The Saban 250: Alabama Crimson Tide Players 176-200

BamaCentral marks the end of the Nick Saban coaching era with the definitive rankings of his top 250 players with the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Alabama defensive lineman DJ Dale (94) sacks Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) in the 2021 College Football Playoff Semifinal game at the 86th Cotton Bowl in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]
Alabama defensive lineman DJ Dale (94) sacks Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) in the 2021 College Football Playoff Semifinal game at the 86th Cotton Bowl in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas Friday, Dec. 31, 2021. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.] / Gary Cosby Jr. / USA TODAY NETWORK
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Let the countdown part of The Saban 250 begin.

After listing 50 players, including 20 on offense, 20 on defense, and 10 on special teams who fans should never forget, the series moves on to the actual ranking part, and the 200 players who made the biggest impact of the Nick Saban era with Alabama football.

This is when it will start becoming apparent just how amazing the coaches' legacy really is, as the 25 players from No. 176 to 200 includes All-Americans, all-conference selections, draft picks, four-year starters, one of the program's biggest Iron Bowl heroes, and the player who scored the first touchdown of the Nick Saban era, on the Crimson Tide's very first offensive snap.

Running back Terry Grant, then just a redshirt freshman out of Lumberton, Miss., went around the right end 47 yards for a touchdown on his first carry as the Crimson Tide’s starting tailback during Alabama's 52-6 season-opening victory over Western Carolina. He finished with 134 rushing yards and three touchdowns, all in the first half as college football got its first taste of how Saban in Tuscaloosa would change college football.

Alabama Crimson Tide Players 176-200

176. Nick Perry, S, 2010-14

Perry was an emerging safety who spent an extra year at Alabama after receiving a medical redshirt in 2013 due to a shoulder injury. He took advantage of it by making 80 tackles, with six passes defensed and two interceptions

177. DJ Dale, DL, 2019-22

Was essentially a four-year starter who played in 48 games from 2019-22. He was credited with 74 career tackles, with 11.5 for a loss and 5.5 sacks, three pass knockdowns and three fumble recoveries. 

178. Miller Forristall, TE, 2016-20

Two-year starter who had 44 career catches for 505 yards and five touchdowns. Caught 23 passes for 253 yards with one touchdown during his final season

179. Javion Cohen, OL, 2021-22

• 2022 second-team All-SEC
• Didn’t play much during his first season, but in 2021 earned the starting job at left guard. He played 1,073 snaps over 14 games and was credited with 21 knockdown blocks.
• Started 10 games and came off the bench in two more in 2022. In 554 total snaps had 17 knockdown blocks with 1.5 sacks yielded, four pressures, four quarterback hits and three penalties. He subsequently transferred

180. Lorenzo Washington, DL, 2007-09

Washington began his college career as a nose tackle, but primarily played defensive end at Alabama. Statistically, his best season was Saban's first. During the 2007 season, the redshirt sophomore totaled 36 tackles, including 4.5 for a loss and three sacks. He had 69 career tackles, with 12.0 for a loss and six sacks.

181. Adam Griffith, K, 2013-16

• 2015 second-team All-SEC
• When he finished, his 357 career points (57 field goals, 186 PATs) ranked second on the Alabama career scoring list. Scored 131 points in 2015, and 129 in 2016
• Was Alabama’s all-time career leader for PATs with 186
• Was fifth on the UA career list with 57 made field goals
• Maybe best known for his on-side kick in the national championship game against Clemson, caught by Marlon Humphrey, which gave Alabama the momentum for good in the 45-40 victory against Clemson

182. Nick Walker, TE, 2005-08

Played in 52 games for the Crimson Tide, but just two years under Nick Saban. Had 67 catches for 687 yards overall, including 55 for 528 over those two final seasons

183. James Burnip, P, 2021-23*

• 2023 second-team All-SEC
• In 2023, ranked second in the SEC and fifth nationally with a 47.6 yards per punt average. Overall, he had 59 punts, including 24 of 50-plus yards, and five for 60-plus yards including a long of 67
• The Australian never played a game of American football before joining the Crimson Tide. He went from averaging 39.1 yards per punt as a freshman in 2021, to having 44 punts for 1,861 yards and a 42.3 average as a sophomore. He had six punts of 50-plus yards with a long of 58

184. Terry Grant 2007, RB, 2007-09

Scored a touchdown on the first snap of the Saban era. Had 891 rushing yards and eight touchdowns in 2007. Caught 11 passes for 176 yards and another TD. Finished career with 1,167 rushing yards (all but 22 of which were during the Nick Saban era) on 257 carries and 12 rushing touchdowns, plus had 33 receptions for 259 yards and another score

185. Kobe Prentice, WR, 2022-23*

During the 2022-23 seasons had 49 catches for 651 yards and four touchdowns, including one against Kansas State in the 2023 Sugar Bowl


186. Marquis Johnson, DB, 2007-09

• Seventh-round selection in 2010 NFL Draft
• Played final three seasons of career under Nick Saban. Made 89 tackles and three interceptions.

187. Mike McCoy, WR, 2007-09

Two-year starter who made 547 yards on 54 catches and three touchdowns. Also had the distinction of being bitten by Tennessee’s mascot Smokey while warming up for the Third Saturday in October rivalry game

188. Preston Dial, TE, 2007-10

A four-year starter at tight end and H-back, who finished his career with 30 receptions for 318 yards and three touchdowns

189. Cody Mandell, P, 2010-13

• 2013 second-team All-SEC
• Started all four years at Alabama
• Went from averaging 39.2 and 39.3 yards per punt during his first two seasons, to 47.1 as a senior, which tied for third in the NCAA.
• For his career had 169 punts for 7,191 yards (42.6 average)

190. Roy Upchurch, RB, 2007-09

 Ran for 886 yards over three seasons under Saban. Also had 28 receptions and eight total touchdowns. Scored to cap the drive in the Iron Bowl

Alabama running back Roy Upchurch scored one of the biggest touchdowns in Iron Bowl history.
Nov 27, 2009; Auburn, AL, USA; Alabama running back Roy Upchurch (5) celebrates with offensive lineman Drew Davis (79) offensive lineman Mike Johnson (78) and tight end Colin Peek (84) after scoring the game winning touchdown against the Auburn Tigers during the 4th quarter of the 74th annual iron bowl at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Alabama defeated Auburn 26-21. John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports / John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Looking Back: The Drive

Three years later, former Alabama quarterback revisited Alabama's final possession in the 2009 Iron Bowl and still remembered it like it had happened three days previous:

It was the moment that made running back Roy Upchurch an Alabama Crimson Tide legend.

The Crimson Tide was trailing on the road with both an undefeated season and championship run on the line. The opposition had attempted numerous trick plays, there was a botched handoff with a freshman running back in the red zone, and Alabama’s defense had just made a big stop in its own territory.

But this wasn’t at LSU, rather Auburn during the 2009 season, setting the scene for what fans now affectionately call “The Drive.” The Tigers had thrown everything it had at the Crimson Tide, including reverses (scoring on a 67-yarder by receiver Terrell Zachery), an onside kick and even a double-pass in building a 14-0 lead.

When Alabama had two drives stall inside the 20, including Mark Ingram II missing open wide receiver Julio Jones in the end zone on a halfback-option pass, and had to settle for two third-quarter field goals, the Crimson Tide was still down 21-20 as it got the ball at its own 21-yard line with 8:27 on the clock.

Here’s how the 15-play possession looked to quarterback Greg McElroy, then a junior, who completed seven straight attempts for 63 yards, including four to Jones and the 4-yard completion to Upchurch for the only touchdown reception of his career.

“Just starting out, all we wanted to do was get off to a good start,” McElroy said. ”I remember vividly, we started off with a run play. We had not been able to do a lot on the ground, or be as consistent as we would like. It was a really up-and-down game.”

Freshman Trent Richardson went seven yards off the right edge, followed by the lone incompletion of the drive, a ball over the middle to junior Darius Hanks that’s deflected by defensive lineman Jake Ricks.

“Sure enough, up comes a third-and-three,” McElroy continues. “I think everyone in that stadium, including myself, Coach Mac (Jim McElwain), Coach (Nick) Saban, everyone on the sideline, everyone in the stands, assumed and understood that were going to get the ball to Julio.”

It’s a crossing route under the coverage, resulting in an easy 9-yard gain and first down.  

“There we go, we’re rolling now,” McElroy said. “Chains are moving, things are going good, everything was fantastic.

“The clock’s ticking, and the only thing you’re thinking with a drive like that is no negative plays.”

The next one was, though, because while McElroy executed a play-action for what Alabama called a “blunt pass,” left tackle James Carpenter lost his footing just enough for Antonio Coleman to get around him and hit unaware McElroy from his blindside for a sack.

“First thing that goes through my head is ‘Thank God I didn’t fumble it,’” he said.

Although the fast majority of possessions that involve a sack fizzle out, with second-and-14 Alabama opted to try for a third-and-manageable situation. McElwain, the offensive coordinator, called Ingram’s number on a screen pass, which he turned into a 9-yard gain. 

“So Ingram came in, screen right, took it as far as he possible could, and I knew at that point Mark wasn’t feeling that great,” McElroy said. “He had gotten hit pretty good earlier in the game. He was trying so hard for his teammates. We appreciated that but you could just tell he didn’t have the gear that we were so used to seeing.”

Playing with a painful hip-pointer, Ingram had 30 rushing yards on 16 carries, which threatened to derail his Heisman Trophy campaign. On third-and-5, the Tide dialed up Jones again on another crossing, or “mesh,” route, only this time the receiver used the game official in the middle of the field as a shield to make sure he’s open.

He got six yards for the first down, but was favoring his shoulder while heading off the field and was approached by a trainer on the sideline. The break was short, though, as Jones returned after one play, a 2-yard carry up the middle to midfield by Richardson.

Whereas Jones had only been lining up to McElroy’s right on the drive, he switched to the left, and Auburn kept cornerback Neiko Thorpe on him in single coverage as it ramped up the pressure.

“It was something that we had been working on a lot, it was similar to a curl route, run up about 12 yards and come back to the quarterback,” McElroy said of the 11-yard gain.

He continue to elaborate: “We had isolation, I think it was a three-by-one formation, with three recovers on one side and one receiver on the back side, with Julio obviously the one. Normally he attracts a lot of attention, with the corner playing tight and safety playing over the top, and a will linebacker sneaking out to the will flats. But in this case we didn’t show a lot of heavy-run strong the week before so they kind of overloaded the pressure and left Julio one-on-one so we were able to get a nice completion in the curl. "

Again, Alabama ran on first down, with a pitch to Richardson, who went around the left side to gain four yards before stepping out-of-bounds. It turned into another setup for Jones.

“They just brought more people than we could handle on the left side and Julio had to break off a sight adjustment, and in that particular week for us it was a slant, and he was able to fall forward get us a big (first down),” McElroy said.

“Our sights changed from week to week. Some weeks it’s one thing, some weeks it’s another, and it’s something that takes a long time in the early part of the week in case they do bring more than you can handle, then you need to make sure you’re on the same page. So Julio did a great job breaking it off and recognizing it.”

With time running down, it became more obvious that this would be the make-or-break possession for Alabama, but with first down at the Auburn 28 the Crimson Tide was still looking at a potential 45-yard field goal. Kicker Leigh Tiffin had made attempts of 31 and 27 yards in the game, but had also missed a 42-yard attempt and sent a kickoff out-of-bounds.

Alabama went back to Ingram, who after colliding with defensive tackle Nick Fairley for a 1-yard gain, signaled that he needed a replacement and limped off the field. He’s done for the night.

So the Crimson Tide looked to Richardson, who subsequently had the biggest gain of the drive with a 17-yard screen pass that’s aided by blocks by right guard Barrett Jones and Julio Jones. 

“It’s just like you draw it up,” McElroy said. “They brought strong pressure on the right side, and their D-line was getting more and more aggressive. Obviously, they could tell that we were getting into position that they didn’t like. They were trying to force us into a negative play. As a result they were bringing a little bit more heat, coming a little bit harder, they were penetrating the gaps a little bit stronger, and Coach Mac did a great play call in calling a screen to Trent – which is similar to what just happened against LSU. Short little screen pass called at the right time, executed perfectly.”

The backbreaking play gave Alabama first-and-goal at the Auburn 10, easily within field-goal range.

“I’m thinking we have a ton of time on the clock and I’m looking up at the board and I’m seeing it ticking, 2:30, 2:20 … the clock is really starting to get low,” McErloy said. “In the huddle, we’re thinking protect the ball, let’s give Leigh Tiffin a chance to win this thing.”

Richardson took a handoff up the middle for 4 yards, and Auburn called time out. He went over the left guard for 3 more, and again Gene Chizik stopped the clock.

The initial play sent in for third down was a run to get the ball to the middle of the field, but before the snap Saban signaled time out and called the whole offense over.

“We’re going to with a play-action pass,” he told McElroy.

“Shoot, that’s awesome,” was his response.

“Of course at the same time there’s this sense of nervousness that came over me, gave me a quick shiver, but I tell you what we had worked on that play for weeks. It’s something that we had talked about, greased it up and really cooked it for a long time, and the fact that we were finally about to pull it out, I knew it was going to be a hit for sure.

“So we called Roy over and said that we were about to run the Peter Pass Right X Corner, are you good with that? Bluff the end, get out to the flat and win with leverage.”

“He says, ‘We’re good. No problem.’”

“Roy Upchurch was about as excited as anyone, but if you looked in his eye he was the most laid-back, nonchalant -- without sounding negative -- very, very relaxed in a very tense situation.”

Alabama inserted massive nose tackle Terrence Cody at fullback, showing a formation it had never thrown out of. Left guard Mike Johnson pulled, Upchurch sold that he’s going to make a block until McElroy executed the fake and rolled out. With Upchurch getting a step on Thorpe, the play went off without a hitch to complete the 79-yard drive.

After the two-point conversion attempt failed, with Ricks picking off the pass and McElroy tackling the 6-foot-4, 292-pound defensive lineman, Auburn’s last-second desperation heave into the end zone was knocked down by senior safety Justin Woodall. Even though the Tigers had led all but 4:44 of the game, the scoreboard read Alabama 26, Auburn 21.

“That’s what it’s all about,” McElroy said. “That’s what you play for.”

Versions of this story was published in a 2012 Crimson Tide football game program, and then on the paysite BamaOnline when it was part of 247Sports


191. Jaylen Key, DB, 2023

• Seventh-round selection in 2024 NFL Draft

• Played final season at Alabama after transferring from UAB. He started 12 games and was credited with 60 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss, and had an interception and pass defended

192. Dominick Jackson, OL, 2014-15

• 2015 second-team All-SEC

• The junior-college transfer was primarily used as a blocking back in goal-line situations during his first season at Alabama.

• Primarily due to his run blocking, Jackson moved into the starting role at right tackle during his final season.

193. Shane Lee, ILB, 2019-21

Moved into the starting middle linebacker spot for Alabama following a season-ending injury to Dylan Moses, and appeared in 11 games. Led all SEC freshmen in tackles with 86 stops. Was named a FWAA Freshman All-American. Appeared in just five games as a sophomore before being sidelined with a sports hernia injury. Transferred out after playing just three games during the 2021 season.

194. Alphonse Taylor, G, 2013-16

Cracked the lineup at right guard, made 21 career starts (four in 2016) while playing in 40 career games

195. Travis McCall, TE, 2007-08

Was a defensive end who found the field as a tight end and played in nearly every game for the Crimson Tide over four years, two under the previous coach. Of his 24 catches for 224 career yards, he had 13 for 97 under Nick Saban. He was primarily used as a punishing lead blocker for the running game

196. Justin Woodall, FS, 2006-09

He was a two-year starter at free safety who was credited with 98 total tackles, including 2.5 for a loss, and three interceptions. He also scored a lot of points with Alabama fans for deciding to head to Tuscaloosa after being drafted out of high school by the New York Mets.

197. Leon Brown, OL, 2013-14

            Played at both tackle and guard for the Crimson Tide, but was a two-year starter at guard.

198. Keith Brown, WR, 2007

The wide receiver finished his college career with 1,863 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns, but only had 335 yards on 22 catches during his final season, albeit with five touchdowns

199. P.J. Fitzgerald, P, 2007-09

Was a four-year punter, three under Nick Saban. He set the Alabama career records for punts (238) and punting yards (9,485). He averaged 39.9 yards per punt. He also completed a pass during his final season and had a huge tackle of Florida’s Brandon James in the SEC Championship Game

200. Tim Keenan III, DT, 2022-23*

Won starting job in 2023. Had 39 tackles, including two for a loss and a sack, plus a pass defended.

Next up: 151-175


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Christopher Walsh

CHRISTOPHER WALSH

Christopher Walsh is the founder and publisher of BamaCentral, which first published in 2018. He's covered the Crimson Tide since 2004, and is the author of 26 books including Decade of Dominance, 100 Things Crimson Tide Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die, Nick Saban vs. College Football, and Bama Dynasty: The Crimson Tide's Road to College Football Immortality. He's an eight-time honoree of Football Writers Association of America awards and three-time winner of the Herby Kirby Memorial Award, the Alabama Sports Writers Association’s highest writing honor for story of the year. In 2022, he was named one of the 50 Legends of the ASWA. Previous beats include the Green Bay Packers, Arizona Cardinals and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, along with Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks. Originally from Minnesota and a graduate of the University of New Hampshire, he currently resides in Tuscaloosa.