Assistants that work under Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban eventually get noticed. It happened for Jim McElwain, Doug Nussemier and now, Kevin Steele. Louisiana State University got the deal done Tuesday, as head coach Les Miles hired Steele to be LSU’s defensive coordinator. Steele replaces John Chavis, who was the Tigers defensive mind for six seasons (2009-14). LSU posted a 61-18 record under Chavis, including a Southeastern Conference title (2011) and appearances in six bowl games. He’s placed 19 individuals in the National Football League.
Kevin Steele was nomadic, prior to finding his holy grail in Nebraska. He worked with Tennessee, New Mexico State, Florida State and Oklahoma State as an assistant coach. He arrived in Lincoln, Neb., in 1989 as a linebackers coach, and helped Tom Osborne build a powerhouse. Under Osborne, Steele guided the Cornhuskers to a 60-11 record, six bowl game appearances, four conference titles and a national championship in 1994.
The NFL noticed Steele’s success. Carolina Panthers’ head coach Dom Capers hired Steele as a linebackers coach in 1995. His tough-minded demeanor took effect, and Carolina reached the NFC Championship Game in 1996. Steele’s ride with Carolina came to an end in 1998. A heated debated fueled between Steele and linebacker Kevin Greene. Greene grabbed Steele by his clothing, yet he didn’t retaliate. It was a publicized event, but Steele kept it classy. He harbors no harsh feelings toward Greene.
“Football is an emotional, aggressive game,” Steele said to the Washington Post. “Those guys are out there fighting. Kevin is a good person. We’ve talked about it and worked it out. That’s all I have to say about it.”
Baylor granted Steele an opportunity to be its head coach in 1999. The move didn’t pan out well. Baylor won one Big 12 conference game, and finished at 9-36 in four seasons under Steele.
Steele’s work at Nebraska and Carolina preceded him to Tuscaloosa. He was Alabama’s defensive coordinator in 2007 and an associate head coach in 2008. Alabama’s defense vastly improved from 2007 to 2008. It allowed 13.0 points and 256.9 yards in Steele’s second season. The Crimson Tide notched 12 wins, an SEC title game appearance and a Sugar Bowl appearance in 2008. More room opened for Kirby Smart as Steele left for Clemson in 2009.
Offensive coordinators Billy Napier (2009-10) and Chad Morris (2011-present) put in double duty to keep Clemson afloat. 2010 was its lone poor season with Steele record wise, but Clemson’s defense struggled in all four seasons under Steele.
|Clemson’s defense under Kevin Steele (DC/LBs)
Steele returned to Tuscaloosa in 2013 as Alabama’s director of player personnel. The Crimson Tide went 11-2, including a 45-31 loss to Oklahoma in the 2014 Sugar Bowl. Steele witnessed C.J. Mosley be selected as a first-round pick. He guided Adrian Hubbard and Tana Patrick to an NFL career. 2014 saw Steele return to the field as Alabama’s linebackers coach.
Trey DePriest had a productive senior season, and Reggie Ragland exceeded expectations under Steele. Alabama’s defense excelled against run, prior to its matchup against Ohio State. The Crimson Tide finished 2014 as SEC champions. Steele was instrumental in recruiting five-star running back Damien Harris to Alabama. Alabama posted a 42-12 record during Steele’s four-year tenure.
LSU obtains a solid recruiter in Steele, as the Tigers look to regain its swagger in the SEC West. It finished 8-5 in 2014, but Les Miles said he is happy to have Steele on his staff.
“This is a great hire for us,” Miles said. “Kevin has had a very successful coaching career, one that has seen him coach alongside some of the top coaches in the game. He is a great defensive mind and is an outstanding recruiter. He knows our players and our system and his knowledge of the SEC and the SEC Western Division makes him a great fit.”
So where does Alabama go from here? Many names have been thrown into the conversation, but Nick Saban has yet to make a decision. Bill Clark, head coach of UAB football, is one of the names in the pot. The Blazers are thinking about reinstating its program. Ed Oregeron could be a possible candidate. He turned Southern California around as its interim head coach, after Lane Kiffin was dismissed. Oregeron guided USC to six wins, and it finished the 2013 regular season at 9-4. Alabama could move Kirby Smart to the linebackers and bring in a defensive backs coach, but the ball is in Saban’s court. A decision will be made soon enough.