The plan for the Alabama offense is to make sure everyone is on the same page. That much was made clear when Nick Saban fielded questions about his new coordinators.
“We have an Alabama defense and we have an Alabama offense,” Saban said. “It was an Alabama defense and an Alabama offense last year. Just because we change the people that implement those things doesn’t mean that we’re going to change everything about it.”
Minutes later, new offensive coordinator Mike Locksley ran the same play.
“Let’s be clear: This is Alabama’s offense,” he said. “This isn’t Mike Locksley’s system. Our offensive philosophy starts with Coach Saban and what he wants us to do. He sets the culture for how the offense is run and what type of things he wants done. As you see, this offense hasn’t changed a lot.”
Regardless of whether the Alabama offense has changed, perhaps no position on the coaching staff has seen turnover like offensive coordinator in recent years. Locksley will be the fourth play caller since the start of the 2016 season, following Lane Kiffin, Steve Sarkisian and Brian Daboll.
Locksley has been part of the program that entire time, beginning with his role as an analyst in 2016 before coaching the wide receivers for the last two seasons. He had been a head coach and an offensive coordinator before arriving at Alabama, and he’s been able to pick the minds of several other play callers since he got here. Locksley’s tenure overlapped with Mario Cristobal, Billy Napier, Bobby Williams, Brent Key and Butch Jones in addition to the offensive coordinators that preceded him. All had been head coaches or offensive coordinators before they came to Alabama.
“That’s one of the benefits of going into year three,” Locksley said. “I came in under Lane and had a chance to see how things worked there. I had a chance to be with Brian last season. Then all the great coaches that have been around the program the last two years that I’ve been here, it’s hard to say one or two things that I’ve learned from them.”
The last three years ensure he’s well-acquainted with “Alabama’s offense” and has what it’s been capable of. The Crimson Tide averaged 37.1 points and 444.1 yards per game last season. Alabama was also second-best nationally with 10 turnovers lost, and some of those came on special teams.
He’s also well-acquainted with the Alabama roster. He sees the running backs as “the strength of our offensive unit.” He deferred to Saban on most questions about the quarterback battle, but said he was excited about his group of receivers and an offensive line that returns four starters.
Locksley knows the opportunity ahead and the resources he has to work with.
“The good thing about our offense is that it’s been really diverse over the years in terms of the pro-style, the spread, the tempos, the huddling, running the ball, throwing the ball, all of these things have elements of this offense throughout the course of coach’s tenure,” Locksley said. “That won’t change. What will change is us figuring out which guys are the playmakers in the system and finding ways to get them the ball.”
Reach Ben Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0196.