Alabama's greatest under Saban: The Henry bracket round of 32
Bummed out about the NCAA Tournament being canceled? We are too. That’s why BamaInsider created its own version of March Madness to determine who is the Crimson Tide’s greatest player in the Nick Saban era.
We have compiled a 64-player field with seed rankings of No. 1 through No. 16. The tournament will be played out throughout the month and will be determined by fan voting. Fans can vote either through BamaInsider’s Twitter account (@bamainsider) or on the Talk of Champions message board. Players will be matched up against each other with the one receiving the most total votes between both mediums advancing to the next round.
Today we continue the second round of our tournament in the Derrick Henry bracket.
No. 1 seed Derrick Henry vs. No. 8 seed O.J. Howard
Derrick Henry: Henry became the second Crimson Tide player to win the Heisman Memorial Trophy in 2015. That alone should put him in the conversation to win this whole thing. He won the award in large part because he set three single-season school records when he carried the ball 395 times for 2,219 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns. So it should be little surprise that Henry is Alabama’s all-time leading rusher (3,591 yards). No player in the program has rushed for more touchdowns than he did (42) in only three years and, last but not least, Henry averaged 5.97 yards per carry in his career. Only two guys with at least 400 attempts averaged more, and neither of those guys carried the ball even 500 times while Henry finished with 602 attempts.
O.J. Howard: The best tight end to suit up for Saban didn’t get drafted in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft for nothing. At times he disappeared from the offense at Alabama, but he still manages to check in at 12th on the Crimson Tide’s all-time reception leaderboard with 114 (and 1,726 yards). Plus, he never missed a chance to show out against Clemson. Howard caught nine passes for 314 yards and three touchdowns in back-to-back national championship games against the Tigers. Oh, and he was one of three finalists for the John Mackey Award given to the country’s top tight end in 2016.
No. 5 seed Quinnen Williams vs. No. 13 seed Josh Jacobs
Quinnen Williams: Few Alabama players have seen their NFL draft stock shoot up the way Williams did in 2018. He recorded 18.5 tackles for loss that season, despite seeing plenty of double teams. Only eight players have logged more tackles for loss in a year, but no number truly captures Williams’ impact on opponents that season. He was named a finalist for both the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Bednarik Award (both given to the nation’s top defender). He actually won the Outland Trophy (best interior lineman) and was subsequently drafted third overall in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Josh Jacobs: You won’t find Jacobs on any all-time list. He only carried the ball 252 times for 1,488 yards in three seasons at Alabama. Still, Jacobs proved himself to be a capable receiver (48 receptions for 581 yards in his career), rusher and special teams contributor. He looked so good during his final year at Alabama that Jacobs was the first back taken in the 2019 NFL Draft, even though he never really rose higher than the No. 2 position on Alabama’s depth chart during his career.
No. 3 seed Rolando McClain vs. No. 11 seed Daron Payne
Rolando McClain: McClain led the Crimson Tide in both total tackles (200) and tackles for loss (26.5) in 2008 and 2009. No other player in the Saban era has paced the team in both categories more than once. He was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2009 and was subsequently named the 2009 Butkus Award winner given to the nation’s best linebacker. In three years, he recorded 274 tackles. Had he stuck around one more year, McClain could have fallen well short of the pace he was on and still taken the top spot from Alabama’s all-time tackle leader Wayne Davis (327 tackles made in the 1980s).
Daron Payne: Payne is perhaps best remembered for his toe-tapping touchdown scored on offense against Clemson when the two teams met in the semifinals at the end of the 2017 season. He recorded his first-career interception in that game as well and was named the Defensive MVP. Payne was again recognized as the Defensive MVP when he recorded six tackles against Georgia in the subsequent national championship victory. His numbers won’t wow you, but Payne was a force in the middle of the defense that helped the Crimson Tide attack opposing runners and quarterbacks alike.
No. 2 seed Amari Cooper vs. No. 7 seed Mark Barron
Amari Cooper: Cooper is Alabama’s all-time leader in receptions (228), receiving yards (3,463) and touchdown receptions (31). He became the first Crimson Tide player to win the Biletnikoff Award (given to the nation’s top receiver) in 2014 when he set three single-season program records (124 receptions for 1,727 yards and 16 receiving touchdowns). He’s also responsible for half of Alabama’s eight games where a single receiver caught at least 12 passes. So it’s no surprise his 124-reception season in 2014 is 35 catches ahead of any other Crimson Tide player in any season.
Mark Barron: Only six Alabama players in the Saban era have gone higher in the first round than Barron, who was taken seventh overall by Tampa Bay in the 2012 NFL Draft. He earned his spot by proving he could do it all. Barron hauled in 12 interceptions during his career. Only eight guys caught more for Alabama. He was especially good at finding the ball in 2009 when he caught seven interceptions. He led Alabama in tackles the next season with 75 total, and Barron broke up 22 passes before time in Tuscaloosa came to an end (only 11 Alabama players have accounted for more pass breakups).