clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Would an all-star team of non-power players beat Alabama?

Recruiting stars matter. But there are plenty of elite athletes in college football’s lower levels.

NCAA Football: Alabama Spring Game-A-Day Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

If you want to win a national title, you need to recruit an awful lot of blue-chips. Generally, only the bluest of the bluebloods recruit enough star power to win the Playoff.

Most games between true powers and teams from mid-major conferences or the FCS aren’t very competitive. Alabama, Ohio State, and Florida State will probably always beat the little guys, except for that time a rebuilding Bama lost to ULM.

But what if Nick Saban’s Alabama wasn’t playing just any ol’ non-power team? What if it had to play against a G5/FCS All-Star team?

Alabama would still have a recruiting advantage over the entire dang Group of 5 (the group of FBS conferences outside the Power 5).

Nobody dominates the recruiting rankings like the Crimson Tide.

Per the 247 Roster Composite, Alabama had a whopping 61 players on its 2016 roster who were either four- or five-star recruits.

In 2016, the entire Sun Belt only had eight blue-chip recruits on rosters.

The MAC only had 13.

Not only would Alabama’s starters have a higher recruiting profile than a G5 all-star team, it’s possible Bama’s backups would, too.

Only a handful of top recruits pick programs outside of the Power 5, and if a team in Conference USA or the MAC gets an elite recruit, it’s usually via a transfer or JUCO. But even then, they aren’t many.

But recruiting profiles aren’t perfect. And there’s plenty of elite talent in the G5 and FCS.

Not every five-star becomes an All-American, and not every two-star languishes on the scout team. With solid coaching, strength training, and a little luck, many recruits with modest profiles become excellent college players and make money in the NFL.

Let’s consider last season, for example. Alabama had a whopping 10 players picked in the NFL draft, including four in the first round.

But lots of players from G5 leagues, the FCS, or D2 and below get drafted. The NFL will find prospects, whether they were two-stars, five-stars, or no-stars.

(One obvious issue with this metric: Alabama can play only 11 players at once. Any of its backups could start at most non-power programs, maybe earning enough attention to leave school early.)

Let’s take a look at what an all-star team of non-power players would have looked like in 2016, based on NFL draft position.

This is a decent metric for comparing players to Alabama’s roster, since going by raw stats would raise strength-of-schedule concerns.

  • QB: Josh Allen (Wyoming, possible first-rounder in 2018)
  • RB: Kareem Hunt (Toledo, third round), Tarik Cohen (NC A&T, fourth round), Marlon Mack (USF, fourth round)
  • TE: Gerald Everett (South Alabama, second round), Adam Shaheen (Ashland, second round)
  • WR: Corey Davis (Western Michigan, first round), Zay Jones (ECU, second round), Cooper Kupp (Eastern Washington, third round), Carlos Henderson (Louisiana Tech, third round)
  • OL: Forrest Lamp (WKU, second round), Dion Dawkins (Temple, second round), Taylor Moton (WMU, second round), Antonio Garcia (Troy, third round), Nico Siragusa (SDSU, fourth round)

That’s a really good offense. The question mark is at quarterback. (Allen might be getting massive NFL hype, but he’s not the most productive college QB yet.) If you’d like to replace Allen with Boise State’s Brett Rypien or Colorado State’s Nick Stevens or USF’s Quinton Flowers, that’s fine, in my opinion.

NFL Draft
Corey Davis
Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

But otherwise, there might not be a secondary that could slow down a deep threat like Davis alongside ball magnets like Jones and Kupp. Even some of the best FBS offensive lines don’t have five starters who’d all go in the first four rounds of the same draft. 2016 Alabama, for example, did not, and only partly because some players are still in school.

What about the defense?

  • DL: Tanoh Kpassagnon (Villanova, second round), Larry Ogunjobi (Charlotte, third round), Derek Rivers (Youngstown State, third round), and eventual first-rounder Ed Oliver (Houston)
  • LB: Haason Reddick (Temple, first round), Tyus Bowser (Houston, second round), Trey Hendrickson (third, 3rd round), Samson Ebukam (Eastern Washington, third round)
  • DB: Obi Melifonwu (UConn, second round, Shaq Griffin (UCF, third round), Brendan Langley (Lamar, third round), Howard Wilson (Houston, fourth round), Damontae Kazee (SDSU, fifth round)

So there’s a bit less star power in the secondary, and Alabama’s 2016 duo of Calvin Ridley and ArDarius Stewart would’ve gotten theirs, but there’s also a slew of elite talent up front, including Oliver, a former five-star who’s one of the best players in the country. That’d be a tough assignment, even for Alabama, whose quarterback, Jalen Hurts, made occasional freshman decisions with the football.

NCAA Football: Texas Kickoff-Oklahoma vs Houston
Ed Oliver
Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

2016 Alabama had 10 players drafted and likely has at least three first-rounders for the 2018 draft (Ridley, defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, and DT Da'Ron Payne).

But even if everybody from 2016 Alabama’s starting 22 gets drafted over the course of two or three years, it can’t compare with 20 starters being picked in a single draft, along with two potential later first-rounders.

There’s also the experience factor.

Alabama has a slew of elite recruits but also has to play young players. Hurts is a rising sophomore. So is probable left tackle Jonah Williams, linebacker Anfernee Jennings, and defensive back Trevon Diggs.

Outside of a player or two like Oliver, a non-power all-star team would be dominated by upperclassmen. Most of the players on the above roster did not leave early for the NFL draft, meaning they had more game reps and would’ve been less prone to mental errors. Young teams make mistakes all the time, and the fact that the non-power team would’ve been seasoned vets can’t be discounted.

You know how every year in the NCAA Tournament, some team full of freshman All-Americans gets upset by a Horizon League squad of grizzled 24-year-olds? The same principle applies.

Oh yeah, Alabama has a pretty good coach.

Lest we forget, Alabama is coached by Nick Saban, maybe the best coach ever. While there are lots of excellent non-power coaches, like Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo, Appalachian State’s Scott Satterfield, and USF’s Charlie Strong, it’s fair to say Alabama would have an advantage.

Who would win? I’m taking the non-power squad.

I think the underdogs have the more talented lineup, especially at wideout, and would have a nasty defensive front led by high NFL picks and Oliver.

Of course, the fact that we can spend 1,000 words on this and not seem crazy speaks to how absurdly Alabama has recruited. And if this was Alabama against strictly a Conference-USA or Mountain West team, I’d take the Tide.