Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

A new wave of Tide coaches

This spring, along with the usual process of replacing departed players, Alabama head coach Nick Saban was tasked with the added difficulty of replacing five coaches on his staff.

Saban was able to find replacements in time for his players to get accustomed to their new coaches, three of whom work directly with their players in their respective positions. The other two, Kerry Stevenson and Kevin Steele, are the Director of Player Development and Director of Player Personnel, respectively.

One of the coaching hires made by Saban was Greg Brown, the Tide’s new secondary coach. Saban said Brown’s extensive experience of working with the secondary at places organizations like the Houston Oilers and San Diego Chargers made him an ideal hire for the Tide.

“Greg has a tremendous amount of college and NFL experience,” Saban said in a released statement, “and his knowledge in the secondary really made him the perfect fit for this position.”

Mario Cristobal will take over as the offensive line coach on the other side of the ball. Cristobal spent six years as the head coach for the Florida International Panthers and also spent a year in Miami as the associate head coach and tight ends coach.

Billy Napier rounded out the positions coaching hires for the spring when Saban announced his hiring March 1 at the wide receiver position. Napier, an offensive analyst for Alabama in 2011, also spent a year as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Colorado State.

Saban has lauded each coach not only for their impressive track records, but their ability to work with their new players as well. Indeed, players of each respective coach have said they appreciate the intensity their new coaches bring to the table.

Regardless, the players also had to go through a trial period to get to know their new, respective coaches. But now, with spring training nearly finished, many of the players say they have seen more similarities than differences between their new and former coaches.

Junior tackle Austin Shepherd said other than a few stylistic differences, he sees numerous shared attributes between Cristobal and former coach Jeff Stoutland.

“[Cristobal] just has a different style, different terminology, things such as that, but they’re kind of the same,” Shepherd said. “Both great guys.”

Junior offensive tackle Cyrus Kouandjio furthered the comparison between the two.

“They’re both really technical coaches,” Kouandjio said. “They’re really down with the little things. They both push you. They’re really high-energy coaches. I mean, you have to be a high-energy coach to coach the O-line, because that’s the one position on the field where you can’t afford to get lazy or anything like that.”

One coach who has certainly made his presence known this spring is Brown, who takes over for arguably one of the most important positions on defense, one which lost talent like Dee Milliner and Robert Lester to the NFL Draft. Senior cornerback Deion Belue said he feels Brown has transitioned seamlessly into the already-intense coaching staff.

“He’s still hard on us, like Coach Saban and [former secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt,]” Belue said. “It’s like the whole staff. He blends right in with them. You feel him when he says something.”

Junior safety HaHa Clinton-Dix went so far as to say he didn’t even see any differences between the two.

“Not at all,” Clinton-Dix said. “Coach Brown is a great coach. Him and coach both seem the same to me. They both get on to you when you’re doing something wrong, so you just got to stick to it.”

One coach who hasn’t had difficulty in transitioning to Alabama is Napier. Napier’s time at Alabama as an offensive analyst and quarterback coach under former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain at Colorado State, made him an obvious coaching hire for Saban.

“We are glad to have Billy back on our staff,” Saban said in a statement. “He did an outstanding job when he was with us in 2011 and he was the first call we made when this position opened.”

Napier takes over one of the most talented positions on the team, with returning players Kenny Bell, Kevin Norwood, DeAndrew White and Amari Cooper making up the core of one the more explosive wide receiver corps in the nation.

While McElwain said he thought Napier would have success at Alabama, it would be because of his willingness to learn, rather than his ability to rely on former ties to players.

“First and foremost, he grew up as a ball coach,” McElwain said. “His dad was a long-time coach. So it’s in his blood. He’s highly organized. He really strives to learn every day to better his craft. That’s something that I really saw in Billy when we were together.”

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