Final Grade: A+
SPOILER: Nick Saban not only can coach, recruit, manage a program, he can also still identify coaching talent and develop them. And the staff that was assembled in 2019 rounded into form as the best in the country last season.
Where do we begin? I suppose we can start with Texas HC (former ‘Bama OC) Steve Sarkisian., Sark, long known for innovative offenses and gameplans that build upon one another like a Dutch master’s paint strokes, had perhaps his finest season by any metric. How good was it? This was the best offense in the history of college football.
- It played an all-FBS schedule, and 11 games in the SEC. In that stretch, the Tide registered five 50+ games, something no team had accomplished in the 87-year history of SEC football.
- It had an average margin of victory of 30 points, and in the playoffs and SECCG, it had a three-score MOV.
- The Alabama offense set school records for yards, yards per play, passing yards, yards per pass, total points, points per games, and about two dozen other categories.
- Alabama trailed for a total of 17 minutes in 13 games en route to SEC and National Titles.
Beyond that, Sark’s work with Mac Jones and tailoring the offense around Joker was nothing short of miraculous. Jones shattered every school record of note, was a Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Trophy finalist, and he won the Davey O’Brien, Johnny Unitas Golden Arm, and Manning Awards. He destroyed Joe Burrow’s NCAA passing efficiency record, set a new NCAA completion record (77.48% over a season), was a consensus first-team All-American and all-SEC pick. And for good measure, was the national Scholar-Athlete of the year.
That was Sark’s legacy. And when Nick Saban went down, who was the man that helmed the team and prepped them for important tilts against Auburn and Georgia? Steve Sarkisian.
There have been many unqualified successes here at Nick Saban’s Home for Wayward Coaches — none proved to be quite the home run that Steve Sarkisian was and is.
Sark is my No. 1 choice to replace Nick Saban in the year 2381 when Nick ascends to become God-Emperor of Arrakis.
Only real Gs know about that Atreides life.
Sarkisian was not alone, of course.
The heavy lifting of ‘Bama’s pass-heavy offense actually began upfront and on the ground. Don’t let the stats fool you: Alabama is still a very physical team that wins by controlling the line of scrimmage and then pounding the rock. The schemes may have morphed from zone-blocking 32 Double Dives into more combo blocks and perimeter-oriented pin-and-pull runs, but Alabama still put defenders on their ass with regularity.
That was a credit to Coach Flood’s outstanding work with a veteran group that largely stayed healthy, had a ton of character, and abundant leadership on the field:
Through 11 games, the Crimson Tide only allowed quarterback Mac Jones to be sacked 11 times on 377 drop backs — helping Jones earn the highest passing efficiency in the nation. At the 11-game mark, the offensive line had also assisted in leading the nation with 35 rushing touchdowns.
“I think this is one of the awards that I really cherish the most because it’s one of the few that honor a group of players, and the offensive line is a special group of guys,” Saban said on Hey Coach back on Dec. 10. “They all seem to have similar personalities. They all have the same kind of competitive characteristics. Probably play more together as a unit and as a group in terms of how they communicate, how they combination block and all those things more than any other group in football.
It came as little surprise that the ‘Bama offensive line won the Moore Award, that Alex Leatherwood won the Outland Trophy, and the Landon Dickerson won the Rimington Award.
Finally, if I were to single out any one coach that I think deserves special mention — and one that is due for a promotion and fat raise — it is Wide Receiver Coach Holmon Wiggins. Since his arrival on campus, an elite Crimson Tide receiving corps somehow got even better. The Tide had abundant talent, sure. But there are other teams that can boast a roster full of passcatchers with Sunday talent — Ohio State, Florida, and Clemson immediately come to mind.
But it’s what Coach Wiggins did with even that elite talent that was striking — players were somehow more open; they defeated jams more readily; they perfectly adjusted their routes into the soft spots of zones; they came back to the ball; they hustled on running plays; they blocked very effectively on the outside despite this being one of the least physical groups in recent memory. And they just flat-out caught passes — practically everything that came their way, they devoured. With the ball in the air, there was very little doubt that Smitty or Waddle would come down with. And despite having 5 drops on the season, even Metchie’s dominating performances and clutch catches forgave those early-season yips.
There are two young coaches on the staff that deserve an extension and a fat raise. Coach Wiggins is one of them. The players love him, he is an effective teacher, and a very bright young football mind. I would like to see him elevated to Co-OC / WRC with a raise to match his new job title. Alabama would do well to mentor him and try and keep him in the fold. Wiggins will get his shot at a bigger job soon, and Alabama is as good a place as any.
When it all came together, it didn’t even have to be complicated to be lethal. Some of Alabama’s greatest plays on the year came not merely from scheme, but from execution.
Wiggins. Flood. Sarkisian (and Jeff Banks coaching up the Tight Ends, though Wiggins and Flood were largely responsible for that job as well).
There was not a better offensive staff in the country, and the two-year staff continuity showed in a season where chaos reigned. The teams that could weather the storm the best, with the most professionalism and focus, would be the ones that competed for the national title. And talent aside, Ohio State and especially Alabama had those staffs. Coach Sarkisian and Coach Flood will be missed.
Alabama’s best offensive position coach was
This poll is closed
Jeff Banks, Tight ends / ST / Recruiting coordinator
Holmon Wiggins, Wide receivers
Kyle Flood, Offensive line
Steve Sarkisian, Quarterbacks