Jimbo Fisher, an excitable man, said Nick Saban might be needed to be slapped upside the head when he was a child, but it was Alabama’s coach who did all the punching on Tuesday.
“The Feud” is growing by the day at this point. The latest? Saban and his staff have locked up a top quarterback prospect previously committed to Texas A&M. The player is Eli Holstein of Zachary, Louisiana, and Alabama is hoping he’s a good back-up plan if top quarterback prospect Arch Manning doesn’t choose Alabama.
Or, you know, maybe Holstein will turn out to be better than Manning, and Alabama has its quarterback of the future. No matter what anyone says, it’s impossible to know for sure how a high school quarterback will react to the pressures of the SEC.
RELATED: Golfer Justin Thomas needles Jimbo Fisher
GOODMAN: For Fisher, beef with Saban reaches back a long way
GOODMAN: Saban sounds scared in NIL rant
However the recruiting for the class of 2023 eventually shakes out, Texas A&M just lost a big one to the Crimson Tide when the attention on the newest SEC rivalry has never looked uglier or smelled worse. Holstein, whose family has deep ties to LSU, celebrated his commitment to Alabama emphatically, writing on Twitter, “As my Pawpaw used to say, ROLL DAMN TIDE !!!”
Seems like a family with some fun stories.
How the Young Mr. Holstein settled on Alabama the week of The Feud between Saban and Fisher will no doubt go down as family legend for generations to come. Holstein decommitted from Texas A&M on March 18. Ever since then he’s been a top target of Alabama’s. At 6-4, 222 pounds, he’s a hefty bowl of gumbo with a resume of success. Holstein accounted for 44 touchdowns last season en route to a 15-0 record for his team and a Louisiana Class 5A state championship.
The highlights of the championship game are worth reviewing. There’s a bad interception by Holstein earlier in the game, but with the pressure on in the fourth quarter Holstein delivered some brilliant throws during a game-clinching drive.
Before Tuesday, it could be argued that there were no winners in the embarrassing war of words between Texas A & M’s coach and his former boss. Saban complained last week that Texas A&M was buying recruits, and that sent Fisher into a manic state of paranoid rage like the always-nervous profession of college football coaching has never seen. Fisher didn’t calm down over the weekend, and now Saban has one of Fisher’s former quarterback commitments.
I don’t usually pay much attention to recruiting commitments in late May, but this one is an exception for a couple reasons.
For starters, the timing isn’t a coincidence. Saban’s national reputation as a recruiter took a hit after Fisher’s tirade. Inside the Alabama bubble that might seem impossible, but Fisher’s insults were celebrated pretty much everywhere else. It was an unprecedented attack on Saban’s character, or any coach for that matter. Remember, not one single coach ever said a word about Urban Meyer after his scandalous break up with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The suggestion by Fisher is that Saban has never played by the rules when it comes to recruiting. Regardless of the truth, that’s what everyone who has been envious of Alabama for so long wanted to hear. Saban needed a quick win, and Holstein’s commitment helped.
It feels like a direct shot at Fisher, who had his ability as a recruiter questioned by Saban, the best to ever do it. With Fisher still talking about NIL deals over the weekend, Saban’s rebuttal was a major recruiting win with a Top 10 quarterback who had been committed to Texas A&M.
That’s gotta sting for Fisher, who once out-recruited Saban for Hueytown’s Jameis Winston. Texas A&M was on a roll against Alabama until Holstein’s decision, too. The Aggies thumped Alabama last season, and followed that up with the No.1 recruiting class in the country. Alabama was No.2, but lost out on a few recruits to Fisher.
This new era of college football, where players can be paid for their name, image and likeness, is a major test for Saban in his final years. Alabama isn’t going to be able to outspend everybody. If Saban can’t be the best recruiter in the country anymore, then Alabama’s dynasty will fade.
Alabama hasn’t missed on a quarterback in years, though, and so that gives some extra weight to Holstein’s commitment to Saban. Texas A&M’s projected starter for the 2023 season is Max Johnson, the transfer from LSU. Saban’s starter is Bryce Young, who won the Heisman Trophy last season. Alabama’s coach, in other words, isn’t taking any chances, and Saban has the luxury of recruiting character and intangibles to go along with ability.
More relevant in this new era of free transfers, Saban can tell quarterbacks to be patient at Alabama because the Crimson Tide has a proven track record of success at the position. I have to wonder if Saban is now gauging the patience levels of his latest recruits. More than ever, it seems like an important character trait for team building. Saban can sell the idea of patience like few others in today’s game.
Why Alabama if another school’s NIL collective is offering more money? Alabama has an irrefutable answer to that question. Just look at the NFL Draft. For example, the three quarterbacks for Alabama before Young are all starting in the NFL: Jalen Hurts (Eagles), Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins) and Mac Jones (Patriots).
Beyond the always entertaining feud between Saban and Fisher, the other reason Holstein’s commitment is major offseason news has to do with the pursuit of Manning, the quarterback super-recruit.
Early projections have the grandson of Archie and the nephew of Peyton and Eli choosing between Georgia and Texas, but it’s difficult to predict a winner. Holstein’s commitment to Alabama doesn’t necessarily mean that the Crimson Tide is out of the hunt for Manning.
One thing is certain, though. If Manning chooses Texas, then slap another layer of pressure on the quick-talking coach at Texas A&M. If he can’t win the SEC with the best recruiting class in history, then maybe he never will.
Joseph Goodman is a columnist for the Alabama Media Group, and author of “We Want Bama: A Season of Hope and the Making of Nick Saban’s ‘Ultimate Team'”. You can find him on Twitter JoeGoodmanJr.