Alabama coach Nick Saban typically doesn't fire coordinators. He will, however, open the door and forcefully push them through it. That's apparently what happened with former defensive coordinator Pete Golding and former offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, opening the door for two new play-callers to step in.
Enter: Defensive coordinator Kevin Steele and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees -- both of whom are reportedly headed to Alabama.
The duo were reportedly hired earlier this week and, even though neither of them were top of mind of fans during the process, will keep the Crimson Tide not only relevant in the national scene, but potentially lead them to the national championship in short order.
Rees will run the dang ball
Alabama finished 82nd in the nation in rushing attempts last year. Eighty-second! That seems impossible. Despite the reluctance to run the ball, the Crimson Tide finished fourth in the country in rushing yards per attempt at 5.57. Translation: Alabama's rushing attack relied on home-run plays rather than pounding the rock for a full four quarters.
Conversely, Notre Dame finished 21st in the country in rushing attempts per game at 40.92. Granted, part of the reason for that was a season-ending injury to quarterback Tyler Buchner in Week 2. But it's not like Young was 100% after an injury to his throwing shoulder in Week 5.
Rees will get Alabama back to pounding the rock, and will do so with plenty of motion and eye candy to open running lanes. Plus, he'll do it with much more talent then he had in South Bend. No, this won't be like the Derrick Henry offense in 2015. Henry is a freak and the game has evolved since then. By hiring Rees, it is clear that Saban is intent on being much more physical and balanced on offense.
Rees will stretch the field a bit more
O'Brien had the benefit of reigning Heisman Trophy winner Young last year, but Notre Dame backup quarterback Drew Pyne actually had a better completion percentage on passes of 15 or more air yards.
Young finished 34th in the nation in that category among players with at least 200 or more passing attempts at just 33.3%. Conversely, Pyne finished 21st in the country at 35.4% in the same category. That's not a huge difference on paper, but it's a big difference in context considering Pyne was not only the Fighting Irish's backup to start the season, but didn't have the weapons that Young had -- even in a down year for the Tide.
This comparison isn't an indictment of Young. It's far from it. It's an indication that O'Brien didn't put his star quarterback in positions to be successful deep downfield, which would explain why Rees will be calling plays in Tuscaloosa and O'Brien was pushed out the door. Rees is going to pound the rock in order to take the top off of a defense with motion and tempo, which is typically a recipe for success in this day and age.
Saban's familiarity with Steele
Saban has promoted multiple assistants and staffers into more prominent roles in the past, but he's very familiar with Steele. This is the third time that Steele has been on Saban's staff in Tuscaloosa (2007-08, 2013-14). The two know each other's tendencies and expectations, but how those tendencies and expectations have evolved through a significant transition of offensive football.
In 2007, college football was still an old-school sport. Running backs would consistently have 30 or more attempts per game, up-tempo schemes were rare and defensive depth wasn't tested in ways that it is now. By the time he returned to the Crimson Tide, the transition to modern college football was underway and Saban was on the brink of changing his mindset. Steele helped Alabama earn SEC titles during each of those stints, and three of those four seasons resulted in the Crimson Tide finishing in the top 12 nationally in total defense.
A little tweak can go a long way, and this is exactly what Saban is hoping for judging from these hires. Alabama was a national title contender even with Golding and O'Brien, and there's no need for Saban to re-invent the wheel and completely change his mindset in order to topple Georgia. Turning those dials just a bit is the responsible thing to do.
There's a reason that Saban is the greatest coach of all time. Trust him.