New Alabama Coaches Will Make Spring Debut
Coaches are always coming and going in the college football circuit, and Alabama is certainly not immune to these changes. Nick Saban has had to replace at least one new assistant coach every season since he was hired in 2007.
This season was no different as Alabama had to find someone to take over for inside linebackers coach Kevin Steele and outside linebackers coach Lance Thompson. Steele was lured away by Les Miles to become LSU's new defensive coordinator, while Thompson decided to join Auburn's coaching staff as their new linebackers coach. Saban shifted his coaching staff around before finding replacements. Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who coached the Tide's secondary during the 2014 season, will go back to coaching inside linebackers.
Saban wasted no time in hiring Mel Tucker to be the team's newest secondary coach. Tucker got his start in coaching as a graduate assistant under Nick Saban at Michigan State. From 2008-2014, he served as the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Chicago Bears.
“I’ve known Mel for almost 20 years going back to Michigan State when I hired him as a graduate assistant,” Saban said after hiring Tucker. “He is an outstanding coach all the way around and really does an excellent job in terms of teaching the players. When you look at his college and NFL experience, his resume is very impressive, and he’ll be a positive addition to our defensive staff."
Tucker inherits a secondary that is need of an overhaul. Last season, Alabama allowed 226 passing yards per game, which is more than any other year in the Saban era. To make matters worse, he must begin the rebuilding process without All-American safety Landon Collins along with safeties Jarrick Williams and Nick Perry.
Fortunately, Tucker has plenty of talent to comb through as spring practice begins. Veterans Eddie Jackson, Bradley Sylve, Cyrus Jones, Geno Smith, and Maurice Smith return much needed experience to the secondary. Tony Brown, Marlon Humphrey, Hootie Jones, and Ronnie Clark will have the opportunity to develop under Tucker for the next few seasons as Alabama looks to return to dominant form.
Coaching ability is obviously a crucial part of hiring a new coach. However, recruiting ability is considered just as important, which is why the loss of Lance Thompson was a bit of concern. Saban's promotion of Tosh Lupoi from a defensive analyst to the new outside linebackers coach helped those concerns go away.
Lupoi was the defense line coach for California from 2008-2011 where he was their ace recruiter. He was named Recruiter of the Year in 2010 by Rivals.com and later named the new defensive line coach for Washington before NCAA allegations put him in hot water. He came to Tuscaloosa prior to the 2014 season where Saban brought him in as an intern.
Lupoi's recruiting ability will greatly benefit the Tide, but he must first turn his attention to his new on-field position. He - like every other Alabama coach - has a slew of talent to work with and develop. Ryan Anderson and Denzel Devall are the key returning starters, while Tim Williams, Dillon Lee, Rashaan Evans, and Christian Miller will likely stay in the rotation. Lupoi will need to prove himself as he prepares to coach in the toughest conference against the toughest players.
Coaches, just like players, have to learn new systems and schools in the constantly turning coaching carousel. Saban has never disappointed when bringing in new faces to the program, so Tucker and Lupoi should prove to be valuable assets to the team.