北京pk10彩票官网 www.bjn98.com The calendar is always filled, 18 months out, with the daily details that ensure a smooth “Process.” But it’s just possible Nick Saban has added a note to self, a reminder inked into the early months of the offseason:
Maybe you’ve heard, Alabama’s coaching roster has completely turned over in the last two years. The Crimson Tide begins spring practice Friday with plenty of returning star power, as always – what can Tua Tagovailoa do for an encore? – but without a single assistant coach who was in place for the 2016 season. In the two months since Alabama’s 44-16 loss to Clemson in the College Football Playoff national championship game, seven new assistants have been hired.
What gives? Let’s start here, with an assessment from afar:
“The sky isn’t falling,” says Oregon coach Mario Cristobal – and given his experience as an Alabama assistant from 2013-16, he should know.
Yes, the exodus began almost immediately after a four-touchdown loss. Some coaches left for better jobs. But others just moved on, and still others were no doubt firmly nudged toward the door.
The staff makeover was at least in part a shakeup. And regardless of how or why they left, it adds up to a radically revamped staff lineup.
But here’s part of Cristobal’s point, and it’s a good one: As assistants come and go, two important constants remain: Saban and the best players.
“I mean, have you seen that roster?” Cristobal asks – but of course the question is rhetorical. “It looks like Jurassic Park: one after another after another. It’s impressive.”
And it’s why the idea of Alabama sliding too far because of the staff changes seems overblown. Yeah, it appeared the Crimson Tide was outcoached and outmaneuvered by Clemson in the national championship game. In retrospect, all of that unprecedented offense in 2018 – Tua Tagovailoa distributing the football to all those dangerous playmakers, touchdown after touchdown after touchdown – helped to disguise a defense that, by ‘Bama standards, was pedestrian. Some of the decline could be attributed to an inexperienced secondary, and to the annual early exodus of players to the NFL, which might finally have had an impact.
But all Alabama has done since the loss (and since the departure of the assistant coaches) is compile yet another No. 1 overall recruiting class. The roster remains chock-full of former five-stars and future NFL stars.
Likewise, Saban isn’t going anywhere. He will coach his 13th season at Alabama next fall. He’ll turn 68 midway through (yes, on Halloween). Alabama will be among the prohibitive favorites to win its sixth national title in his tenure. If the Tide falls short? The standard has been set so high that a 14-1 record and a loss in the national championship game, followed by the departure of several assistants, is seen as reason for concern.
“To me, the way coach Saban has built that program, that will continue to be strong because of the principles it’s built on,” Cristobal says. “Truths and recipes that have stood the test of time for a long, long time, right?”
And among the underrated hallmarks of the Tide’s dynasty has been Saban’s willingness to adjust. Defense. Offense. And yes, coaching staffs: since 2015, 20 assistants have left the program.
For the second consecutive year, Alabama has had to replace its offensive and defensive coordinators. Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley became Maryland’s head coach (joining former Crimson Tide defensive coordinators Kirby Smart and Jeremy Pruitt and former offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin in making the move to head coach in recent years).
“It’s a product of success,” says Louisiana-Lafayette coach Billy Napier, who was an Alabama analyst in 2011 and an on-field assistant from 2013-17. “Obviously, he’s produced numerous head coaches. … Everybody wants the secret sauce.”
But Tosh Lupoi, who was elevated a year ago to defensive coordinator, is now the Cleveland Browns’ defensive line coach. Josh Gattis, who’d been Alabama’s co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach – and like Lupoi, has a reputation as an aggressive young recruiter – is now Michigan’s offensive coordinator. But Dan Enos, who was Alabama’s quarterbacks coach in 2018 and appeared set to succeed Locksley as offensive coordinator, instead left for the same role at Miami (Fla.).
(It’s worth considering whether some of the turnover is partly course correction of some iffy hires and promotions after the 2017 season).
“Some guys don’t want to deal with the pressure,” says Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher, who coached for Saban at LSU. “Some guys don’t want to deal with responsibility. And I’m sure at times he may want some guys to leave.”
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“When new people come into your place, you end up having to coach your coaches,” Fisher says. “You’ve got to get them to understand how you want things. Everybody just thinks, ‘Well, a guy comes in and just coaches.’ No, he coaches linebackers the way it is in our system. … As a head coach, you’ve got to coach your coaches. And I think from that standpoint, I think it can be very draining.”
In that vein, it’s notable that several of the new hires already have more than passing familiarity with the Process. Steve Sarkisian, hired as offensive coordinator, spent the 2016 season as an Alabama analyst (and was offensive coordinator for the 2017 national championship game after Kiffin’s premature exit). Sal Sunseri, who’ll coach outside linebackers, was an assistant from 2009-11.
A couple of other new hires have tangential connections. Charles Kelly was an assistant on Fisher’s Florida State staff from 2013-17; he spent last season at Tennessee with former Alabama assistant Jeremy Pruitt. Even former Houston coach Major Applewhite, hired as an analyst/support position, was the Tide’s offensive coordinator in 2007, Saban’s first year at Alabama.
Saban poached two coaches (running backs coach Charles Huff and defensive line coach Brian Baker) from Mississippi State. Former Rutgers coach Kyle Flood will coach the offensive line; receivers coach Holmon Wiggins coached the same position at Virginia Tech.
“A lot of them are recycled,” Fisher says. “ ‘Sark’ knows who (Saban) is. Sal knows who he is. Charles Kelly worked for me, OK? And he was with Jeremy, so he was in the same (philosophical system). … More than half or more are guys that understand (Saban).”
But it all adds up to a radically different staff. And it remains to be seen whether the constant coaching change has an adverse impact. Sarkisian will be the Crimson Tide’s fourth offensive coordinator in four seasons. Pete Golding, who was hired a year ago from Texas-San Antonio with a reputation as an aggressive young mind, moves up to defensive coordinator and becomes the Tide’s third in as many seasons.
“I think sometimes the turnover, people look at it from a panic situation,” says Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain, who was Alabama’s offensive coordinator from 2008-11. “… You hate to lose guys, no matter what. One of the hardest things as a head coach is the hiring piece and making sure the pieces fit together and work together. And yet it’s also an opportunity to bring in new thoughts and new ideas and get better.”
Which brings up this question: How much better, really, does ‘Bama need to be? Put another way: If Alabama had beaten Clemson – or lost, say, by seven points – would the subsequent coaching attrition have seemed so consequential?
“If they’d won the championship game, everybody would be seeing it from a positive perspective,” Napier says. “They happened to not play their best ball of the year and got beat. … One thing I would tell you is that it’s not going anywhere.
“Alabama has been a contender, and they’ll continue to be as long as Nick’s running the show.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nick Saban overhauled his coaching staff, but Alabama success should continue