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WILL SABAN FORCE PROTHRO OUT?

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Nick Saban boasts a well-earned reputation as a recruiting addict--the kind of guy who shows up in Barrow, Alaska with fuel for the winter and three freshly killed seals to talk to a promising Inuit fullback.

Saban's impact at Alabama has already been apparent. The leisurely pace of recruiting under Shula (who to be fair wasn't a totally retarded recruiter, and generally did well enough) is no more, replaced instead by a flurry of sleep-deprived activity. When you pay the equivalent of the GDP of Laos for a coach, you should expect something on the scale of what Saban's laying down right now.

Herr Saban also may face another, stickier problem with long-term PR implications in the form of Alabama's Barbaro: Tyrone Prothro. Warp-fast and wicked prior to the most disgusting injury we've ever seen in person in football, Prothro just underwent his fourth surgery on the leg. His prospects of playing football looking very, very spotty at best, Prothro still occupies a precious scholarship spot along with Alabama defensive end Ezekial Knight.

This would present few problems if Alabama fans didn't hold such powerful feelings for Prothro, who became a veritable football martyr when his leg shattered during the Tide's 31-3 victory over Florida in 2005. (Damn you, Demeco Ryans, you rabid tackling warthog of a man.) Saban could withdraw the scholarship; he could let Prothro sit and avoid the issue altogether. Saban has already allowed the 15 Shula commits stay; letting the medical redshirts inherited from his predecessor eats up two more precious roster slots.

For a guy with the cold venus flytrap brain-thing all Belichick assistants seem to have, the marginal utility decision seems clear: revoke both scholarships and go. Marginal utility theorists, though, make wretched PR guys.

Prothro: pre-disastrous stroke of malignant fate.