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Steve Sarkisian brings coaching stability for Alabama despite other, smaller departures

NCAA Football: Alabama A Day Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia stealing Scott Cochran away from Alabama has dominated the news lately, so we’ll lead off with that topic, in case you haven’t yet tired of discussing it.

Penn State’s excellent NFL Combine numbers in recent years is a testament to Galt’s expertise as the Nittany Lions’ assistant AD and performance enhancement extraordinaire. He has more than three decades of strength and conditioning leadership experience and has been a member of James Franklin’s staff at Maryland, Vanderbilt and now in Happy Valley. The veteran coach is arguably Franklin’s most important staffer and players rave about his attention to detail. Sound familiar?

“Let’s face it, Penn State has lit this combine up,” former NFL analyst turned GM Mike Mayock said during the 2018 NFL Combine. “… Dwight Galt, great job, dude.”

The main name being mentioned all over the internet is Oregon’s S&C icon, Aaron Feld. This article makes the case for him, as well as a few other guys. The coach out of Penn State is an interesting idea that I had not thought of, but with all their success in NFL combines the last few years, he could very well be someone to look at.

There’s another theory that’s worth mentioning in the “why.” It’s probably something that you, reader of this column, already thought about. I certainly have.

How much did the arrival of Bryce Young at Alabama play a part in this? It’s no secret that the longtime relationship between the 5-star early enrollee and Sarkisian is strong. Wanting to see that through absolutely could have been on the mind of the Alabama offensive coordinator.

Think about it. Last year, Sarkisian inherited a preseason Heisman Trophy favorite in Tua Tagovailoa. When was the last time Sarkisian got to legitimately develop a quarterback? It was probably Keith Price at Washington in 2013. I suppose Cody Kessler’s monster 2014 season with Sarkisian is worth mentioning, but his leave of absence in Year 2 sort of prevented him from truly seeing that through. By returning to Alabama, Sarkisian can finally have another opportunity to show that he can develop a quarterback.

Meanwhile, Alabama has a little bit of stability for once with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. This is a good article from Saturday Down South about the possible reasons that Sark could have had for decided to stay, rather than go to Colorado like some rumors thought he would.

Personally, I was very pleased with Sark’s job last year. There were a few gripes here and there, but no coach is perfect. That said, 2020 is when he’ll really earn his money as he tries to continue to field a top-notch offense without Tua Tagovailoa there to make everything look easy.

— WR coach Curt Cignetti: James Madison head coach. He left after the 2010 season to be the head coach at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (Division II) before leaving for Elon of the FCS. James Madison hired him in 2018 and Cignetti led the program to the FCS title game.

— DL coach Bo Davis: Detroit Lions defensive line coach. Davis also left Alabama and coached at Texas from 2011-13 before returning as the DL coach in 2014. He left again in 2016 where he worked for the Jacksonville Jaguars and UTSA before landing with the Lions.

— TE coach Ron Middleton: Jacksonville Jaguars tight ends coach. The only job between Alabama and the Jags was a 2008-12 run as an assistant coach at Duke.

Speaking of coaches leaving, this is a neat piece that looks at every single person on the 2007 Alabama Football staff, and what they’ve done since. I actually didn’t realize Cignetti had made it to the FCS title game as a head coach.

There’s a LOT more success on this list of coaches than there are flame outs. I would imagine being part of the initial rebuild and cultural establishment of Alabama’s program gave all of these guys a lot of practical experience that even some of Alabama’s more recent hires will never see.

Recent de-commitments under Nick Saban: Where are they now?

Brandon Ruiz, K, Williams Field (Ariz.)

Perhaps the only thing more dramatic then Alabama’s kicking woes were its kicker recruiting woes from 2016-17. After the Eddy Pinero saga in the 2016 cycle, the Tide landed a summer pledge from All-American Brandon Ruiz. The Arizona native flipped to Arizona State to stay closer to home just weeks before National Signing Day. The Tide circled back and landed Joseph Bulovas.

Stats:

2017: Made 19 of 27 field goal attempts, including a long of 52

2018: 18 of 22 field goal attempts, with a long of 54

2019: Left the ASU program suffering an injury early on in the 2019 season ... committed to Mississippi State for the remainder of his college career

Similar to the coaches piece, here’s one from 247 with a list of players who decommitted from Alabama’s recruiting classes in 2017, 2018, and 2019. It’s a pretty big list (especially with the recent rise in players committing with the intent to “shock the world” by spurning Bama), but most of the names have not become notable college players.

Cam Akers, Jake Fromm, and Gary Johnson are really the only ones to become impact college players, and Johnson’s signing with Texas instead happened because of academics. Some guys like Dax Hill and Bobby Brown have potential, but past that? Not much.

“They’ve talked to me about playing defensive end,” he said, “but I could be like a Jack outside linebacker.”

That’s new.

National recruiting services listed the 6-foot-3 Latham as a defensive tackle, and he said he played his senior football season in the 285-to-290-pound range. He looked smaller on the basketball court and said he’s slimmed down to 265 pounds.

His blend of power, size and explosiveness as a high school defensive lineman fit the template for an Alabama defensive end.

“I feel pretty good about how I played as a senior, but I could have been better at 265,” he said. “I’m a lot quicker at 265 than 285.”

In following the recruiting theme, new signee Jah-Marien Latham has trimmed some weight. As I mentioned in my defensive line signee preview earlier this week, Latham is a high-energy, aggressive lineman that can rush the passer from the nose tackle or end spots. I still think the coaches will want him in the 275-290 range in order to hold up in the run game, but he’ll likely be a defensive end, and not a nose tackle.

“All I said is, ‘I’m a big Cowboys fan,’ ” Tagovailoa said with a smile, dispelling the rumor that he wants to play only for his childhood team. “I grew up a Cowboys fan my entire life. I understand that a lot of people have changed my words around, saying that’s the only team I want to go to. That’s not true.”

The Cowboys were all he knew growing up.

“My dad’s, dad’s, dad’s, dad’s, dad was a Cowboys fan and it just trickled down the line,” he said.

And, like many disappointed Dallas fans, Tagovailoa has been waiting his entire life to witness America’s Team win it all.

This is actually a well-written piece with a lot of quotes from Tua about the upcoming draft, but I mostly just wanted to highlight the burn towards the Cowboys.

In 2014, Blake Sims set the Alabama records for most passing yards and passing touchdowns in a single season, recording 3,487 yards and 28 touchdowns. (Those records have since been broken.)

He then went on to spend time in the CFL, the NFL (with the Atlanta Falcons and Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and the AAF between 2015 and 2019.

Now, he’s landed another opportunity to play professional football. Per a tweet on Monday, the Spokane Shock of the Indoor Football League have signed the former Crimson Tide standout.

Congrats to Blake. We wish him all the best in this next endeavor for him.

Roll Tide!