Just a week ago, Alabama did not have an offensive or defensive coordinator. As we sit here on Monday and begin a new week, hires have been made on both sides of the ball and as expected, there are mixed opinions on both from the fanbase. Let’s talk about the background of both coaches, why Nick Saban hired them, and ultimately how it could work out for the Crimson Tide:
Tommy Rees, Former Notre Dame OC:
This was a name that sort of came out of nowhere for Alabama, which is probably one of the main reasons why fans were not crazy about the hire. Rees is a former quarterback for the Irish and will be just 31-years old when the season begins. He has been at Notre Dame since 2017, taking over as the offensive coordinator beginning in 2020. His tenure had ups and downs, but it is undeniable that he is a coach who is still learning and now will be calling plays with more talent than he has ever had to work with. I also think it speaks volumes that Brian Kelly tried to take him with him to LSU when Kelly took the job in Baton Rouge.
While Rees was not the flashy hire that many fans wanted, I don’t think Alabama necessarily needed a flashy hire. Ryan Grubb of Washington or Jeff Lebby of Oklahoma would have been perfect fits and it was disappointing that neither worked out, but Rees is not a bad consolation prize. Rees’ offense brought Ian Book to a College Football Playoff and was good enough to win 9 games this season with a backup quarterback. Alabama will return to a heavy emphasis on establishing the run game, and this is something fans should be excited about. Overall, I’ll give this hire a solid B.
Kevin Steele, Former Miami DC:
Kevin Steele is a name SEC fans are extremely familiar with. He was Nick Saban’s first defensive coordinator at Alabama in 2007 and has served in the same role at Clemson, Auburn, LSU, and most recently, Miami. Similar to Rees, Steele is not the flashiest hire, but has proved he can run a defense in the SEC and will likely be a bridge to whoever the next guy is.
According to Tony Tsoukalas of Tide Illustrated, Jeremy Pruitt, who Nick Saban wanted to hire for the role but couldn’t due to a number of hurdles to clear, was consulted in the hiring of Steele. Pruitt is viewed as the long term replacement for Steele whenever he is cleared by the NCAA to coach in the SEC again. While Glenn Schumann of Georgia ultimately would have been the perfect choice, his loyalty to Kirby Smart likely made this impossible. Given Steele’s experience and the fact that he will likely not be a permanent solution, I give the hiring a B+.