Alabama football coach Nick Saban knows plenty about Rock Hill, S.C., just across the state border from here.
That’s due in part to the time he and his staff spent transfixed on former South Pointe High star Jadeveon Clowney.
Before taking the SEC by storm at South Carolina, Clowney was recruited vigorously by Saban and his staff. Clowney visited Alabama in early 2011 but ultimately decided to be a Gamecock. Now, the defensive end may be less than two weeks away from becoming the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s NFL draft.
“We thought he was the best player in the country when he was a senior in high school and had lots of opportunities to watch him play and certainly feel like he’s one of the best players in the country,” Saban said.
“I feel like he’ll be a great professional player. I’d like to see somebody in our league be in the first pick in the draft, and I think he has a great opportunity to do that.”
Saban was in Charlotte Thursday night to speak to Alabama fans, supporters and alumni as part of the Crimson Caravan at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Saban also praised USC coach (Steve) Spurrier, saying Spurrier “has done a great job at South Carolina and they’ve had a great success.”
Charlotte was one of about 10 stops planned for Saban this offseason after an 11-2 season and a Sugar Bowl appearance.
“We recruited both North and South Carolina, and I know this is close to the border and there have been some really good players close by here, and in this area as well,” Saban said. “Because this is a little bit ACC country, and the SEC is a little different league in terms of the competition and the exposure that a lot of players get, I think this is an opportunity that we like to extend to guys in this area, and we’ve had several guys from this area come over and visit us.”
Saban’s Alabama roster is filled with talent from Alabama, Florida, Texas and Georgia, but only one player from last year’s team cited his home state as North Carolina.
Saban sells exposure to his recruits. Alabama has won three of the past five national titles, and rarely is the Crimson Tide not playing on national television on Saturdays in the fall.
“I think from top to bottom, the national exposure that the SEC gets,” Saban said, “and the national interest that we have is something that creates a lot of value for our players – having more All-Americans, more guys drafted, more teams in the Top 10. I think all these things are things that appeal to young players now.”