Breakdown: Nick Saban overhauls entire Alabama coaching staff, but is it better?
An assistant-by-assistant look at changes Saban made to the Tide's staff ahead of 2018
Nick Saban is one of the best coaches in the history of college football. The national championships tell the story. So too does the NFL Draft and the top ranked recruiting classes. He operates with unparalleled consistency. But what makes that success all the more impressive is that he does it with massive coaching turnover. At offensive coordinator alone, he's had five coaches in the past seven years and has still picked up four national titles.
This season, Saban's management will be tested as much as ever before. Among his 10 assistant coaching spots, nine coaches will take on new roles for Alabama. Six of those coaches are new to the Alabama coaching staff altogether. Only offensive line coach Brent Key enters the 2018 season with the same role as the year prior.
With the official announcement of the new staff coming Thursday, we analyze each move below.
|Offensive coordinator||Brian Daboll||Mike Locksley||--|
|On the surface, this move would appear to be a downgrade, losing an NFL coordinator for a guy that was a titular analyst just two seasons ago. But you could make a strong argument that given its offensive talent (and given the quarterback that was sitting on the bench all year), the offense underachieved. Sometimes the NFL model just doesn't translate as well on the college level. When he was the offensive coordinator at Illinois, Lockley's unit improved in yards per play each of his four seasons, so he's proven to be capable. He also provides a clear upgrade in recruiting. With a downgrade in coaching and an upgrade in recruiting, we'll call this a push.|
|Defensive coordinator||Jeremy Pruitt||Tosh Lupoi|
|Lupoi is one of the best recruiters in college football, but he's replacing a defensive coordinator in Pruitt who presided over two national title defenses for two different programs. Pruitt happens to be a pretty good recruiter in his own right as well. The three years that Lupoi has coached under Saban is the same apprenticeship Kirby Smart had before being promoted to coordinator, so Lupoi may be a star in time but there's no way to paint this as anything but a step back from Pruitt.|
|ST coordinator / TEs||Joe Pannunzio||Jeff Banks|
|Jeff Banks comes to Alabama with a reputation as an elite recruiter. But don't sleep on Joe Pannunzio in that world. All he did in the 2018 cycle is go down to south Florida and land the nation's No. 1 cornerback in Pat Surtain Jr. and another college ready DB in Josh Jobe. But Banks is 42 and Pannunzio is 58. From a trajectory standpoint, we'll call this an upgrade but it's hard to call this decisive either way.|
|Quarterbacks||Brian Daboll||Dan Enos|
|This one is tough. Enos produced three 3,000-yard seasons with Ryan Radcliffe as the coach at Central Michigan and recruited current NFL quarterback Cooper Rush to the MAC. As offensive coordinator at Arkansas, he took Bret Bielema out of a run-heavy offense into a quarterback-friendly scheme where he put up big numbers with the Allen brothers. But what good did that do Bielema as he sits in the unemployment line? Daboll has a strong offensive background but is less quarterback-focused than Enos. We'll call this an upgrade from a quarterback development standpoint with the expectation that Saban doesn't let things get too pass happy in Tuscaloosa.|
|Inside linebackers||Jeremy Pruitt||Pete Golding|
|Golding looks like a good hire for Saban. Despite coming from a smaller program in UTSA, he has a fantastic reputation within the coaching community, and he was going to have plenty of other opportunities. That said, there really is no comparison bringing in a guy getting his first taste of SEC competition to replace the new coach of the Tennessee Vols.|
|Defensive line||Karl Dunbar||Craig Kuligowski|
| When hired, Dunbar's resume was primarily NFL-related. As you would expect with that background, he was merely serviceable as a recruiter. When Alabama's defensive line didn't dominate the way it typically does, it became clear that a change was possible. In Kuligowski, Alabama doesn't backfill with some recruiting ace, but it does get one of the best evaluators and developers at the position in college football. At Missouri, Kuligowski produced five first-round draft picks despite rarely being able to battle for five-star talents. Before he got to Miami, the Canes were 96th in the country in tackles for loss. It finished in the top 10 each of his two seasons there. |
|Defensive backs||Derrick Ansley||Karl Scott|
|Like Golding, Scott brings a strong reputation as a young up-and-comer in the coaching ranks but he replaces one of the strengths of Alabama's previous staff. Ansley brought a great recruiting reputation with him from Kentucky when he arrived at Alabama and lived up to that. He left Alabama with plenty of opportunities and opted for the NFL.|
|Wide receivers||Mike Locksley||Josh Gattis|
|Alabama has one of the most talented young receiver groups in college football and during the 2017 season it was being coached by a guy in Locksley that was coaching the position for the first time in his career. In Gattis, Saban added one of the nation's best developers at the position. Gattis helped turn two-star receiver Jordan Matthews into a second-round pick out of Vanderbilt. In four years at Penn State, he produced three of the top-seven seasons for receiving yards in school history, and he presided over Penn State's all-time leading receiver in DaeSean Hamilton. Gattis is also highly-regarded as a recruiter.|
|Running backs||Burton Burns||Joe Pannunzio|
| Nobody in college football has a better resume producing running backs than Burns at Alabama. As a former high school coach in New Orleans and a Louisiana native, he's also been a huge thorn in the side of LSU by stealing some of Louisiana's best like Landon Collins, Tim Williams and more recently Devonta Smith. As noted above, Pannunzio is no slouch in recruiting, but he's never coached running backs and Burns leaves huge shoes to fill. The hires of Scott, Golding and even Banks should help soften the recruiting blow from Burns getting off the trail given the depth of experience those three have in the state of Louisiana. Still, Burns' production on the field will be hard to replace. |
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