Alabama in the Nick Saban era has more often than not, been treated as a one year rehab or step-up program for head coach creation in college football. No other team in the country has more turnover on his staff than Saban and no one has had more success with different assistants as well.
As recently as two years ago, Saban was tasked to replace a total of five assistants heading into the 2019 season which included both the offensive and defensive coordinators. But 2020 has been much different for the five-time national champion, in the offseason the Crimson Tide saw one assistant leave its staff in defensive line coach Brian Baker who was replaced by Freddie Roach.
Other than that, Alabama has the exact same coaching staff from last season and the continuity is showing.
On the offensive side of the football especially, Alabama looked extremely prepared against Missouri on Saturday and executed a strong gameplan from play-caller Steve Sarkisian.
Sarkisian was one of the team’s assistants who did get head coaching looks in the offseason but instead opted to stay with Saban and try and bring home a championship this season.
“I was coming off of my two-year stint at [Atlanta]. I had already left coach Saban once in 2016 and I just felt like the timing wasn’t right,” said Sarkisian about turning down head coaching jobs back in August. “He’s been too good to me. Alabama’s been too good to me. I love these players. The administration had been tremendous so all in all, we’ve got a lot left to accomplish. For me personally, this just felt like the right thing at the right time.
“This is where I need to be right now in my life. I’m with a really good mentor. I learn so much every single day and it’s a joy coaching the players I get to coach.”
Tied for the highest-paid assistant in the country, Sarkisian coached the offense to 414 totals yards and 38 points with two quarterbacks and second unit players mixed in, against an experienced Tigers defense.
Although some Crimson Tide fans won’t want to admit it, the defensive side of the ball appeared to benefit from having the same voice calling the plays in Pete Golding as well.
This is the first time Alabama has had a defensive coordinator return for a second season since now Tennesee head coach Jeremy Pruit coached the unit from 2016-17.
The first half in particular showed glimpses of an Alabama defense that can get back to shutting opposing offenses down. It helped to have linebacker and captain Dylan Moses return to the team, but it is also the relationship between him and Golding that assists the defense’s ability to be squared away.
The two have a mutual trust in each other and are seen as two powerful voices on that side of the football.
Golding’s ability to coach up his position players was also shown during the game. Sophomore linebacker Christian Harris had an impressive game at the Will linebacker spot after entering his second season working with Golding during the team’s individual period at practice.
Harris recorded six tackles, two tackles for loss and a sack on Saturday and appeared to have taken a big step forward as there weren’t many instances of him overrunning plays as he did at times last season.
Aiding Golding in his effort to reinvigorate the defense has been both Charlie Strong and Freddie Roach both of whom Golding has expressed a ton of gratitude towards.
“I’m in an unbelievable atmosphere,” said Golding back in August. “I work for the best coach in college football, I’ve got a lot of guys around me that have unbelievable experience and they’re really good dudes and they’re all in it for the right reasons. They’re here to help us and help us improve and get this defense back to where it should be and I promise you I’ve got open ears.”
Alabama will hope to continue to build on its performance week in and week out with the help of Sarkisian and Golding.
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Patrick Dowd is a Reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter, via Pat_Dowd77