A head coach is only as good as his assistants, and Nick Saba has made a number of key staff acquisitions in his tenure at Alabama. Here is a look at Saban’s top 10 hires at UA:
10. Ed Marynowitz
Director of player personnel (2008-11)
Associate athletics director for football (2016)
What he’s known for: Being a meticulous organizer who helped put Alabama’s recruiting efforts at the top
Why he was a great hire: During his time as the director of player personnel, he oversaw recruiting efforts that brought in the players that built the Alabama dynasty. His talents led him to the front offices of the Philadelphia Eagles as essentially a general manager. Now he’s back to help the Crimson Tide reel in another star-studded recruiting class.
9. Amy Bragg
What she’s known for: Overseeing the team’s nutritional needs, allowing players to see the gains/losses they need
Why she was a great hire: Quite literally, Bragg sets the table, allowing the student-athletes to properly fuel themselves. Most of the time that involves taking a teenager and adding weight, something not exactly easy to do with a high metabolic rate.
8. Mario Cristobal
Offensive line (tackles)/Tight end (2016)
Offensive line (2013-15)
What he’s known for: Being one of the best recruiters in the country
Why he was a great hire: Cristobal is a players coach. He’s also one of the best recruiters around. As offensive line coach, his group won the Joe Moore Award as the nation’s best offensive line in 2015. This year, left tackle Cam Robinson won the Outland Trophy.
7. Tosh Lupoi
Outside linebackers (2015-current)
Defensive analyst (2014)
What he’s known for: Making the outside linebackers a pass-rushing force
Why he was a great hire: Lupoi is one of the best recruiters on the staff, and he couples that with a coaching style that produces results. In his two years as an on-the-field coach, Alabama’s sack numbers have totaled 102 and counting. Tim Williams and Ryan Anderson have particularly bloomed under his coaching.
6. Jim McElwain
Offensive coordinator (2008-11)
What he’s known for: His self-deprecating sense of humor
Why he was a great hire: McElwain is most known for developing Alabama quarterbacks Greg McElroy and AJ McCarron. He also knew Alabama’s pro-style offense was fueled by its power rushing attack and called games with that knowledge.
5. Jeremy Pruitt
Defensive coordinator (2016)
Defensive backs (2010-12)
Director of player development (2007-09)
What he’s known for: Being aggressive and applying lots of pressure
Why he was a great hire: His way of coaching puts his players at ease. His experience and understanding under Saban made him the only phone call Saban made when replacing Smart. His philosophy of aggressive defense hasn’t seen a fall-off at all from the Smart era. In fact, his rush defense is better than last year’s.
4. Burton Burns
Running backs (2007-current)
What he’s known for: Producing Alabama’s first two Heisman Trophy winners
Why he was a great hire: Burns can be a harsh taskmaster, but he’s also a sincere person. Those qualities earn loyalty from his players. They play hard for him. His style has produced eight NFL running backs during his time in Tuscaloosa. His running backs get better each season.
3. Kirby Smart
Defensive coordinator (2008-2015)
Defensive backs (2007)
What he’s known for: Frantically signaling in defenses while being pulled back by Cochran
Why he was a great hire: For nine years, Smart worked alongside Saban, learning the ins and outs and the intricacies of the defense. Part of what made Alabama’s defense so consistently great year-in and year-out was that continuity. Smart’s eight years as defensive coordinator produced superior units every year.
2. Scott Cochran
Strength and Conditioning (2007-current)
What he’s known for: Yelling “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah”
Why he was a great hire: What makes Alabama’s program consistently great is its recruiting efforts and the development of those players. Cochran is part of the development aspect. He helps make the players bigger and stronger while keeping their functional movement. There’s a reason is one of the highest-paid strength coaches in the country. His results speak for themselves.
1. Lane Kiffin
Offensive coordinator (2014-16)
What he’s known for: Throwing his hands up to signal a touchdown in the middle of a play
Why he was a great hire: During his time as the offensive coordinator, he rewrote the program’s offensive record book. He produced a Heisman Trophy winner (Derrick Henry) and a Heisman Trophy finalist (Amari Cooper).