Another offseason brought another change at offensive coordinator for Alabama. Another spring practice brings queries about how that will change the Crimson Tide offense.
Alabama has had four changes at offensive coordinator since the start of the 2016 season. The previous three offensive coordinators – Mike Locksley, Brian Daboll and Steve Sarkisian – held that position for one season or less. Don’t expect to see wholesale changes with Steve Sarkisian running things in 2019, though.
“We kind of do what we do,” coach Nick Saban said. “I think the new coordinator brings new energy, new enthusiasm, new ideas. Sometimes we make tweaks and adaptations to what we do. But we’re pretty successful on offense, especially last year. So why would we change it a lot?”
The Crimson Tide offense finished 2018 with the kind of production that any offensive coordinator would be proud to claim: first nationally in passer rating and passing touchdowns, second in yards per play, third in points per game, sixth in yards per game and ninth in first downs per game, just to name a few.
Much, but not all, of Alabama’s production from its skill position players is returning. Players said there hasn’t been any overwhelming shift in philosophy this spring.
“We have implemented a good amount of things that Sark likes to run and he has run in the past,” quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said. “But we still have a good amount of the things that we have had last year. So, it’s not too much of a learning curve.”
Sarkisian, of course, is also familiar with much of Alabama’s foundation. He was part of Alabama’s staff of analysts in 2016 before his one-game tenure as offensive coordinator at the end of the season.
Offenses can shift not just because of changes in coordinator, but changes in personnel. Lane Kiffin called plays in 2014 and 2015. The 2014 offense had run attempts on 55.7 percent of plays and pass attempts on 44.3 percent of plays. The 2015 offense had runs on 59 percent of plays and passes on 41 percent of plays. Game situations, injuries and myriad other factors also determine what an offense looks like in addition to the coaching staff.
Defensive coordinator at Alabama has seen changes as well. The Crimson Tide will have its fourth coordinator since the 2015 season with Pete Golding now in charge. But there hasn’t been any overwhelming philosophically shift on that side of the ball, and Alabama’s defense has remained among the nation’s best through those changes.
“Defensively, Pete was here,” Saban said. “We definitely need to improve. We slipped and we continue to try to replace a lot of personnel, year-in and year-out, whether guys leave the program early for the draft or whatever it might be.”
No college football team remains perfectly intact from one season to the next. No two coordinators will call exactly the same plays.
But even with another new coordinator, Alabama’s 2019 offense could be just a short evolution away from its 2018 edition.
“There is some stuff being put in, of course, because we have a new system,” wide receiver Henry Ruggs III said. “But you always want to build on last season so we did good things and we just want to build on it.”
Reach Ben Jones at email@example.com or 205-722-0196.