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Nick Saban is not in Atlanta for the SEC Football Championship Game this weekend. Instead, he is driving recruits in a rental car and doesn’t look thrilled to be doing so.
Alabama, after beginning the season ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll, lost twice in 2022, to Tennessee and LSU. As a result, the two-loss Crimson Tide did not win the SEC West for just the third time in nine years and sit firmly on the outside looking in at the College Football Playoff.
Where Saban is accustomed to coaching for a conference championship on the first Saturday in December, he is not. The 71-year-old is back in Tuscaloosa trying to lock down talent for the future so this “down year” does not 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 hopped on private jets and flew from state to state meeting with families, players and high school coaches, while others brought the recruiting trail to them.
Nick Saban is the latter.
Alabama is hosting a group of top recruits for official and unofficial visits this weekend. Among them is Yhonzae Pierre, a four-star linebacker commit from the Yellowhammer State.
In recent years, recruiting has become an even bigger production than ever before. Programs spend a lot of money on visit weekends and image plays a large role.
What team can do it bigger, better and flashier?
Part of that push toward “clout” involves the recent trend of fancy cars. Recruits love taking pictures in and around luxury whips, especially when the head coach is the one behind the wheel.
Lane Kiffin was driving recruits around in his Porsche and posing for icy pictures with his Aston Martin last season. This year, Saban is taking a page from his former offensive coordinator’s play book.
However, he looks much less excited to do so.
Pierre posted an Instagram story from his visit to Alabama on Friday night, which featured his ride in a Mercedes S580— that was clearly rented, because of the paper foot mat in the passenger’s seat. In the video, Saban can be seen chauffeuring his in-state linebacker target with a seemingly very forced joyful look on his face.
To Saban’s credit, recruiting is easily the most frustrating and exhausting part of the coaching process. Pretending to be friends with 16/17/18-year-olds who might not even end up playing for your school is not a glamorous or fun thing to do. Especially when you’d rather be playing for a conference championship against Georgia and a spot in the CFP.