Miles on verge of Saban-like Draft numbers
By GLENN GUILBEAU
Tiger Rag Featured Columnist
Perhaps no college football coach in history has produced the number of first round and other early round selections in the NFL Draft over such a short period of time as former LSU and present Alabama coach Nick Saban.
But LSU coach Les Miles will begin to forge a significant dent in the Saban swath in this week’s NFL Draft and in the 2013 draft.
Former Saban players have been spread around the first round and second rounds since 2004 like so many shards of crystal from the Crimson Tide’s smashed former national championship football trophy.
In 2004, Saban’s 2001 LSU signees Michael Clayton, Devery Henderson and Marquise Hill went in the first 63 picks with Clayton, a wide receiver, going in the first round at No. 15 and Henderson, another receiver, and Hill, a defensive end who passed away in a drowning accident in 2007, getting selected in the second. In 2005, defensive end Marcus Spears went in the first round, followed by cornerback Corey Webster in the second. In 2006, tailback Joseph Addai went in the late first round with offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth getting picked in the second.
The draft of 2007 was the greatest in LSU history as far as high picks. A school-record four went in the first round - quarterback JaMarcus Russell as the first pick, free safety LaRon Landry as the sixth selection and receivers Dwayne Bowe and Craig Davis as the 23rd and 30th picks, respectively.
Defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey played only his true freshman season for Saban, but Saban and his staff still recruited and signed him and started him on his way. He went in the first round as the fifth pick in 2008. Defensive end Tyson Jackson, who never played on the field for Saban but was signed by him in 2004 and red-shirted, went in the first round in 2009 as the No. 3 pick. Not all have panned out, but that is not a college coach’s job. And not all should have been picked as high as they were, which is not a college coach’s decision.
But that is quite a worksheet - 13 first or second round picks in six drafts with nine in the first round. Since bringing his penchant for No. 1 recruiting classes from LSU to Alabama in 2007, Saban has produced another six first rounders - including another quartet in the 2011 draft - and two in the second round.
So through just eight signing days at LSU and Alabama - 2000, ‘01, ‘02, ‘03 and ‘04 at LSU and 2007, ‘08 and ‘09 at Alabama - Saban has produced 15 first round picks and six second round selections. (Saban signees at Alabama in 2010, ‘11 and ‘12 are not yet eligible for drafts.) And there is more where that came from. Saban is expected to produce a personal record five first round picks on Thursday. The five Tide players projected for the first round are tailback Trent Richardson, strong safety Mark Barron, outside linebacker Courtney Upshaw, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and inside linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
Probably no college football coach alive can match these numbers in such a short span, but Miles is on his way. Miles, who enters his eighth season at LSU this fall, did not produce a first round pick that he recruited and signed until cornerback Patrick Peterson was the fifth pick last season. But they are coming fast.
Three of Miles’ signees - all juniors - are expected to go in the first round Thursday - cornerback Morris Claiborne in the first five picks, defensive tackle Michael Brockers in the middle of the lot and wide receiver Rueben Randle toward the end of the opening round. And that’s only the beginning.
In the 2013 NFL Draft, expert Mike Detillier expects as many as six LSU players - all juniors - to go in the first round - defensive end Sam Montgomery, offensive tackle Chris Faulk, defensive end Barkevious Mingo, free safety Eric Reid, cornerback Tyrann Mathieu and defensive tackle Bennie Logan. That would break Saban’s record of five, if that is how many Alabama players go Thursday. It would give Miles nine first rounders in two drafts, which would match Saban if he has five on Thursday.
And then there is unusually tall cornerback Tharold Simon at 6-foot-3. He could be a second round pick out of LSU in 2013 as a junior if not higher. Offensive tackle Alex Hurst, who will be a senior for the Tigers in 2012, could make the second round as well.
The LSU-Alabama pipeline continues to flow. As Saban and Miles get into their 60s, the number of players they put in the NFL from their split doubleheader in 2010-11 may be more than their respective ages.
Keep the programs from those two games if you still have them. By the time the players on both rosters all cycle out, there may be 70 of them in the NFL.
And perhaps it would make sense for the NFL to start holding its drafts not in New York City but somewhere between Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa. Perhaps Hattiesburg or Meridian?