SEC Country did its darndest to narrow down the best players from Nick Saban’s college head coaching career into a Top 50 list.
Players’ performance in the National Football League was not taken into account. We focused on the following:
- College performance under Saban (NOTE: players who reached peak performance after Saban left Michigan State or LSU — ex. Charles Rogers, LaRon Landry and Dwayne Bowe — do not qualify)
- Big-game moments/winning pedigree
- All-conference and All-American recognition
- Trophies and awards
- NFL draft position
With that, let’s continue the definitive ranking of Nick Saban’s 50 Best Players:
10. Mark Barron, Alabama (2011)
Accolades: 3x All-American (1x consensus), 3x All-SEC, 2x national champion, selected No. 7 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The only constant in Alabama’s seconday between 2009 and 2011, Barron earned All-American honors in three straight seasons, including a unanimous nod after bypassing the NFL draft for his senior year. The 6-foot-2, 218-pound safety was multi-dimensional, racking up impressive positional numbers in tackles (235), interceptions (12) and sacks (5.0) before leaving Tuscaloosa. Barron earned two championship rings in his time at Alabama and held down the back end of the Crimson Tide’s historically great 2011 defense.
9. Josh Reed, LSU (2001)
Accolades: Biletnikoff Award (nation’s top receiver), consensus All-American, 2x All-SEC, selected No. 36 overall by the Buffalo Bills
Saban did not produce many offensive stars during his time at LSU, but Reed made up for the shortage. Having already built up strong career numbers before Saban arrived in Baton Rouge, Reed broke out in 2001 for 94 receptions and 1,740 yards — the latter an SEC single-season record. His biggest games included an SEC-record 19-catch, 293-yard day against Alabama in 2001, as well as a 14-catch, 239-yard performance against No. 7 Illinois in the 2002 Sugar Bowl. In all, the converted running back racked up just over 3,000 yards on his career, becoming the first SEC receiver to do so.
8. Barrett Jones, Alabama (2012)
Accolades: Rimington Trophy (nation’s top center), consensus All-American, 3x All-SEC, selected No. 113 overall by the St. Louis Rams
Dominant at every position he played, Jones was named first-team All-SEC at three different spots in three straight seasons. The Germantown, Tenn., native was a four-year starter who won a trio of national titles in Tuscaloosa. His 4.0 GPA helped explain his on-field success; Jones rarely missed an assignment, and knew exactly where his offensive line teammates needed to be on every play. Don’t forget about his toughness, either; the 6-foot-4 lineman earned his Rimington while playing through a painful Lisfranc injury.
7. Mark Ingram, Alabama (2010)
Accolades: Heisman Trophy, consensus All-American, Sporting News Player of the Year, SEC Offensive Player of the Year, 1x All-SEC, national champion, selected No. 28 overall by the New Orleans Saints
Alabama’s first Heisman recipient won it in a relatively down year for the award, but still put together one of the best seasons in SEC history. Ingram totaled more than 2,000 yards from scrimmage and scored 20 touchdowns en route to becoming the first back since Pittsburgh’s Tony Dorsett in 1976 to win Heisman and national title in same season. In all, Ingram collected 46 total career touchdowns in fewer than three full seasons. Injuries slowed him down as a senior; he only carried the ball 158 times in 2010. If he had been at 100 percent that year, Ingram would likely be a few spots higher on this list.
6. Terrence Cody, Alabama (2009)
Accolades: 2x consensus All-American, 2x All-SEC, national champion, selected No. 57 overall by the Baltimore Ravens
“Mount Cody,” as he was known in Tuscaloosa, earned three straight consensus All-American nods: One at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and two at Alabama. Best remembered for a pair of blocked field goals against Tennessee in 2009 — including a game-saving snuff to clinch a 12-10 win — Cody was so valuable to the Crimson Tide that multiple publications called for him to be considered for the Heisman Trophy. The defensive tackle settled for a national title, helping Alabama hold Texas to 81 rushing yards in a 37-21 BCS championship game win.