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Nick Saban Still Got What He Wanted With Alabama's New Coordinators: All Things CW

By Christopher Walsh,


If you ignored the names and only looked at the resumes of the two new Crimson Tide coordinators, they're almost exactly what the coach wanted to add to Alabama football.

The All Things CW notes column by Christopher Walsh appears in five parts each week, with the latest on the Alabama Crimson Tide . This is ...

Take 1

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — You could feel the reaction almost immediately. Social media wasn't necessary.

When the word came out over the weekend that Nick Saban had hired his offensive and defensive coordinators for the 2023 season, a lot of Alabama Crimson Tide fans weren't exactly thrilled.

Granted, some would have complained regardless of anyone Saban hired. They were some of the same people who had been worked up that the coach went weeks without filling the openings, and had also gotten upset when the guy they had never heard of until recently didn't get the job (this is Alabama and college football, after all).

Tommy Rees and Kevin Steele weren't the exciting names that they expected.

But they're exactly the kind of coordinators that Saban was looking to hire.

He wanted a younger, up-and-coming, innovative coach on offense. Someone who would excite recruits with his energy alone.

On defense, Saban wanted familiarity, a person with experience in executing this specific scheme, and could bring back some of that "Alabama standard" he's been taking about.

These guys can do just that, and more. Rees brings in a fresh perspective, which sometimes can be a very good thing for a coaching staff, while there probably isn't a situation imaginable that Steele hasn't had to deal with numerous times.

Granted, their predecessors had various strengths as well, but coaching can be a lot like parenting in that sometimes the message needs to come from a fresh voice. A mom or dad call tell a son or daughter not to do something 50 times and gets ignored every time, but someone else says it and for some reason it suddenly registers.

It happens more than you would believe in football.

With Steele, being able to say that he worked for Tom Osborne and Bobby Bowden might help him connect with some of the players, or that he was once an NFL coach. With Rees, he's just 30 years old.

Even so, Rees first landed on Saban's radar years ago, and for Alabama to be able to lure him away from his alma matter, Notre Dame, shouldn't been taken lightly. LSU tried to hire him last year and Rees said no thanks (which makes this year's game on Nov. 4 even more interesting).

Rees has a strong reputation for his play-calling, plus motions and shifts and using his personnel to their full advantage. He has a tendency to be on the bold side, which will be interesting to watch. A big plus at Alabama is that he won't have to design the scheme, it's already done for him.

The same goes for Steele. He was Saban's first defensive coordinator at Alabama in 2007, but slid over to Defensive Head Coach/Interior Linebackers while Kirby Smart was bumped up to defensive coordinator in 2008. He did a second stint with the Crimson Tide as director of player personnel in 2013, before being a linebackers coach in 2014.

The defense has evolved a bit since then, but is still the same at its core and philosophy.

If you're a regular follower of this site you've seen this chart before, with a year-by-year look at the Crimson Tide defense under Saban. The statistical standards have changed with the numbers, but not the rankings (in parenthesis).

Alabama Defense, Saban Era

Year Total D; Scoring D; Rushing D; Pass Eff. D

2007 : 345.5 (31); 22.9 (27); 124.2 (28); 117.2 (38)
2008 : 263.5 (3); 14.3 (7); 74.1 (2); 106.7 (14)
2009 : 244.1 (2); 11.7 (2); 78.1 (2); 87.7 (2)
2010 : 286.4 (5); 13.5 (3); 110.2 (10); 103.5 (6)
2011 : 183.6 (1); 8.2 (1); 72.2 (1); 83.7 (1)
2012 : 250.0 (1); 10.9 (1); 76.4 (1); 103.7 (7)
2013 : 286.5 (5); 13.9 (4); 106.2 (7); 116.8 (26)
2014 : 328.4 (12); 18.4 (6); 102.4 (4); 116.5 (30)
2015 : 276.3 (3); 15.1 (3); 75.7 (1); 105.2 (8)
2016 : 261.8 (2); 13.0 (1); 63.9 (1); 106.5 (9)
2017 : 260.4 (1); 11.9 (1); 94.7 (1); 96.78 (2)
2018 : 319.5 (16); 18.1 (12); 121.3 (19); 115.79 (23)
2019 : 324.4 (20); 18.6 (13); 137.2 (37); 109.75 (4)
2020 : 352.2 (32); 19.4 (13); 113.1 (17); 119.37 (18)
2021 : 304.1 (7); 20.1(18); 86.0 (4); 132.54 (63)
2022 : 318.2 (13); 18.15 (9); 130.4 (36); 108.00 (6)

The chart can be a little tough to follow due to the numerical congestion, so we'll cut to the chase and pull out the statistics from 2008. That's the season Steele was the "Defensive Head Coach" at Alabama, with Smart the defensive coordinator.

  • Total defense: 263.5 yards (ranked 3rd in the nation)
  • Scoring defense: 14.3 points (7)
  • Rushing defense: 74.1 yards (2)
  • Passing efficiency defense: 106.7 rating (14)

Those are good numbers, especially when the Alabama defense was still coming together that season. It took Urban Meyer and Tim Tebow with the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship Game to keep the Crimson Tide from playing for the national title.

How much of that success was due to Steele, and how much Smart? It's impossible to tell, although there was clearly some overlap, which Saban's been known to do with having younger assistants work with veteran coaches. Either way, the scheme was always Saban's.

So no, Alabama didn't bring back the former defensive coordinator that everyone was talking about, at least not yet. And no, it didn't land the flavor of the week on the offensive side, either.

Instead, it got what Saban was looking for, regardless of the names.

See Also:

Kevin Steele Hired as Alabama Defensive Coordinator

Alabama Hiring Tommy Rees as New Offensive Coordinator

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