- As the coaching carousel continues to turn, this week's #DearAndy mailbag focuses on new hires at Maryland and Louisville and ponders where Alabama may turn for its next OC.
From Adam: If Alabama wins, does Mike Locksley coach the natty? Last guy to try after accepting a job got the boot after the semis.
Not true. The next-to-last guy got the boot after the semfinals. Alabama is actually two-for-three in coordinator-takes-head-coaching-job-but-coaches-at-Alabama-in-the-playoff scenarios. Last year, coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s defense was excellent in the playoff even though Pruitt had already accepted the Tennessee job. In the playoff after the 2015 season, Kirby Smart’s defense played great against Michigan State and not-so-great against Clemson, but the Crimson Tide also won the national title.
The season to which Adam refers is 2016, when Lane Kiffin took the Florida Atlantic job and then got canned after the semifinal win against Washington. The Tide then went on to lose to Clemson in the closing seconds of the national title game. I imagine Nick Saban wishes now that he’d chosen to put up with Kiffin for seven more days, because that did create a disruption.
Don’t expect that kind of disruption with Locksley, who won the Broyles Award this season as the nation’s best assistant before getting hired as Maryland’s new head coach. Locksley will spend the next few weeks trying to use his District of Columbia/Maryland/Virginia connections to help restock Maryland’s roster, but once playoff prep begins, expect him to be as locked in as Smart and Pruitt were when they did the same sort of double duty. And remember, there are few more powerful recruiting tools than a text message that starts with “Hi, I just got finished practicing for the national title game, and I’d like you to come play for me.”
From Nick: Who will be the next Bama OC?
This is the next logical question, and Saban has some intriguing options. Locksley came up through Saban’s Home For Wayward Coaches, working as an analyst for the Crimson Tide after losing his job as Maryland’s offensive coordinator following the firing of Randy Edsall. Saban likes to elevate coaches who have worked in his system because he doesn’t have to waste any time training that coach in how Alabama operates. If Saban wants a fairly seamless transition, he can simply promote quarterbacks coach Dan Enos, who was the Arkansas offensive coordinator under Bret Bielema and came to Tuscaloosa after a one-month pit stop at Michigan. If you watched Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa all season or backup Jalen Hurts leading the Tide to a win in the final quarter of the SEC title game, you know Enos has done an excellent job with Alabama’s signal-callers.
But Saban also likes to bring in new ideas—especially from people who have had success against him—and there’s an innovative offensive mind out there looking for a job. I’m referring of course to Arizona Hotshots offensive coordinator Hugh Freeze. You probably remember Freeze better as the Ole Miss head coach who won twice against Saban, but I work alongside Hotshots head coach Rick Neuheisel at SiriusXM, and I know Neuheisel is sweating losing his OC before the Hotshots start play in the new Alliance of American Football.
Rick has good reason to be worried. Freeze, who was fired at Ole Miss after a search of his phone revealed calls to escort services, has no impending NCAA penalties related to the investigation into Ole Miss during his time there. (Freeze would have had to serve a two-game suspension had he coached last season.) It appears the double secret probation that kept SEC schools from considering Freeze last year has been lifted, meaning that Alabama (or Auburn or Tennessee) could hire Freeze to run an offense. But Florida State also needs an offensive coordinator, and Liberty—a school near and dear to Freeze’s heart—needs a head coach.
If the administration and boosters are willing to forgive Freeze for what happened at Ole Miss—and it should be noted that he has faced severe financial and reputational repercussions for his actions—schools that need an OC would be crazy not to at least talk to Freeze. HIs offenses flummoxed some of the best defensive minds in the game, and he would instantly improve the offense at whatever school decides to hire him. Saban, who hired former USC coach Steve Sarkisian following Sarkisian’s firing for alcohol abuse issues, has a history of giving coaches second chances. Would he take a chance on Freeze?
From Dave: What’s your take on Scott Satterfield to Louisville?
I love the hire. I would have loved any school in the South hiring Satterfield, whose handling of Appalachian State’s transition from FCS to FBS was nothing short of phenomenal. After losing five of their first six games as an FBS program in 2014, the Mountaineers have gone 46–11.
How did Appalachian State do this? The same way it succeeded in the FCS. Satterfield and his staff took players who were fast enough to play in the ACC or SEC but were either too short or too light to get scholarship offers from those schools. I’ve laughed at some of the hand-wringing among members of the Louisville fan base about Satterfield’s ability to recruit. He’s been recruiting ACC players for years. It’s just that when he has approached the high school or seven-on-seven coaches of those players, he’s been told “That’s an ACC guy. The one you want is his smaller teammate.” Now, with a Cardinal on his polo shirt, Satterfield will get more attention from that bigger/taller player. He’s a tremendous evaluator, and he knows exactly what he’s looking for. That’s huge for Louisville, which needs to rebuild its roster quickly. It may take a year or two to get that roster restocked, but Satterfield is uniquely qualified to do it.
From @HistoryOfMatt: Why? Why does God hate sports fans in the state of Georgia? We watched the Braves choke away every October but one. The Falcons gave us Hookergate AND 28–3. We lost our hockey team. TWICE. The Hawks are the Hawks. And the Dawgs, since 1981, are always “almost.” WHY?
I’m just going to punt on this question.
Or maybe I’m going to insert my backup quarterback and fake punt this question.
Either way, you’re going to be terribly unsatisfied.