TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Due to the untimely departure of Jay Graham, Alabama football coach Nick Saban had to do something he's never done in his 40-plus year coaching career.
Hire someone in the middle of spring practice.
That's exactly what happened on Monday, when the school announced the addition of special teams coordinator and tight ends coach Drew Svoboda, who was recently a part of Rice's coaching staff for the last three seasons.
However, Svoboda has yet to join the Crimson Tide on the practice field, Saban revealed to the media on Wednesday following Alabama's 10th practice of the spring season.
Todd Watson, who is a special assistant to Saban, has been filling in for Graham and still handling special team duties up to this point.
"The way we’re managing this is, you know, Todd Watson was really the number one intern on special teams," Saban said. "He’s kind of running the special teams, it’s the first time I've ever had to hire a guy in the middle of spring practice. We’re not going to throw [Svoboda] out there in front of the players. He’s learning our system, he’s learning our scheme, he’s actually having input in the meetings but really can’t coach the players. He’s really doing the same thing with the offense, relative to the tight ends."
Saban noted that, when the team was missing multiple assistant coaches for the LSU game last November due to COVID-19 protocols, it helped the program prepare for a situation like this.
"We’re probably a lot more flexible now when it comes to coaches because last year, we had guys in and out," Saban said. "I think we had five full-time coaches for the LSU game last year so we’re a little more flexible when things like this happen and Todd has done a good job of stepping up and helping us get through the spring. I haven’t seen us skip a beat from a special teams execution standpoint."
Overall, Svoboda's ties to the Lone Star State helped secure the job for him, Saban added. Texas has become a fertile recruiting ground for the Crimson Tide as the team had seven signees from the state in its top-ranked 2021 signing class.
Svoboda was a successful prep coach at Klein Collins High School in Spring, Texas before moving up to the college ranks.
"We’re really pleased with it," Saban said of the hire. "He’s got a lot of connections; he knows a lot of people in Texas which we thought was very, very important. He was the best teacher in the interview and he certainly hasn’t disappointed in his input that he’s had to this point."