There are a couple of new faces around the Mal Moore Building these days, faces belonging to accomplished football men.
Neither is an on-the-field assistant coach for the University of Alabama, but if and when the NCAA approves football programs to add a 10th assistant coach, either might be considered.
Dan Werner and Chris Weinke aren’t average football analysts, a position that’s come to be utilized heavily under Nick Saban. Yet, both are at Alabama as such for the 2017 season.
Werner is an experienced offense coordinator, one Crimson Tide fans should be familiar with by now. His offenses at Ole Miss gave UA defenses fits for several years in a row.
Finding himself out of work when Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze parted ways with him, Werner headed south east. Werner, who still lives in Oxford, is a gifted offensive mind and quarterback developer. Saban jumped at the opportunity to add him to the staff.
Under his tutelage, Ole Miss quarterbacks Bo Wallace and Chad Kelly grew into formidable passers in the SEC.
“Werner had a reputation in Oxford as being a strong evaluator of quarterbacks, something that will likely serve him and Alabama well,” Ole Miss beat writer for RebelGrove.com Neal McCready said. “His presence was one of the key factors in Ole Miss’ landing of both Kelly and Shea Patterson.”
Kelly threw for 4,042 yards and 31 touchdowns in the 2015 season, one that found Ole Miss in its first Sugar Bowl since 1970. Kelly was off to another great season in 2016 before a knee injury derailed his year.
Jalen Hurts’ dual-threat abilities seem particularly suited for Werner’s offensive mind of run-pass option plays. Werner can’t work with Hurts, but his ideas will help the offensive coaching staff in that regard.
“Do I need to tell our fans or anybody on our staff the issues that we’ve had with their offense that last couple of years?” Saban said of Werner. “I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for what they do, how they coach it. I think it’ll help us on offense and defense to have a guy around here that can add some knowledge and experience to the way they do RPOs. Some of the things they did in the passing game.”
In Weinke, Saban landed a coach with high school (IMG Academy) and NFL (St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams) experience. Oh yeah, he also won the Heisman Trophy as the Florida State quarterback in 2000.
It should be stressed that neither Werner or Weinke can work with Hurts. However, both are available to provide ideas, tips and suggestions to the offensive coaches.
“(Weinke) played a long time in the league,” Saban said. “He’s very knowledgeable. He’s very smart. He was a great high school coach at IMG. He went to the NFL and got a couple good years of experience in the NFL.
“So we thought he’d bring some knowledge and experience and certainty be helpful to us off the field and helping us with game plan.”
Most importantly perhaps is the value both bring to Saban, who has fully accepted college football’s new offensive ways. As he memorably noted in his first press conference of spring, Saban has no desire to move UA’s offense backwards.
The game has changed and Saban is on board with utilizing every weapon available to stress opposing defenses.
“I think those two guys, having coached in high school and college, certainly helps a guy that’s coached in the NFL be able to balance some of the things that will help us have a well-rounded, pro-style offense that has the college elements that helps you take advantage of some of the college rules,” Saban said.