Come Friday, No. 1 Alabama gets another chance to prove it is the best team in the country when it faces Notre Dame in the Rose Bowl, being played in Arlington, Texas. But on Monday, the talent gap between the Crimson Tide and the competition was again made clear, with six Alabama players named Associated Press First Team All-Americans.
No other program earned more than two selections.
Heisman Trophy finalists Mac Jones and DeVonta Smith were joined by running back Najee Harris, tackle Alex Leatherwood, cornerback Patrick Surtain II and center Landon Dickerson, who is out following knee surgery. The inclusion of Jones, Smith and Harris makes Alabama the first team to have a quarterback, running back and wide receiver all receive first-team honors since the AP’s current format was created in 1980.
No. 3 Ohio State and No. 4 Notre Dame each earned two selections. Buckeyes lineman Wyatt Davis and cornerback Shaun Wade were honored, as well as Fighting Irish lineman Aaron Banks and linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.
The highest-paid assistant in college football met expectations.
Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was named the Broyles Award winner, given to the top assistant coach in the country. In his second full season leading the offense, the Crimson Tide averaged 49.7 points per game. The 46-year-old also filled in as interim head coach in a 42-13 Iron Bowl win over Auburn, while Nick Saban quarantined with a COVID-19 infection.
Sarkisian, the former USC and Washington head coach, earns $2.5 million per season as Saban’s top lieutenant. He recently turned down an interview opportunity for Auburn’s open head-coaching position.
“Sark’s done an outstanding job in terms of system and scheme, how he teaches the players,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said Monday. “He’s contributed as much as anybody that we’ve ever had here in terms of his knowledge and experience.”
Other finalists for the award included BYU offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes, Cincinnati defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman, Indiana defensive coordinator Kane Wommack and Northwestern defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz.
Saban hasn’t shut the door on Jaylen Waddle returning from an ankle injury this season, but the window is quickly closing on the electric wide receiver.
Waddle, who hasn’t played since fracturing his ankle against Tennessee on Oct. 24, still hasn’t returned to practice.
“He’s coming along,” Saban said. “He’s doing dry-land running. Still working to try to get back. He is making progress. We’re happy to see him be able at least go out there and do some running and do some things, but he’s not back in practice yet.”
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