BamaHammer.com has a very nice piece up detailing Alabama’s use of junior college players under Nick Saban. It’s a thorough summary of the juco players Saban has brought in and how they’ve worked out…from Michael Ricks to Leon Brown.
There are, obviously, various risks associated with bringing in juco players. From character and grade issues to one-season-and-done type players, a program needs balance when going after junior college prospects. But, overwhelmingly, Saban’s use of these players has been spot-on. He’s brought in eventual All-American’s Terrence Cody, James Carpenter and DeQuan Menzie and players like Jesse Williams, Deion Belue and Quinton Dial.
Who’s the best juco player he’s brought on board? I guess you could argue for several of the players, but in my mind there’s no doubt:
In 2008 things changed as the monstrous “Mt. Cody” strolled into Tuscaloosa. Coming from Gulf Coast Community College in Mississippi then-nearly 400-pound nose tackle Terrence Cody was just the type of immovable object Saban was looking for his 3-4 defense.
A nose tackle’s job in the 3-4 is not to necessarily make big plays, but to eat up space and blocks to allow players behind him like Rolando McClain and Dont’a Hightower to make the plays. But the extremely popular, sometimes-goofy big man was able to take a game over when needed.
Against Tennessee in 2009, Cody blocked two field goals late in the game to preserve Alabama’s undefeated streak leading up to a BCS National Championship. Cody ended his career as a two-time consensus All-American, despite never having more than 30 tackles or a single sack his entire career (he did record 0.5 sack in 2008). Eating up stats wasn’t his job; eating up blocks was his job. Cody was also the leading blocker for eventual Heisman Trophy-winner Mark Ingram at fullback in goal line situations.
Yes, “things changed” when Cody arrived. As BamaHammer notes, he didn’t record phenomenal statistics, but his presence in the middle took the Saban 3-4 to another level. Another benefit was the positive publicity he received as a juco transfer into the program. It highlighted again how Saban could take players to another level.