Alabama’s new defensive coordinator doesn’t have to worry about finding his voice. Tosh Lupoi has always been easy to hear on the field at practice. Now he’s speaking up while running meetings and calling plays.
“He’s got high energy,” outside linebacker Christian Miller said. “You can’t help but pay attention when you’ve got a guy like that. It’s good.”
Like Jeremy Pruitt before him, Lupoi has worked his way up through Alabama’s program after starting in an off-field role. He arrived as an analyst for the 2014 season, then moved to outside linebackers coach for the 2015 season. Unlike Pruitt or Kirby Smart, Lupoi hasn’t spent time as a defensive backs coach.
That’s something the ascendant assistant has had to learn this offseason. He’s gotten help from Nick Saban and co-defensive coordinator Pete Golding.
“I’ve gained a lot of confidence in that, but, of course, I’m still getting better and learning it every single day,” Lupoi said on Saturday. “But that’s something that its grown on me and it’s something I take a lot of pride in, is trying to know something there that might not have been there five to 10 years ago that wasn’t the strength of my knowledge of the game.”
Lupoi’s name recognition has grown significantly since he arrived at Alabama. He’s always had a reputation as one of the nation’s best recruiters. Then Lupoi’s outside linebackers helped create one of the nation’s best pass rushes in the last three seasons.
“I think he’s really developed as a coach,” coach Nick Saban said. “I think he’s taken it upon himself to not want to be a guy that was viewed just as a recruiter or just as a guy that could coach the front. He’s really, really committed himself to learning the big picture, the coverages, the secondary. I spent a significant amount of time with him doing that. I think he’s made a tremendous amount of improvement.”
Co-defensive coordinator Pete Golding can also help with that transition. Golding has more than a decade of experience coaching defensive backs and also had to call plays at UT-San Antonio.
Lupoi eschewed other defensive coordinator opportunities to stay in Tuscaloosa, even when he remained as an assistant coach.
“When I was fortunate enough to come here in the beginning, I came here for a reason, and that was one, to be at the Mecca of college football and be coaching with and under one of the best coaches ever to live,” Lupoi said. “No matter what title I have, the fact is we’re in an environment here where we are challenged every day, the most competitive environment there is on the college football stage; a constant football environment of growing and loving, which I love to do.”
Another difficulty facing Lupoi will be making play calls promptly as the clock winds down. That’s not completely new to him, but he’ll be counted on to do it much more now.
“You have to process the information quicker,” he said. “As an assistant where I’ve had some opportunities in the past where I might be able to do some play-calling. It’s tough to do it full time. You have to do it as fast as possible to get the guys in the best possible positions.”
Other parts of the job already suit him well. Players said his energy keeps their attention in meetings. His communication skills, always on display in practice with the outside linebackers, now benefit the rest of the defense.
“One thing that he does really well, he’s a really good teacher,” Miller said. “He likes to break things down to the concepts. That way, you learn the foundation first and he builds from there.”
Lupoi is still learning as well. There’s still more than three weeks until Alabama’s opener on Sept. 1 when he’ll be tested in game action for the first time. Until then, there’s time to prepare.
That room to grow is part of what excites Lupoi every day. The new defensive coordinator still has more to learn.
“Waking up this morning, I love this occupation so much because it provides the opportunity to continue to grow and learn and that’s what we’re doing every day here,” Lupoi said. “As far as preparation every single day here, morning, night, working with coverage assignments and adjustments so we can teach things to players correctly and clearly and hopefully have that show up on the field.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.