Mark Clark: CH-CH-CH-CH-Changes coming to Crimson Tide
And the Alabama Offensive Coordinator’s and Defensive Coordinator’s merry-go-round keeps on turning, so what else is new?
Earlier this week, Alabama Crimson Tide Offensive Coordinator Brian Daboll joined Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt as one of the next high profile coaches to leave a Nick Saban staff. What gives? Nothing. This is always expected by Saban because he hires coaches that can improve themselves and move on.
Well, most of them, anyway.
In the case of one-game loser Steve Sarkisian, it was a rehab job and then a slap on the back as he headed to the Atlanta Falcons – where he was not a whole lot better. Let me take that back. Sarkisian called the play that got Alabama the lead with about two minutes to play and it was the Crimson Tide defense that failed to stop Clemson’s final drive for the title. In that short of a time span, Jalen Hurts went from being the newest legend of Crimson Tide lore to just a very good player who almost made the grade.
This will be the first time since 2008 that Saban will have to replace both of his lead coordinators at the same time. In 2008, Kirby Smart – the guy he beat for this year’s National Championship – replaced Kevin Steele, who remained with the staff as linebackers coach. Jim McElwain replaced Major Applewhite, who has gone from the youngest offensive coordinator in Division 1-A to head coach at the University of Houston.
Who will be the next offensive coordinator at Alabama? Who knows, only Nick Saban. He might have already selected the guy before I finished writing this column. It would not be much of a surprise if that happened. He always seems to be a couple of steps ahead of everyone else in the coaching business. Those who doubt the man is the greatest coach in the game today are just haters and jealous – six national title rings prove that as fact.
There may be some obvious choices for his next offensive coordinator, but he had not tipped his hand earlier this week as people were speculating on his choice. Could the next “Os” guy be McElwain, the only guy he has employed in the slot to win two national championships? McElwain is looking for a job after being canned by Florida. How about Doug Nussmeier, who won the 2012 national title under Saban? Those would be two good choices. And, of course, there is Mike Locksley, this past season’s co-offensive coordinator. He is the former head coach at Maryland and not a bad choice at all.
The one thing that has been continuous under Saban during his tenure at Alabama has been change. Each offensive coordinator has been different. There have been no rehires to the position. I really do not expect one this time. Change has been what has made Alabama difficult to defend over the years.
The coaches out there that would be considered a gamble to most and a rehab project for Saban include guys like Hugh Freeze, Matt Canada, Butch Davis, Bret Bielema, Tee Martin, Tony Elliott, Chip Long, Dan Enos, George Godsey and Jedd Fisch.
My guess – and that is what it is, a guess – for the position is Mike Locksley.
On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Saban has had three defensive coordinators during his time at Alabama. The offense may evolve and make others worry about what to expect, but the defense has been steady over the years. Yes, Alabama makes changes – they call them adjustments – during games, but the defense is basically the same each year. The defense is there to stop Alabama’s opponents.
Kevin Steele was the first defensive coordinator under Saban at Alabama in 2007. The team was 7-6 and Steele was moved to coaching linebackers when Kirby Smart was given the defensive coordinator’s position which he held from 2008 until 2015. He was a part of four national championship teams before leaving to become head coach at Georgia. Jeremy Pruitt took over for two seasons and Alabama played for the national title twice. They lost to Clemson with what many believed to be the Crimson Tide’s best defense ever and won the title this year with a defense plagued with injuries. His last game with Alabama was the national title game against Georgia which the Tide won in overtime 26-23. He now heads to Tennessee as head coach. Who will replace Pruitt?
Alabama’s co-defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi may be the guy. Before this season began, Lupoi was given a raise of almost double his previous salary and the co-defensive coordinator title. Others who might have a shot at the job include – maybe – Todd Graham, Kevin Sherrer and Mel Tucker.
My pick – again, another guess – is Tosh Lupoi.
Saban has had plenty of time to make his choice for defensive coordinator, so that may already be a done deal. Daboll’s departure may have been anticipated and a potential candidate already in negotiations. We will all just have to wait to see who the guys are that get the jobs. If you dare, go straight to the horse’s mouth for the answer. He might be sneaking around somewhere this week close by – or you may already be too late to ask.
Mark Clark is a local sports writer for
The Citizen of East Alabama.