Saban Coerces 2017 Najee Harris, “Go East, Young Man”


If the nation’s 2017 No. 1 recruit, running back Najee Harris from Antioch, California, stays true to his verbal commitment to the Alabama Crimson Tide, he will follow QB Blake Barnett as another recent top-rated California high school football player opting to play for St. Nick Saban. Indeed, Blake was “committed” to Notre Dame and then to Oregon (for a nano-second) before he tripped to Alabama, was seduced by the uber-successful Lane Kiffin and committed the same day he arrived on the Tide’s campus.

Harris holds offers from the UCLA Bruins and the USC Trojans, so his decision cannot be based on educational opportunity. Alabama is far, far down the ladder from the two LA schools in any reasonable, valid, academic ranking of America’s colleges and universities. Forbes 2015 ranking of all colleges and universities in the United States has UCLA at 45, USC at 71 and Alabama at 261. Unless Harris wants to major in Frog Giggin’, why would he choose to matriculate in the garden spot of Tuscaloosa, Alabama?

Harris would play for former NFL coach Jim Mora if he were to attend UCLA, and would not otherwise escape the attention of pro scouts if he suits up in LA, especially with the Rams returning to the west coast. Alabama RBs who played for Saban have advanced to the League in recent years (with mixed success), but USC has over the years sent a fair number of quality backs to the NFL as has UCLA, no?


From video

Najee Harris is thrilled to surf the Crimson Tide.

Even the most diehard Tide fan, if not completely under the influence of the SEC Network and Paul Finebaum, has to admit that the climate in southern California is far superior to that of Alabama. The Left Coast also wins out on the bug index, as it is generally free of mosquitoes and other flying, blood-sucking critters. As Ronald Reagan once said: “If the Pilgrims had landed in California, Massachusetts would be undiscovered.” I do not believe President Reagan would have had a different opinion when it came to the Yellow Hammer State.

Alabama does have a number of beautiful coeds strolling the campus, but Hollywood and the surrounding areas more than holds its own when it comes to pulchritude. The UCLA campus is simply beautiful. The area around USC is shaky, but the campus itself is very nice. I have been to Tuscaloosa. Unless your life revolves around taking meals at a Waffle House or in one of a hundred local barbecue joints, I imagine most reasonable folk would opt for the Left Coast.

As noted above, Nick has introduced quality running backs into the NFL. But the Tide does not come close to matching the following Troy running backs: Frank Gifford, Jon Arnett, LenDale White, Mike Garrett, Ricky Bell, Anthony Davis, Reggie Bush, OJ Simpson, Charles White and Marcus Allen. And UCLA’s Skip Hicks, Kermit Johnson, Mel Farr, Freeman McNeil, Maurice Jones-Drew and Kenny Washington are not chopped liver.

Nick Saban flashing that alluring smile.

What is it about Nick Saban that brings in the recruits? Certainly not that tie.

In his time at Michigan State, LSU and Alabama, the best QB forwarded by Saban to the League is … I’m waiting for an answer, Bama fans. Indeed, due to the overall talent he has brought to Tuscaloosa, Nick can win with mediocre QB play while running an offense that is going to pass the ball only when and as needed. Blake Barnett replacing Jerrod Goff at Cal this season would have a far better chance to air it out and impress NFL scouts. (This is also true of Alabama QB Cooper Bateman from Utah.)

So why would a quality Left Coast QB or RB leave nirvana to earn a far less meritorious degree and to play in a bug-infested steam bath? According to Najee Harris, fellow Golden State resident Barnett told him that in Tuscaloosa, like Barnett, he will be “treated like a king.”

I have never been a king. But as a graduate of Bowdoin College (ranked No. 21 in the above referenced Forbes list) and with a major in History, I have studied a Grand Pooh-bah or two. My professors taught me that a king is usually the person with the most bank in the kingdom. That a king has myriad minions who respond to his every desire. That a king need not work that hard, or hit the books, as this can all be delegated to worker bees and pencil pushers. That a king oft has a harem at his beck and call. That in almost all circumstances, a king is above the law. And that a king can “borrow” money from a university employee and risk no punishment at the hands of the NCAA. (As to the last point, I jest.)

So, if Blake Barnett is receiving king-like benefits and Najee Harris will also experience such largess, why not leave the Golden State for a “golden opportunity” in Alabama? After all, history, which has much tell us regarding kings, has also taught us to “follow the money!”


Laremy Tunsil on Draft Day 2016.

Thank goodness the NCAA cratered the UW program and ran off St. Nick’s college coach, Don James. Thank goodness the NCAA jumped on Boise State and saved us all from improper futon use. Thank goodness the NCAA jumped on Oregon for using a “runner” in recruiting. Thank goodness Bama staffers can “lend” money to needy players with impunity. Thank goodness Mississippi’s Laremy Tunsil only had to sit out a few games for receiving improper benefits and Ole Miss was not dinged for Lack of Institutional Control as was (the real) USC when Reggie had his hand out.

Maybe it does make sense to trip east?

Top photo from

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Jon Joseph

Jon Joseph

Jon Joseph grew up in Boston, Massachusetts but has been blessed to have lived long enough in the west to have exorcised all east coast bias. He played football in college and has passionately followed the game for seven decades. A retired corporate attorney Jon has lectured across the country and published numerous articles on banking and gaming law. Now resident in central Oregon Jon follows college football across the nation with a focus on the Conference of Champions and the Ducks.

  • Philip

    Butt-hurt much? People that live in the south really don’t give a damn what you think, you hack. You think maybe he would like a chance to win a championship? Not happening in the land of fruits and nuts. Go to the gay bar and have a champagne coolie. Quit embarassing yourself.

    • jon joseph

      Phillip, thank you for the typical response I always expect from the always insecure, paranoid SEC fans.
      Bama is superior academically to UCLA/USC? Don James was not run off? The Trojans was not hosed over? CAM’s old man did not shop him? Cal does not throw more than the Tide?
      Where am I in error?
      I am a flaming homosexual but have been to a gay bar or 3 with my gay brother and had a great time + enjoyed the company as I drank my scotch on the rocks.
      Embarrassing MYSELF? Please learn how to spell a word with more than 2 syllables before you use it or you may be embarrassed? And homophobia is not good for one’s soul.
      Peace Out.

      • AnthonyReed

        This is an inflammatory article designed to produce a response like that, so I am not sure entirely what you expected. Personally, I like reading articles like this because it validates the Tide’s success. You always hate the king, unless you are the king.

        Good day.

        • jon joseph

          Anthony, The Tide is on a great run no doubt. And Saban has done a wonderful job pulling the Tide back to the top after a very bad run.

          I have no problem with people defending their program as you have. I do have a problem with people using the term ‘fag’ but that’s just me.

          I also am baffled by some of the decisions HS kids make. Bateman would be starting at Utah in a pro friendly system. Barnett would have a far better opportunity at Cal to air it out. And it’s not look the Cal QB plays under the NFL radar.

          But kids absolutely should go where they want to wherever that may be.

          Enjoy the run while it lasts. Saint Nick will not be in Tuscaloosa forever.

          Thanks for the comment.

          • AnthonyReed

            Its in my opinion that some kids want to leave home and/or go to a school where they are guranteed early playing time. Just look at Demetris Robertson. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Cal lost all of its receiver talent, and he ends up there. There are other kids who thrive on the competition. Que Barnett and Jonah Williams. And I know that Oregon had a qb commitment, but I am stunned that Tua wasn’t a target. I don’t think the tide’s recruitment of West coast players is going anywhere for now. Coach Lupoi and Kiffin do a nice job of that, and we have also lost a bit of a hold on Texas with all the coaching changes this year. I am with you on the slur’s, though. The thought that saban won’t be around forever is not lost on me. I just hope, maybe, he can take someone under his wing and groom them. I thought that was happening with Smart, but I was wrong. Maybe, we can lure Swinney? I am for sure not taking that for granted. Something funny for you guys out west. When i was typing “kiffin” earlier, my phone tried to correct it as “muffin”. As always, I enjoy debating the foolsball.


          • jon joseph

            Thanks for the comment Anthony. As I have noted kids should OF COURSE attend school at the location they so desire. What I don’t get however is kids who could stay near home with a much better opportunity to start and impress the pros often migrate elsewhere. Then if it doesn’t work out, particularly at the QB position, we see the inevitable transfer. It is interesting to me that Alabama seems to hold onto top drawer HS QB’s even if they do not start while bringing in even more top drawer talent.

            I wonder Anthony if Alabama fans think that Kiffin has redeemed himself or has a chance to to the point where Tide fans would accept him as the next HC?

            Hiring Kiffin was just another example of Saban’s greatness as a college coach.

          • AnthonyReed

            I wasn’t completely sold on him when he was hired, but I am coming around on him. Although I am not sure about HC material YET. I can’t speak for all fans but I think most would feel something similar. But he is still young, and who knows what will happen in 5 or 10 years? He is a wizard with offense though for sure. I’m sure most USC fans would disagree, but they kinda dumped him like garbage.

          • Ben Wallace

            you’re right. This run wont last forever. But for now, Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!


    Yeah looks like the Ducks dodged a bullit with Barnett. Oregon I’m totally surprised that Harris wasn’t from the start their NO.1 get because he would exceed obviously at Bama but he’d be equally good at Oregon if not better. SEC still seems to have a different set of rules over every other Power 5 conference. It’s starting to look like some of the SEC Teams are being caught for cheating which doesn’t surprise me at all. I MEAN OL Miss gets 3 of the top players 3 or 4 years back at 3 positions in Tredwell, Tunsil and the DT who fell a little bit in the draft. I guess Money talks and BS walks in the SEC.


    Yes they are worshipped a whole lot more in Bama than on the west coast becasue thats all they have is Football and it’s probably to the point of WORSHIP for most of these people which to me suggest not getting out much. Barnetts skill set would of served him a whole lot better here in Eugene than Bama. Maybe it’s good Oregon didn’t get him if being worshipped is more important than winning because your the best player at your position.

    • jon joseph

      EXACTLY! BTW my wife insists that I correct my response to Philip to note that I am a Flaming hetero-sexual.

      Thanks my friend for the read + the comments.

  • Jon Sousa

    Good to see you pointing out that it would be good for these guys to go to any of several PAC12 schools and not just Oregon. In order to win national championships the whole league needs to be elevated. I heard Lute Olson of AZ fame say that when he was recruiting the top players in the nation he would encourage them to go to another PAC12 team if they weren´t going to chose Arizona. I feel jealous when Budda Baker goes to WA instead of Oregon, but I´m glad he stayed in the PAC. We need to be rooting for all the PAC12 teams on all their out of conference games. They can´t win them if they don´t have good players. So let´s hope that all the teams get great recruits.

    • jon joseph

      Thanks for the response Jon. Yes, if the Pac 12 is to play for it all the best Left Coast ballers have to stay in the west. A rising Tide does not lift west coast boats!

  • Ben Wallace

    I live in Tuscaloosa. Mosquitoes are only bad in the summer, when Najee will be back in California. Also Jimmy Whales ( Wikipedia CEO ) and Tim Cook ( Apple CEO ) both went to Alabama and Auburn respectively. But yea, southern colleges are wack. Sure Forbe’s put out a list, but who care as long as long as students are having successful careers. Also another nugget of info from University administration. Thirty-six percent of the freshman class at the University of Alabama has an ACT score of 30 or higher. This places Alabama in the top 5% in the country. Our numbers speak for themselves. But I’m sure Najee would have a great time in LA where there’s no water and he’s surrounded by crips, bloods, and numerous other gangs. My point: He who lives in a glass house shouldn’t throw stones.