Alabama Gazette - The people's voice of reason

"Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tigers coaching changes"

 


Every year, there is always change that comes to each sports team. Some of the times, coaching changes are made for the better or for the worst. The Alabama Crimson Tide and the Auburn Tigers are no strangers to coaching coaches. For these heavy rivals, there are huge similar coaching changes that have transpired so far in the 2016 offseason. Defensive Coordinator Kirby Smart left Alabama to be the head coach at Eastern Divisional rival the Georgia Bulldogs. Defensive Coordinator Will Muschamp left Auburn to be the head coach at Eastern Divisional rival the South Carolina Gamecocks. The coaching changes at Alabama and Auburn goes on to be a little more complicated than normal.

The reigning 2015 National Champion Alabama Crimson Tide knew that recovering from the championship season would be more challenging than the previous seasons. The Tide though, would have to do one thing they have not done since the end of the 2007 season, find a new defensive coordinator. In the last 7 years of 8 with Kirby Smart as defensive coordinator, the Crimson Tide defense was ranked in the top 4 in allowing points per game, 2011 & 2012 they ranked 1st. This offseason, head coach Nick Saban believes that he has found a successor that will make the same progression for the Tide defense. Jeremy Pruitt, the Tide’s new defensive coordinator. He spent 2012 in with the national championship winning Florida State Seminoles at the same position their defense ranked 1st in scoring defense, 3rd in total yards per game allowed, and 2nd in passing yards allowed. Pruitt spent the last two seasons as the Georgia Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator. He left Georgia when Kirby Smart took over the program and brought in his own coaching staff. Pruitt is no stranger to the Alabama football program. He was an Alabama player from 1995 & 1996. The next year he was a graduate assistant, and finally he was an assistant coach for the Tide from 2007 to 2011.

The Tide has also been shifting current coaches to other positions. Former FIU head coach Mario Cristobel will shift from coaching the entire offensive line to tackles & tight ends. Longtime coach, Bobby Williams will shift from tight ends coach & special team’s coordinator to being an assistant head coach to Nick Saban. Brent Key was a recent coach hired for the Crimson Tide to coach the guards & centers. Key spent 11 years as an assistant coach to the UCF Knights, including 2015 season when he was the offensive coordinator and running backs coach. Finally, Derrick Ansley was hired to be the defensive backs coach after Mel Tucker left his job in Tuscaloosa to follow Kirby Smart to Georgia as their defensive coordinator. These are positive changes that have been accommodative for the Crimson Tide, especially with the hire of Pruitt and Brent Key.

The Auburn Tigers have not been so lucky this offseason as the Alabama Crimson Tide. They have had some key departures but have had good momentum after a few hires. Auburn will once again had to find another defensive coordinator after Will Muschamp left to be the head coach of the South Carolina Gamecocks. The hiring of Muschamp at Auburn around this time last year was a huge acquisition for the time being. In the 2015 season, the Auburn Tigers defense was ranked 69th in the nation in points allowed per game with 27.3. The Tigers finished the season 7-6 thanks to a Birmingham Bowl victory over the Memphis Tigers. With the departure of Muschamp, the Auburn Tigers hired former Alabama, Clemson, and LSU defensive coordinator Kevin Steele for the same position. Steele would now be the 5th defensive coordinator for Auburn in the last 6 years. The Tigers have struggled adjusting to new defensive systems year after year and have shown little improvement from the championship run in the 2012 season.

There are four more coaches that have joined the coaching staff at Auburn. Wesley McGriff was hired as co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach. J. B. Grimes will be replaced by Herb Hand as the offensive line coach. Travis Williams will coach the linebackers replacing Lance Thompson, who went to South Carolina with Muschamp. Perhaps the most shocking coaching change is wide receivers coach Dameyune Craig leaving Auburn to be the receivers coach at rival LSU. Former Auburn wide receiver and Arizona State RB coach Kodi Burns will be the co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach. This was a shocking departure because Craig was a former player and a huge celebrity in the city. He does not consider his change to LSU a lateral change. He sees this as a great opportunity to further his career. Many Auburn football analysts are blaming Craig’s departure on Head Coach Gus Malzahn.

While I do not see this as a job threatening situation, one has to wonder how much of a successful program Auburn will be this season. Regardless of what happens this upcoming season, they must keep their coaching staff together especially Kevin Steele at defensive coordinator if they want to avoid another terrible defensive year.

 

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