Nick Saban has, in the past, put a new twist on an old adage.
On game days, Saban would keep his friends close — but his coordinators closer.
That’s a small detail but it was one which became a nationally-televised (and much enjoyed) spin-off of the actual games during Lane Kiffin’s three-year tenure as Alabama’s offensive coordinator. Cameras stayed focused on Kiffin, usually standing next to Saban when Alabama had the ball, with national audiences waiting for the occasional volcanic eruption or the counterpoint when Kiffin would dial up a perfect play call, often raising both arms in the “touchdown” signal just a second or two after the ball was snapped.
For entertainment purposes, either reaction was great considering the larger-than-life personalities involved. Brain Daboll, Kiffin’s replacement last season, got an occasional earful as well.
This time around, Saban is switching things up a bit. That might not be breaking news for some teams, but at Alabama and its fans, every detail matters.
Offensive coordinator Mike Locksley will be upstairs. One would think that means new quarterbacks Dan Enos would be on the sideline, but Saban did not answer that specifically.
“I allow the coordinators and give them the opportunity to do it the way they think is most effective for them,” Saban said. “Mike’s been a coordinator a lot (including at Illinois and Maryland.) We’ve got other good coaches who have experience on the field so I’m fine with that.”
Defensively, Saban will have Tosh Lupoi, in his first year as defensive coordinator, on the field. Pete Golding, the co-defensive coordinator and defensive line coach who came from Texas-San Antonio in the offseason, will man the booth.
“Tosh is going to be on the field and Pete will be in the pressbox,” Saban said. “I think it’s just as important to get good information during the game and have people to get good information, so there is good and bad in both.”
Saban seems to implicitly reject the idea he was keeping Lupoi nearby while he learned his new role.
I always wanted to be in the pressbox,” Saban said. “Then when I worked for (Bill) Belichick in Cleveland, he said, ‘You put all the stuff in, you worked with the players, you talked to them all the time (so) you’ve got to be on the sideline to make adjustments during the game. You’re the only guy that can communicate with every group.’
“It was a lot harder in the beginning because you couldn’t sit around and look at your sheet of paper and figure out what you wanted to call. You had to know what you wanted to call in every situation in the game and I think that takes a little getting used to and a little experience.”
Louisville, with Bobby Petrino calling the offensive shots, will provide an immediate challenge but Saban said preparation has been good.
“In the two scrimmages that we’ve had, we have not had issues in communication at all.”
For Alabama fans, that sounds like good news. For fans of the good old days with Saban and Kiffin, well, there’s always YouTube.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.