Keeping up with Alabama’s coaching changes

One of the biggest offseason story lines so far in college football has been the large amount of coaching turnover on Nick Saban’s staff since the loss to Clemson in the national title game. There have been plenty of rumors floating around, and while most coaches seem set (at least according to “sources”), there are still official announcements needed for some positions. It can be crazy keeping up with all of the potential names, so here is a handy guide to all of the coaching changes so far.

Offensive Coordinator

Outgoing: Mike Locksley (Head Coach at Maryland)
Expected Hire: Steve Sarkisian (former Atlanta Falcons OC)

This is maybe the most controversial hire for Nick Saban. Sarkisian was offensive coordinator for one game at Alabama, the 2016 national championship game in which Alabama fell to Clemson 35-31. In that game, Alabama put up 376 yards of offense (compared to Clemson’s 511) and was 2-of-15 on third downs. After that, he left for Atlanta where the offense fell from their powerful 2016 year, but then rebounded in 2018 to have the 6th best offensive output in the league.

Sarkisian has a decent pedigree, spending time as USC’s quarterbacks coach from 2001-2008 (with one year spent with the Raiders) where he helped mold quarterbacks like Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer and Mark Sanchez. From 2007-08 he was also the offensive coordinator with the Trojans. He spent time as head coach at Washington from 2009-13 where he coached Jake Locker and Keith Price before moving back to USC as head coach.

Sarkisian spent an entire season under Nick Saban as an offensive analyst before being thrown into the coordinator role before the championship game. His coaching lineage is similar to that of Lane Kiffin with a lot of their time being spent at USC under Pete Carroll and time spent with the Oakland Raiders and Alabama. With Lane Kiffin’s time at Alabama being looked at as very successful, many expect the same out of Sarkisian, despite the disappointment of the national championship loss.

The hire only had to be made because of Dan Enos leaving for Miami after being hired as coordinator for Alabama. He was previously the quarterbacks coach under Saban in 2018. Mike Locksley accepted the head coaching job at Maryland where he had two different coaching stints – first as running backs coach from 1997-2002 and then again as offensive coordinator under Randy Edsall from 2012-2015. He played football at Towson which is also located in Maryland.

Quarterbacks Coach

Outgoing: Dan Enos (OC at Miami)
Expected Hire: Steve Sarkisian

Because Sarkisian is also handling the quarterbacks on top of being offensive coordinator, that means there is still a 10th assistant coach that needs to be hired. The most likely option right now is another coach to help with the secondary (see below).

Dan Enos was set to be promoted to offensive coordinator once Locksley left for Maryland after the college football playoffs, but abruptly and surprisingly left one night to go to Miami.

Wide Receivers Coach

Outgoing: Josh Gattis (OC at Michigan)
Expected Hire: Holman Wiggins (former Virginia Tech WR coach)

No coach has been officially announced yet, but Wiggins did change his Twitter profile to say that he is now the wide receivers coach at Alabama. Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente announced the move as well:

“On behalf of our entire coaching staff, we appreciate the contributions that Holmon Wiggins has made to our program at Virginia Tech,” Fuente said in a statement. “I also appreciate the integral role he played in building our program at Memphis. We congratulate Coach Wiggins on taking the next step in his coaching journey. We wish he, Dominique and their wonderful family all the best at Alabama.”

Wiggins spend the last seven years coaching receivers for Fuente at both Memphis and Virginia Tech.

While Gattis was Co-Offensive Coordinator, it doesn’t look like Wiggins will be Co-OC, but there hasn’t been anything said one way or another.

Offensive Line Coach

Outgoing: Brent Key (OC at Georgia Tech)
Expected Hire: Kyle Flood (former Atlanta Falcons OL coach, Rutgers Head Coach)

When Flood was fired as Rutgers head coach in 2015, he sat out for the 2016 season before moving on to be the offensive line coach under Sarkisian in Atlanta. The Sark hire most likely is what led to Flood being hired. He went 27-24 in his four seasons at Rutgers, but also had many off the field issues plague his tenure including academic issues and a lack of oversight stemming from the arrests of several players. He spent over a decade at Rutgers as offensive line coach, offensive coordinator and then head coach. Flood is also represented by Jimmy Sexton, who is Nick Saban’s agent.

Brent Key leaves after three seasons with Alabama. Before that he spent over a decade at UCF coaching offensive line, tight ends, special teams, and eventually offensive coordinator. He also reportedly turned down the UAB head coaching job following the 2013 season. The Hewitt-Trussville product played at Georgia Tech in the late 90’s and worked there as a graduate assistant in 2001-02.

Defensive Coordinator

Outgoing: Tosh Lupoi (DL at Cleveland Browns)
Expected Hire: Pete Golding (promotion from Co-DC/ILB coach)

According to many people, Golding was calling the defense for most of the 2018 season anyway. He was a big name to potentially move on to Oklahoma as they needed a defensive coordinator, but that didn’t happen. Seems like he will stay put and be elevated to defensive coordinator now that Lupoi has left.

The interesting move was Lupoi moving down in positions (from coordinator to position coach) even though he was moving up to the NFL. He joins former Alabama quarterback Freddie Kitchens who was just hired as head coach of the Browns. Kitchens praised the hire at the Senior Bowl saying, “I’ve always heard great things about him from a buddy of mine, Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee. Coach Saban had great things to say about him. I think he is a hell of a coach. He has one of the best drill tapes I’ve ever seen. To see that translate into the actual game, you hardly ever see that. It did with Tosh.”

Outside Linebackers Coach

Outgoing: Tosh Lupoi
Expected Hire: Sal Sunseri (former Florida DL coach, Alabama OLB coach)

Sunseri will move in and coach the position group that Lupoi was coaching in addition to his coordinator duties. Sunseri has had stops at Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, LSU, Michigan State, Pittsburgh and with the Oakland Raiders and Carolina Panthers in the NFL. He is the father of Vinnie Sunseri who played safety for Alabama, spent time with the Saints and 49ers in the NFL and is now a graduate assistant at Alabama.

Defensive Line Coach

Outgoing: Craig Kuligowski (unknown)
Expected Hire: Brian Baker (former Mississippi State DL coach)

There have been reports that have said Kuligowski won’t return as Alabama’s defensive line coach, but he hasn’t left for another job officially. Multiple outlets are reporting that Baker will come in as an Alabama assistant. Baker led a defensive front that included Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons who could both be very high draft picks this year.

Other Positions

Running Backs Coach – Joe Pannunzio/Charles Huff

It should be noted that it’s been reported that Charles Huff will join the Alabama staff. He was previously the assistant head coach, run game coordinator and running backs coach at Mississippi State last season and according to Cecil Hurt there is a strong possibility that he will move into coaching running backs at Alabama with Pannunzio moving to an off the field role.

Huff also worked with Penn State when current Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead was the OC there. He recruited and coached All-American running back Saquon Barkley. He’s also worked at Vanderbilt, Maryland and with the Buffalo Bills.

Special Teams Coordinator/Tight Ends Coach – Jeff Banks

Expected to be the same as Banks heads into his second year.

Defensive Backs Coach – Karl Scott/Charles Kelly

Although Karl Scott is expected to remain on the staff and coach the secondary, there could be another addition coming in to help with the secondary since Alabama still needs a 10th assistant. The expected hire is Charles Kelly who recently coached defensive backs and was the special teams coordinator for Tennessee but also coached at Florida State, Georgia Tech, Jacksonville State and more. He also played defensive back at Auburn.

The thought is that Kelly could coach safeties while Scott coaches cornerbacks. There could be a potential co-defensive coordinator tag for Kelly as well.

Other – Butch Jones

There is still the possibility for Butch Jones to have a full time on the field role, but since none of these hires have been made official yet, we won’t know exactly how things will be handled. Teams can have 10 on-field assistants and as of right now it seems like this could be the 10-coach lineup:

– Steve Sarkisian (OC/QB)
– Charles Huff (RB)
– Kyle Flood (OL)
– Holman Wiggins (WR)
– Jeff Banks (ST/TE)
– Pete Golding (DC/ILB)
– Karl Scott (DB/S)
– Charles Kelly (DB/CB)
– Sal Sunseri (OLB)
– Brian Baker (DL)

So we’ll see if there are indeed two defensive backs coaches on the team when the announcements are made official. Butch Jones is an offensive coach who has been a running backs and wide receivers coach before, along with offensive coordinator and head coach. The only reason it’s been mentioned that Jones could move into an on-field role is because after being rumored for a position on Locksley’s staff at Maryland, it was then reported that Jones was staying put at Alabama.

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