What Will DeBoer Have to Change To Keep Standard?
Roman Harper is the voice of reason for Alabama Athletics to the national media. His opinion and expertise provide comfort to Crimson Tide fans.
Harper went on Inside the Locker Room with Wimp and Barry Sanderson on Tide 100.9 early on Tuesday morning to talk about new head coach Kalen DeBoer and the state of Crimson Tide athletics.
Harper shared his thoughts on the new era of Alabama football:
"I understand the anxiety and I respect it. It looks different for the first time in 16 or 17 years. Alabama fans have to get used to that, and the unknown. There's always the fear of the unknown. That is what I believe is the cause of all this angst and anxiety as far as Alabama is. Alabama is going to be what they're going to be. The biggest thing is I thought Alabama hired a great coach. You're not going to be able to hire a coach with a better record with everything he's been able to accomplish."
"In all honesty, we have to look at the big picture here. Replacing the greatest of all time at any coaching level...the odds of it working out aren't that high," Harper said. "I think you have to aim high when you make that hire, and of course, the coach is going to have to bring in his own people. The times that I've seen this work, it's usually been when you hire from within the staff, and the staff personnel kind of stay the same. When you've been rolling along, say we're a boat and we've been pushing along in the ocean for so long, and all of a sudden you bring in another captain and we go hard left, and the ship's already been rolling along straight and really good, it really is hard to continue to see ourselves hitting land when you come in and make a hard left."
It doesn't sound like Harper has much faith in Coach DeBoer's hire. However, he did say this, "Hopefully DeBoer doesn't make such a hard left that we lose ourselves."
Harper speaks what every Alabama fan was thinking during the mass exodus following Coach Saban's retirement, "But everybody in the transfer portal is scaring us for sure as an Alabama fan."
Harper also talked about the new age of players and recruiting them, "I chose Alabama not for the coach, but as much for the opportunity and what Alabama represented. A lot of players did that back then. These new-age players, don't know about Bear Bryant, they learn about him when they get there, but that's not who they grew up loving or hearing about from all the great players before them. The ones they hear about are the guys Nick Saban has put in the NFL. It was a stamp that said Nick Saban allowed me to do these things and helped me get to these places. Yes, these players went to Alabama because of everything Alabama has to offer them, but mostly because of Nick Saban. So you've got to understand that. Now that that factor is gone, the players will be gone."
Coach Sanderson asked Harper about Alabama's NIL and recruiting tactics. Harper, "You're going to have to recalibrate it. You're not going to get players on the Nick Saban discount. Now everything is steady and even. That's what it is. Nick Saban is there, and it's 'maybe I could get an extra hundred thousand there or 50 thousand there, but this guy is going to get me on a better path. Not only that but when he walks into my household, my parents sit up a little bit straighter, everybody in the neighborhood is wondering when Nick Saban is coming over there, and everything is on a buzz when Nick Saban walks in.' Not only that but when he sits up there and tells your mom and dad, 'Hey look, not only is he going to be able to play football and achieve the goals he wants to achieve in life and that career, but he's going to graduate He's going to become a better man and a better person in society because I'm going to hold him to that standard in which we operate every single day.'"
Harper continued, "You see that, you see every one of these kids graduate in four years, and then not only that, but he may also have the opportunity to go play football and make money in that way as well. All those things happen, and it's because of Nick Saban."
"All that must be rebuilt," Harper emphasized. "Not to say Kalen DeBoer can't do it or has not been successful, he's been totally successful, it just looks different, so the young people have to see that and start to get down with it. Once that happens, everything will be back to normal."
On Julian Sayin and Austin Mack, Harper said, "Julian Sayin, the reason I would be big-time concerned, and look Kalen DeBoer, I've never met him, I can't wait to meet him...that was like a strike for me. I was like, man, you're bringing in this other kid, Julian Sayin is already trying to compete inside that quarterback room, he may want to leave and now go on and do his own thing, and that's what he chose to do. As I've done more research, I reached out, made some calls, and checked on some people that do this scouting thing for a living, they really like the Austin Mack kid. They think he might be one of those diamond-in-the-rough type players."
Harper was also asked about recruiting, specifically, is Ryan Williams a must-get for Coach DeBoer. He said, "It's amazing to me. I compare this Ryan Williams trajectory to Terrelle Pryor. He chose to not sign on the regular day in February, he chose to sign during the basketball period. To me, I thought he was just getting his pricing (NIL) up. That's what I feel like Ryan Williams has done: 'Everybody else is signing then, I'm the last top recruit out there left, I think my price will only go up the longer I wait.' It's like free agency...Saraland is naturally an Alabama territory. Now, his parents went to Auburn. So this is what it's coming down to for me, 'Alright, does he go back the legacy? Which in all honesty, Auburn has not treated all of their legacy players as great as they should have in the past. I think Alabama's legacy players have had more success in coming back and doing other things for them. It'll be interesting to see."
Harper also provided a tidbit of information that could be of interest to Crimson Tide fans, "Auburn's NIL has been the hottest in the SEC right now. Over the last 365 days, Auburn has loaded up the war chest in the NIL department."
Roman Harper played 11 years in the NFL, so he knows a thing or two about spending his entire life doing one thing, similar to what Coach Saban did. Harper has experience with retirement as well. Does he think Coach Saban will be confused or not know what to do once he gets out of bed?
"I think the first few months are going to be really easy. I think a change of scenery, going down to [Jupiter] Florida, that makes it easier. And he can always pop back in to Tuscalosoa and get whatever he wants. It's going to be really interesting to see that."
Harper also mentioned television as a potential landing spot once Coach Saban gets tired of golfing, "I know ESPN would love to have him on Gameday. I'm sure he will focus on and do some of that. It'll be interesting to see how much fun he has with that."
On Coach Saban's continued involvement in the program and his office in Bryant-Denny Stadium, Harper said, "I saw this as a huge win. At the end of the day, I don't think it's like his whole office and his whole setup. Nick's so honest with these guys, I don't think he would beat down another coach. He doesn't have an ego like that."
You can listen to the full interview between Coach Wimp and Barry Sanderson and Roman Harper on the Tide 100.9 website and the Tide 100.9 app.
Crimson Tide's NFL Draft First-Rounders During Saban's Tenure
Gallery Credit: Jacob Harrison