Tosh Lupoi will be Alabama’s fourth defensive coordinator in the Nick Saban era, jointing Kevin Steele, Kirby Smart and Jeremy Pruitt.

Saban did some of his best work in holding onto Lupoi in previous years even as other Power 5 programs made overtures to Lupoi to become a defensive coordinator. Saban worked his recurring magic and retained his star recruiter and outside linebacker coach.

But this season Lupoi takes on the challenge of calling a defense by himself. Saban and the defensive coaching staff are working to help make the transition easier.

“Tosh is a hard worker,” Saban said. “He works really, really hard at learning our scheme. And there’s two things that you have be able to do, you have to learn the scheme and know the scheme, and you also have to know how to apply it, which is what makes you a good signal caller when the game comes. Tosh has never coached the secondary, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t understand it or doesn’t know it. We are all trying to do as much as we can to help him, and I think he does understand the concepts of what he needs to know to implement the defense. He’s been a coordinator before, which certainly helps. We’re pleased with the people that we have. We might be a bit of a work in progress as we learn how to work together and know exactly how things fit together.”

Harris ready for bigger role

Last season, Najee Harris was a freshman running back finding his way in becoming a collegiate ball carrier and all that came with it.

That is, until the national championship game when he broke out in the second half with a few big runs.

This year, he feels more comfortable and is playing more confidently.

“I think Najee has a little more confidence and knowledge of how to do things, what to do, pass-protection, doing things on a consistent basis,” Saban said. “He works really hard, he plays with great toughness. And I think he has great intangibles as a player. Just the repetitions and the confidence that he has and knowing what he’s supposed to do and how he’s supposed to do it is probably the biggest thing that I see that’s helped his consistency and his performance.”

Reach Aaron Suttles at or at 205-722-0229.