Around the SEC: Alabama's Stability could be a Huge Strength During 2020 Season
For the past couple of weeks, we've been trying to demonstrate how Alabama may have the most stable program in the Southeastern Conference this season.
The offense has seven returning starters, including four offensive linemen, and a quarterback who had taken over as starter for nearly the final month of the regular season and bowl workouts.
The defense lost six starters, including three in the secondary, but that's more on par with the rest of the league than anything.
Remember, there are five new head coaches and numerous new coordinators, who didn't have the spring, or very little of it, to become familiar with their players.
Factor in the coronavirus, schools struggling to reopen, protests and everything else that point to an absolutely crazy college football season, and no one has anything comparable in terms of stability at the top.
That's not just a small advantage for Alabama in 2020, it could be a huge one.
There are two things that stood out about the Crimson Tide off the field during the offseason.
1) For the first time since 2015, Nick Saban didn't have to replace a coordinator. After having back-to-back years in which more than half the staff turned over, he made just one addition this offseason: Freddie Roach to take over the defensive line and be more active in recruiting.
The ones needing to get acclimated will be the new players.
2) Adding David Ballou and Dr. Matt Rhea from Indiana. Ballou is the new Director of Sports Performance, while Rhea is the Director of Performance Sciences.
Alabama, which has had a lot of critical injuries over the last few years, especially at linebacker, was looking to get into performance analytics anyway with its new sports sciences center, when popular strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran left to be the special-teams coach at Georgia.
Remember, Saban said that during the interview process "there was no question that from a sports science standpoint and from a conditioning standpoint they were light-years in advance of what a lot of people have done in their programs for a long, long time, which we’ve done the same thing for a long, long time, too."
The players are just getting started with them and are already raving about the two. If they make the kind of significant difference that Saban is hoping for, Alabama may have found yet another advantage over every other program in the league and nation.
Alabama’s coaching turnover
• Offensive coordinator: Major Applewhite (2007); Jim McElwain (2008-11); Doug Nussmeier (2012-13); Lane Kiffin (2014-16), Brian Daboll (2017); Mike Locksley (2018); Steve Sarkisian (2019-)
• Running backs: Burton Burns (2007-17); Joe Pannunzio (2018); Charles Huff (2019-)
• Wide receivers: Curt Cignetti (2007-2010); Mike Groh (2011-12); Billy Napier (2013-16); Locksley (2017); Josh Gattis (2018); Holmon Wiggins (2019-)
• Offensive line: Joe Pendry (2007-10); Jeff Stoutland (2011-12); Mario Cristobal (2013-16); Brent Key (2016-18); Kyle Flood (2019-)
• Tight ends/special teams: Ron Middleton (2007); Bobby Williams (2008-15); Cristobal/Burns (2016); Pannunzio (2017); Jeff Banks (2018-)
• Defensive coordinator: Kevin Steele (2007); Kirby Smart (2008-15); Jeremy Pruitt (2016-17) ; Tosh Lupoi (2018); Pete Golding (2019-)
• Defensive line: Bo Davis (2007-10); Chris Rumph (2012-13); Bo Davis (2014-15); Karl Dunbar (2016-17); Craig Kuligowski (2018); Brian Baker (2019); Freddie Roach (2020-)
• Interior linebackers: Kevin Steele (2007-08); James Willis (2009); Kirby Smart (2010-13); Steele (2014); Smart (2015); Pruitt (2016-17) ; Pete Golding (2018-)
• Outside linebackers: Lance Thompson(2007-08); Sal Sunseri (2009-11); Thompson (2012-14); Lupoi (2015-19); Sal Sunseri (2019-)
• Defensive backs: Smart (2007-09); Pruitt (2010-12); Greg Brown (2013); Smart (2014); Mel Tucker (2015); Derrick Ansley (2016-17); Karl Scott (2018-) and Charles Kelly (2019-)
Here's a taste for what some of the rest of the SEC is going through in terms of off-field changes:
LSU: There are a couple of big changes with LSU’s coaching staff in 2020, the biggest of which is Bo Pelini as defensive coordinator and Scott Linehan as passing game coordinator. Pelini replaces Dave Aranda, who’s off to Baylor and with his arrival, the Tigers are implementing the 4-3, something Ed Orgeron has wanted to do since getting the job in 2017. The defensive line is among the deepest on the roster and will be important for consistent success this season. Linehan replaces Joe Brady, who of course was one of the orchestrators of that historic offense. Luckily for LSU, offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger is still around and now has a full year of the spread under his belt. Linehan will be important for player development as he’s coached some of the great receivers in the game including Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant. . — Glen West, LSU Country
Ole Miss: Everyone knows Lane Kiffin is back in the SEC, but a name you need to know is Jeff Lebby. His father-in-law is Art Briles. Lebby, after serving the past two seasons at UCF, is the Rebels' new offensive coordinator. At just 36-years-old, he brings to Ole Miss a high-flying offense, yet one that almost wants to run the ball more than it wants to pass. In only one year as the UCF offensive coordinator, Lebby's offense ranked No. 5 nationally in total offense despite starting a true freshman quarterback. … The defensive side is where it gets weird – Ole Miss actually has two defensive coordinators: Chris Partridge and D.J. Durkin. In five years at Michigan, before which he was coaching at high schools, Partridge rose from Director of Player Personnel to the point in which he was hired away by Ole Miss to be a co-coordinator. He specializes in defensive backs. Durkin, the other member of the co-defensive-coordinator pairing, is the name that you probably knew but forgot. His last coaching job was at Maryland in 2018. Durkin's firing made national storylines, as a former player – Jordan McNair – tragically passed away of heat stroke during a summer practice. … Check out The Week That got the State Flag Changed and "Blessing in Disguise:" Tavius Robinson's Journey from Canadian Football to Ole Miss – Nate Gabler, The Grove Report
Mississippi State: Head coach Mike Leach is getting set for his first season overseeing the Bulldogs, replacing Joe Moorhead, and brought with him an offensive style unlike anything the Bullodgs have ever seen. Throughout its history, MSU has almost always had run-first offenses. Now comes Leach and his air raid, a scheme that will throw the football somewhere around 75 percent of the time. Keep in mind the Bulldogs haven’t even had a 500-yard receiver since 2016. Leach, meanwhile, had seven of them last year alone at Washington State. For more on just how much Leach’s way is going to flip the offensive script in Starkville, check out maybe the most telling stats for how MSU football is about to turn upside down. Also, Mississippi State star running back Kylin Hill delivered the biggest carry he’ll ever have as he helped push Mississippi to change its controversial state flag., and MSU, SEC and NCAA statements after the vote to retire the controversial state flag that has flown since 1894. – Joel Coleman, Cowbell Corner
South Carolina: Head coach Will Muschamp was finalizing his coaching staff up until about a week before the Gamecocks started spring practice and just three coaches from last season remain. He added former UGA play caller Mike Bobo as offensive coordinator, Joe Cox as tight ends coach, Kyle Krantz as special teams coordinator. Tracy Rocker as defensive line coach, Rod Wilson as linebacker coach, and Bobby Bentley as running backs coach. Connor Shaw, the winningest QB in Gamecock history was also hired as director of player development, replacing former Gamecock great Marcus Lattimore. The Gamecocks were able to get a few practices in before the shutdown allowing the coaches to familiarize themselves with the players and get settled into their new city. They all have ties to Muschamp in some form or fashion which made the transition smoother in spite of the circumstances. ... With the recruiting dead period extended, Muschamp was forced to get creative. The football program released a three-part virtual tour which he referred to as "the official visit." Check out the virtual tour part I, virtual tour part II, and the tour for parents. – Chaunte'l Powell, Gamecock Digest. @chauntelpowell
Around the SEC will appear every Tuesday on BamaCentral.