A look at Alabama's revamped coaching staff: Coordinators
They say change is a good thing. At Alabama, it’s become an expectation. For the second straight year, Nick Saban has brought several new faces into Tuscaloosa, Ala., as the Crimson Tide opened up its spring camp with seven new assistants on its 10-man staff.
Even Alabama’s returning assistants aren’t exempt from the transformation. Pete Golding was promoted to defensive coordinator along with his duties in charge of inside linebackers. Karl Scott will still coach secondary, but will shift his focus exclusively to cornerbacks this season. Jeff Banks is the only assistant to keep his duties from last year. That’s probably a good thing considering he’ll be in charge of a paper-thin tight end room as well as a special teams unit full of its own uncertainties.
As for the newcomers, here’s the breakdown: Steve Sarkisian was brought in as the offensive coordinator and will also oversee the quarterbacks; Holman Wiggins will coach the receivers; Charles Huff will coach the running backs; Kyle Flood will coach the offensive line; Brian Baker will coach the defensive line; Sal Sunseri will coach the outside linebackers and Charles Kelly will coach the safeties.
After taking a week off for spring break, Alabama will return to the practice field Monday. Over the next three days, BamaInsider will break down the staff by looking at each assistant and his biggest question mark heading into the spring. We start today by examining the two coordinators.
Steve Sarkisian, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
The hiring of Sarkisian wasn't a popular decision. Alabama fans' last memory of him comes when he took over the offensive coordinator role during the 2017 national championship game after Lane Kiffin took the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic. In case you’ve forgotten, Alabama lost that game 35-31 after its offense went anemic for much of the second half.
Despite his failed first impression, Sarkisian is widely viewed as an offensive maestro. He served as the head coach at Washington and Southern Cal before joining Alabama and is coming off two years as the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator where his offense finished sixth in the league averaging 389.1 yards per game last season.
“I don't think it's fair to criticize when a guy takes over a job one week before a game and has to go try to implement something because the circumstance we were in,” Saban said last week. “He's, I think, a tremendous asset on our staff and we're very pleased and happy to have him. We had a whole list of people we went through to hire and I feel like we were really, really fortunate to get a guy that was offered the Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator job to come to Alabama and had a successful stint in the NFL.”
Biggest issue this spring: Starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa once described himself as “a kid in a candy shop” referring to Alabama’s multitude of weapons on offense. Sarkisian should be just as giddy to get his hands what could be the Crimson Tide’s best attack ever.
That being said, the blessing comes with somewhat of a curse. While Sarkisian has all the tools needed to be successful, it’s not exactly easy to improve on an offense that set records in several categories last season. Unlike last year, Alabama won’t have a separate coach to oversee quarterbacks. That means Sarkisian will have to continue to sculpt his Heisman finalist while balancing the rest of the Crimson Tide’s offense.
Biggest recruiting area: West Coast
Pete Golding, defensive coordinator/inside linebackers
One of the worst kept secrets from last season was Golding’s involvement in calling the defense. Even as a first-year assistant, he eventually supplanted former defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi as the year went on. A previous diamond in the rough, Golding has quickly become one of college football’s hottest young assistants and had plenty of callers vying to pry him away from Tuscaloosa this offseason.
With Golding steering the ship behind the scenes, Alabama finished No. 12 in scoring defense (18.1 points per game), and No. 16 in total defense (319.5 yards per game). Despite losing six starters this season, he returns more than enough talent to improve on those numbers this year.
Biggest issue this spring: Even with his involvement in play calling last season, Golding figures to have his hands full getting acclimated to his new defensive coordinator role. However, his biggest issue this spring might come as a positional coach as he looks to find a replacement for departing inside linebacker Mack Wilson — a player Saban tried desperately to retain this offseason.
Heading into camp, many felt sophomore Ale Kaho was the favorite to land the starting spot alongside Dylan Moses. Those expectations were tempered a bit by the linebacker’s mysterious absence during the opening practice followed by a vague explanation from Saban shortly after. The situation with Kaho seems to be sorted as sources told BamaInsider that he is expected to rejoin the team for its next practice Monday. Regardless, Golding needs to find and develop an answer at what will be a crucial spot on Alabama’s defense.
Biggest recruiting area: Louisiana and Mississippi