TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama football team had seven new faces on the coaching staff this spring, although that’s a little misleading.
Sal Sunseri had coached the Crimson Tide before, and Steve Sarkisian had served as an analyst during the 2016 season before being promoted to offensive coordinator for the National Championship Game.
Regardless, Nick Saban was looking for something different with this year’s staff:
“I think that —no disrespect to the coaches that we had here before, I thought they did a wonderful job — I think there were a couple of areas where we had a limited amount of experience, and I think that we’ve been able to improve the staff in a lot of ways with the people that we have and the experience that they have,” Saban said. “I thought we needed to improve our staff as a recruiting staff a year ago. I think we did that. I think this recruiting class probably showed that.
“I think that the guys that we hired are good recruiters, but I do think in some cases we have more experience and I think knowledge and experience is always something that is really beneficial to teach players.”
Here’s what the Crimson Tide said about the new coaching staff, with two notable exceptions, running backs Charles Huff and Sunseri, the outside linebackers coach.
Reporters didn’t get to interview any players from those position groups this spring.
Steve Sarkisian, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa: “I don’t think too much about trying to get the ball out quick. It’s all depending on how much they bring from the side, if I don’t flip the protection. It’s just really understanding if I’m hot or if I’m not. Then you know with Coach Sark, it’s really full-field progression reads. Last year, we worked more on RPO, and we had that opportunity to perfect it. Now we’re trying to protect full-progression reads, so reading the entire field this year. I think implementing pure progression reads and RPOs is really going to be big for us this season.”
Right tackle Jedrick Wills Jr: “Coach Sark — when I was a senior in high school and he was about to be the offensive coordinator here and then he went to the Falcons, but we kind of had a relationship here because he came to my hometown for our football banquet so we were already kind of close and could relate.”
Wide receiver Henry Ruggs III on what they’re hearing from Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley: “That he is a great guy. We kind of found that out ourselves and we can build a relationship with him whenever we need him, or whenever we have questions about something we can go into his office and talk and call him up and he’s good about that.”
Holmon Wiggins, wide receivers
Henry Ruggs III: “Wiggins is a guy that the whole group clicked with right off the bat. We got a good relationship with him right off the bat. He called meetings early before workouts and things like that just to build relationships and watch a little film and get to know the playbook. Like I said, that developed the relationship. We already had good relationships within the receivers because we didn’t lose much. With a new coach and a new system, you have to build that relationship and trust each other before you can go into practice and that’s what we did.”
Jeff Banks, special teams/tight ends
Tight end Miller Forristall: “I can’t tell you how excited I was. When I saw all these coaches leaving, I was like, ‘Please, Lord, please can we keep Coach Banks?’ I’ve had a couple of tight ends coaches since I have been here, and I was ecstatic to keep Coach Banks. Not just for tight ends, but also for special teams. He is unreal, a fantastic tight ends coach. I was so pumped that he came back. Just having the same face, the same guy encouraging you, coaching you, building you up for two years. It’s just night and day. Receive the same coaching. ‘Hey, Miller, we’ve got to work on this.’ It’s fantastic.”
Kyle Flood, offensive line
Wills: “Definitely a great learning experience. His knowledge of the game and how long he’s been in it, and especially being at a high level NFL. I think it’s something to advance our game.”
Pete Golding, defensive coordinator/inside linebackers
Linebacker Dylan Moses: “I’m really happy that he’s the defensive coordinator because he’s my position coach. I’m really comfortable with him. I have a good relationship with Coach Pete. He’s from Louisiana, from Hammond Louisiana, that’s about 30-45 minutes away from Baton Rouge. So we have strong ties. For him to be defensive coordinator now, I’m really proud of him, and I’m happy, and I’m ready for the season.”
Brian Baker, defensive line
Defensive end Raekwon Davis: “He’s a great coach, tremendously great coach. His technique is unbelievable, the things he helps us do. He pushes us, motivates us. He sets a high standard for us. There’s no lolly-gagging about nothing with Coach Baker.”
Charles Kelly, safeties
Saban: “Charles Kelly was a guy that I've oftentimes considered being a coordinator here. I thought Pete did a really good job last year and should be the coordinator, but I also thought that Charles Kelly would be somebody who could do that because he's been in our system with other people, Jeremy [Pruitt] at Florida State, Jeremy again at Tennessee. That's like having a coach that's been on our staff in terms of knowledge and experience and terminology. I just thought he was the best coach, best recruiter. I thought it was really really important that he's an Alabama guy. When I say Alabama guy, he's coached in this state, people in his family coached in this state. He knows the high school coaches in the state. I really felt like last year's staff we really didn't have that connection with some of those local folks like we've had in the past. I thought it was important to get somebody on our staff that had great relationships with a lot of people in our state. He checks all those boxes really well and is a great person and has done a really, really good job.”