Stephen's Report

Tosh Lupoi should be Tide’s answer at DC with Jeremy Pruitt leaving for Tennessee

Mark J. Rebilas - USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Pruitt’s second stint at the University of Alabama has been good one, seeing how he’s coached a defense to 83 sacks, 198 tackles for loss, 131 quarterback hurries, 108 pass breakups, 39 total turnovers – 31 interceptions, eight fumble recoveries – and 12 defensive touchdowns. 

Under his leadership, the Crimson Tide allowed 12.3 points per game and 260 yards of total offense in combining last season and this campaign. With multiple reports cycling around on Pruitt taking the head coach position at the University of Tennessee, the most logical move for Nick Saban is to advance co-defensive coordinator Tosh Lupoi as the head man on defense. 

Alabama hired Lupoi on staff in 2014, following his time spent working at University of California, Berkley and University of Washington. After proving his leadership as a defensive recruiting intern, Saban hired Lupoi to be an on-field assistant prior to the start of the 2015 season. 

In three years, he has coached outside linebackers to 98 tackles for loss, 201 quarterback hurries and 53.5 sacks. When calculating percentages for all three categories, Lupoi efforts make up for 39 percent of sacks, 36 percent of quarterback hurries and 32 percent of tackles for loss. 

Lupoi’s at OLB coach (2015-present) 

Team sacks = 137 

OLB sacks = 53.5 

Total percentage = 39% 

Team tackles for loss = 306 

OLB tackles for loss = 98 

Total percentage = 32% 

Team quarterback hurries = 201 

OLB quarterback hurries = 72 

Total percentage = 36% 

Something to keep in mind is that Lupoi was the reason behind former Alabama standouts Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson getting selected as high as they did in this year’s NFL Draft. 

During the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Anderson collected 30.5 tackles for loss and 15 sacks while Williams turned in 28.5 tackles for loss and 19.5 sacks. Coming from the West Coast, Lupoi has perfected his recruiting tactics.

He earned the Southeastern Conference’s Recruiter of the Year award for his work in being a factor in the Tide landing quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, running back Najee Harris, linebacker Dylan Moses and linebacker Chris Allen for the 2017 class. 

Should one bring up Lupoi’s character both on and off the field, all outside linebackers – including Jamey Mosley – truly value and appreciate what he does as a coach. 

“Tosh teaches us a lot,” Mosley said of Lupoi after Alabama secured a 54-16 win over Florida in last season’s Southeastern Conference title game. “The guy is a very smart guy. He is very personable and he is very easy to get along with. He loves us and we love him back.” 

On daily walks to Thomas Drew Field to cover football practices, it is a preconceived idea that Saban is the most intense coach on the field. However, if you spend more time on the defensive side, you will notice a 36-year-old yelling and teaching with a sense of passion and urgency. 

Now that he’s been at Alabama for three years, there would not be a terrible drop-off between he and Pruitt if it came to Lupoi running the defense in the College Football Playoff.  

Pruitt is trying to get it worked out in his deal to coach the Tide through the playoff, before heading to Tennessee and assuming head coaching duties. Kirby Smart was the latest to pull this endeavor and it ended up helping Alabama win a national championship, while preparing him to be an SEC Coach of the Year at Georgia this season – guiding the Bulldogs to a conference title. 

Regardless of Saban desires to say “this team handles things internally,” this is a decision that must be made from the inside – especially with the coaching carousel at an all-time high. 

For those that remember, Smart took Mel Tucker (former Tide DB coach) to Georgia with him after accepting the job. Right now, nothing would stop Pruitt from eyeing Lupoi as his option at defensive coordinator for the Volunteers. To prevent bringing someone else in that players are not familiar with, it would behoove Saban to advance Lupoi to DC and keep the train rolling. 

Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @Smsmith_TDALMag.

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