The minute Nick Saban assumed the helm in Tuscaloosa in 2007, he began to recruit and develop elite talent. A laundry list of big physical athletic defensive players to elite skilled players on offense. Saban won titles in 2009, 2012, and 2013, led by defensive juggernauts. Two things that he’d been devoid of were elite quarterbacks and placekickers.
Evolution Of Bama Offense: Lane Kiffin
In 2013, with their dominance evident, college football began to become more of a spread offense game. This was designed to neutralize the “Saban Effect”, as his defensive prowess had hit official guru status.
As other offenses evolved with the times, Saban would resist changing his plodding style of power running with the play-action passing game mixed in, anchored by dominant trench play on both lines.
But after failing to win the title in 2013 and 2014, while losing to two teams in archrival Auburn and Ohio State, who utilized a spread offense with tempo, the stubborn head coach made a surprising change in 2015.
Alabama still ran it a ton with Derrick Henry (Tennessee Titans) at running back. Henry eclipsed 2000 yards that season while winning the Heisman trophy and leading BAMA to the National Title.
The surprise element, however, came in the form of guru Lane Kiffin being hired as the new offensive coordinator.
Bama was at a crossroads, and whereas some coaches with Saban’s track record of titles would refuse to change, Saban decided to relinquish some control and allow the future to work with his experience.
Kiffin, for all of his quirkiness and weird ways, is one helluva playcaller, and he implemented the RPO (Run Pass Option) spread offense. It wasn’t always pretty as Saban was still stuck in his ways and that caused some sideline blowups between the two coaches, but the partnership between the old guard and the new breed eventually worked.
The modernized system had an even bigger effect on recruiting as it helped grabbed the attention of talented high school quarterbacks like Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, Bryce Young and Mac Jones.
So if we’re gonna credit former Alabama and current Atlanta Falcons star Julio Jones with beginning the train of elite receivers to Tuscaloosa (Amari Cooper, Calvin Ridley, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and now Heisman winner DeVonta Smith), then Kiffin gets credit for reconstructing the famed program’s offensive identity which has allowed them to stay relevant.
Kiffin made Tuscaloosa a place where elite offensive players want to come and play. The offensive system is designed to have many players touch the ball and credit playmaking ability.
Fast forward to 2021.
Nick Saban earns over $10 million on season after Alabama win, including several bonuses https://t.co/O0YfVXVHTe
— Advertiser Sports (@mgmsports) January 13, 2021
Bama is fresh off winning the 2020 National Championship over Ohio State (52-24), The Crimson Tide averaged 48.5 points per game during a 13-0 season with 11 of those coming in the SEC.
This 2020 version had three players finish in the Top 5 of the Heisman race (DeVonta, Mac, Najee) for the first time since the 1946 Army Cadets. He recruited a kicker (Will Reicherd) who didn’t miss a kick all season (FG or Xtra Point).
The guy who had to make all this work was offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and he utilized every piece to a tee, and that in itself afforded him the opportunity to resurrect his once-promising coaching career.
Sark was once the head guy at Washington and USC, with the latter ending because of a battle with alcohol.
There’s never been a question of his football acumen and offensive genius and the folks at Texas are getting a good one. Saban will have to find a replacement for Sark. I expect former Texans head coach Bill O’Brien to be the next OC in Tuscaloosa and keep the ship sailing.
Feed The Beast: Top Recruiting Class Year After Year
Having landed the #1 recruiting class again for 2021, there’s plenty of talent to go around and keep BAMA at the top of CFB.
"This is more the beginning of a 3rd Act for Nick Saban's career, not him riding off into the sunset. He's better at his job now than he's ever been."
–@JoeGoodmanJr thinks the Alabama coach will continue to dominate after 7 national titles
— Paul Finebaum (@finebaum) January 12, 2021
Saban has adapted and now he oversees the most terrifying offense in college football. He now has an offensive track record to match that of his master defensive mind.
He’s won a grand total of 7 “Nattys” (6 at BAMA and 1 at LSU), tying the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant at “The Capstone” and surpassing him overall for the most in CFB history. Every recruiting class he’s brought in over his 14 years has won a title before leaving Tuscaloosa and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon.
The Crimson Tide football factory is in another Golden Era. Sit back and enjoy the show.