Nick Saban with Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13), head coach Nick Saban and quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) are interviewed after defeating Georgia in the SEC Championship Game at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga., on Saturday December 1, 2018. Saban1306

Now that former Alabama head coach Nick Saban has retired, it’s time to look back at the players who helped make him arguably the greatest college football coach of all time.

It was no small feat to whittle the list down to a top 10. Some of the picks were easy, like Heisman Trophy winners, but beyond that, there have been so many great Bama players since 2007 that was tough to pick amongst them. Winning SEC titles and national titles was so common under Saban that they alone didn’t differentiate anyone.

Here are our picks for the very best Alabama Crimson Tide football players from the Nick Saban era.

But somehow we managed to narrow it down to the 10 greatest players in the Saban era while he was at Bama and here they are.

10. Barrett Jones, offensive lineman

When you think of a great Alabama offensive lineman under Saban, you have to start with Barrett Jones. Jones was the anchor on the Bama offensive line that won back-to-back national championships in 2012 and 2013 and was also a member of the 2010 title team. The two-time All-American, three-time All-SEC first-team selection, and Outland Trophy winner also graduated summa cum laude. You can expect Jones to be part of the College Football Hall of Fame soon.

9. Eddie Jackson, safety

One of the Hallmarks of a Nick Saban team is the defense and one of those greats was safety Eddie Jackson. Jackson was a national champion, first and second-team All-SEC, and was named the national champion Defensive Most Valuable Player in the 2015 national championship game. In that 2015 season, Jackson had 46 tackles and six interceptions. Probably the most amazing stat about Jackson is that despite the last few games of the 2016 regular season, he was still second-team All-SEC.

8. Jaylen Waddle, wide receiver

When you think of Jaylen Waddle, one word comes to mind: Speed. If it wasn’t for teammate DeVonta Smith, he’d have been the No. 1 receiver on Alabama’s 2020 national championship team. Still, his contributions as the No. 2 wideout were extremely valuable. While defenses doubled Smith, Waddle was free to burn secondaries with his speed. He also was one of the best punt returners in the country, winning the SEC Special Teams Player of the Year Award in 2019. Waddle also made first- and second-team All-SEC and was named SEC Freshman of the Year in 2018.

7. Dallas Turner, linebacker

When All-American linebacker Will Anderson left for the NFL, Bama fans wondered who would take his place. That question was easily answered by Dallas Turner. Turner stepped in where Anderson left off, becoming a dominant force on the Tide defense this past season. Turner was an All-American, SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, and first-team All-SEC in 2023. He finished the season with 10 sacks and 28 solo tackles.

6. C.J. Mosley, linebacker

Speaking of great linebackers, one of the best in the Saban era was C.J. Mosley. Mosley is a national champion, Butkus Award winner, two-time All-American, SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and two-time All-SEC first team. He’s also tied for the most interception returns for a touchdown in school history (3).

5. Will Anderson, linebacker

Perhaps the best defensive player of the Saban era was Will Anderson. Anderson is a national champion, two-time unanimous All-American, two-time SEC Defensive Player of the Year, and was named first-team and second-time All-SEC three times. He also won numerous postseason awards, including the Lombardi Trophy. Anderson’s best year was his sophomore season when he recorded 17. 5 sacks, second in Alabama school history behind Derrick Thomas.

4. Tua Tagovailoa, quarterback

Who would have thought that a little-known quarterback out of Hawaii would change the trajectory of Alabama football and Nick Saban’s career? For years, Saban was known as a defensive genius. Then, Tua Tagovailoa and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin came along. Behind Tua, Bama became an offensive juggernaut. What made Tagovailoa an Alabama legend was when he came into the national championship game against Georgia and beat them with an overtime touchdown pass. Tua ended his career as a national champion, All-American, Walter Camp, and Maxwell Award winner, SEC Offensive Player of the Year, and MVP of the championship game.

3. Bryce Young, quarterback

Bryce Young became the first Alabama quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy. Although Tua put up better numbers, it was Young who finally brought the trophy home to Tuscaloosa. In his Heisman season, Young threw for almost 5,000 yards and 47 touchdowns. But what impressed people the most was his leadership ability, like when he led the Tide on a 95-yard touchdown drive against Auburn tying the game and eventually winning in overtime. Along with the Heisman, Young ended his career at Alabama as an All-American and SEC Offensive Player of the Year.

2. DeVonta Smith, wide receiver

There is no question that the best Alabama wide receiver of the Nick Saban era was DeVonta Smith. Everyone knew Smith was going to be a star when he caught the game-winning touchdown pass in the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship. In his senior season, Smith went on to win the Heisman along with being named a unanimous All-American, and SEC Offensive Player of the Year. He was also a two-time first-team All-SEC starter and won numerous other post-season awards. Smith also set seven school records including several receiving yards (1,896) and touchdowns (23).

1. Derrick Henry, running back

Derrick Henry tops the list because he’s not the only best running back in Alabama history but some would say SEC history. Henry was the second player in Alabama history to win the Heisman, rushing for over 2,000 yards and setting an SEC record for touchdowns in a season, breaking Tim Tebow’s mark. He also won a national championship and was named SEC Offensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American. Although Mark Ingram was the first to win a Heisman, you can’t argue with Henry’s numbers.

About Stacey Mickles

Stacey is a 1995 graduate of the University of Alabama who has previously worked for other publications such as Sportskeeda and Saturday Down South.