a valuable purpose in the college game. I covered three seasons at Florida in Urban Meyer's offense - spread it out everywhere - but Aaron Hernandez was as resourceful as anyone else in the offense.

Josh Helmholdt: The prominence of the spread offense in college football over the last decade has certainly devalued types of players - the classic dropback passer, the big running back, the road grading offensive lineman. The one entire position it has devalued, though, is tight end. Whereas every team started a tight end, and many started two, 20 years ago, there are teams that won't hold more than two scholarship tight ends on the roster at one time anymore. The number of available scholarships for tight ends has certainly decreased in the last 10 or so years.

Chris Nee: Interest in fullbacks has drastically diminished, with so many offenses going to one-back or spread attacks. With the diminishing use of pro-style offenses and the Power I, as well as similar offensive playcalling, the fullback simply isn't necessary as it once was.

Keith Niebuhr: Quarterback. Just kidding. Honestly, as you look at each position, this one seems obvious. It's fullback. Seems teams barely even use this position. Others simply rely on walk-ons. As teams have moved toward spreading the field and trying to utilize matchups, the importance of this position has greatly diminished.

Brian Perroni:You have the obvious ones like tight end and fullback because not all offenses use those but I think wide receiver is not as big a deal anymore to be honest. With the proliferation of the spread across college football it allows receivers to get the ball in space. They no longer have to be 6-foot-4 or anything like that. There are a lot of good athletes playing high school football so I don't think colleges see it as a huge blow if they end up offering the second- and third-tier guys on their boards.

This one has nothing to do with recruiting, but what's your favorite high school stadium to watch a game?

Mike Farrell: Now it's McDevitt Field at Harrisburg (Pa.) Bishop McDevitt because I saw it for the first time a few weeks ago and I have never seen anything like it and doubt I will again. It's essentially a football field stuffed into what looks like a cafeteria courtyard, I have never seen anything so tight from the fences being less than three yards from the sidelines to the school itself being just a sliced field goal away. It's going away after next season and McDevitt finally gets a new school and stadium, and I am happy for long-time head coach Jeff Weachter that he's getting much better facilities. But even he might admit he'll miss the old field that saw the likes of Ricky Watters, LeSean McCoy and now Noah Spence play their home games.

Adam Gorney: In my short time out here in California it has to be Veterans Stadium in Long Beach. Many rivalry games take place there and fans sit on the same side so it gets intense a lot of the times. Plus, the field is turf, the scoreboard is pretty neat, the lighting is outstanding - it's just a great place to watch a high school game.

Josh Helmholdt: I have been fortunate to see high school football in some pretty outstanding stadiums this fall - Fawcett Stadium in Canton, Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Joliet Memorial Stadium in Joliet, Ill. I loved the setting of Duchon Field at Glenbard West in Glen Ellyn, Ill. I love the tradition of Hackley Stadium in Muskegon, Mich., and loved the atmosphere of Lakewood Stadium near Cleveland. For me, though, having a chance to go back to any of the high school stadiums in the O-K Red Conference in West Michigan where I played my high school ball has to be the favorite. I have lots of good memories from those stadiums.

Chris Nee: It doesn't get much better than Glades Central. The stands are packed, the food is good, and the fans are really into it. It is a place that truly appreciates their football and the players on the field.

Keith Niebuhr: The one that stands out is at Wake Forest-Rolesville High in Wake Forest, N.C. The field sits low, well beneath the level of the school, and both sides of the stadium are carved into steep hills. I'm told this is where Wake Forest actually played its home games before the entire school was moved to Winston-Salem in the 1950s. Pretty cool history. Really cool stadium.

Brian Perroni: The Berry Center in Cypress, Texas, is arguably the nicest high school stadium in the country. It is a football stadium that seats 11,000 next door to a basketball arena that seats 9,500 all on 65 acres. It rivals many colleges' facilities for sure. I almost always watch games from the sidelines but the press box at the Berry Center is incredible as well. My least favorite would have to be Cowboys Stadium in Arlington. It just feels cavernous and the lighting inside always seems to be dim. I really wish teams would stop playing so many playoff games there.



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