Nick Saban

Alabama Athletics

Jeff Banks looks to make Alabama’s special teams a strength

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If there is any crack in Alabama’s championship foundation, it may be on special teams. Looking to patch things up with the special teams, Alabama head coach Nick Saban has brought on new special teams coordinator Jeff Banks. The former Texas A&M special teams coordinator was officially announced as Alabama’s new special teams coach on Thursday.

“We are pleased to be able to add a coach the caliber of Jeff Banks to our staff as special teams coordinator,” Saban said in a released statement. “Jeff is well-respected across the country for his knowledge of the game and his ability to recruit. He is a great teacher and someone who will help our football team be successful.”

Banks comes to Alabama after five years at Texas A&M under former Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin, who was recently hired by Arizona. Special teams was one of the more consistently reliable aspects of the Aggies program under his watch, so Alabama hopes that can carry over to Tuscaloosa.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to join Coach Saban’s staff at The University of Alabama and work with such a talented group of student-athletes,” Banks said. “Coach Saban has built an unbelievable program that has a long tradition of success. I’m really excited to get out on the road recruiting, and I look forward to doing my part to help continue the success this program has enjoyed.”

Alabama ranked 90th in the nation last season in field goal percentage and 50th in the nation in punting average. Obviously, this has not hurt Alabama’s chances of competing for and winning national titles over the course of Saban’s time at Alabama, but it is somewhat remarkable just how many times special teams seems to make things just a little more difficult for the Crimson Tide. I suppose something has to at some point, right? In the recent College Football Playoff national championship, Alabama had to beat Georgia in overtime after a last-second field goal attempt at the end of the fourth quarter was missed.

The rich just keep getting richer at Alabama.

Nick Saban ties Bear Bryant for most national titles with his most unique championship yet

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Nick Saban has won a handful of national championships, but what better way to move into a tie for first place on the all-time leaderboard with the one and only Paul “Bear” Bryant than by cooking up the most unique national championship coaching job of his career to date.’

For the first time with the national championship on the line, Saban was going up against a former assistant coach. As the previous 11 matchups between teacher and student have gone, Saban once again came out on top of a former understudy, Georgia’s Kirby Smart. But boy oh boy did Saban have to try a few new things in order to get it. For the first time, Alabama was flustered and overmatched in a championship game. Even the last two years against Clemson were back-and-forth types of games, but Georgia was playing like a true home team hungry to end a national title drought in front of their home fans. Alabama’s offense was non-existent for the first 30 minutes, leading Saban to make a drastic call to change his quarterbacks at halftime and roll with a true freshman in Tua Tagovailoa.

Jalen Hurts had been Alabama’s starting quarterback for the past two seasons, but a rough first half performance led to Alabama digging a 13-0 hole. Saban needed a spark, so for the first time in a championship game, he made the switch in hopes of sparking something on offense. After a rough first drive, Tagovailoa came through in wild fashion. Tagovailoa connected on 14-of-24 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning 41-yard pass to Devonta Smith just one play after being taken down for a loss of 16 yards on a sack. Amazingly, Saban’s freshman quarterback looked like a freshman making a freshman mistake only to shrug it off and connect on a pass that will go down in Alabama’s storied history as one of the best in program history.

Saban is now tied with Bryant for the most national championships in the AP poll era with six apiece. Saban had already cemented his spot among college football’s hierarchy of coaches before Monday night, but for anyone who was still holding back on suggesting Saban belongs in the conversation for best coaches of all time, there is no more room to allow that conversation to be avoided. Saban is absolutely one of the best coaches of all time with six national titles to his name at two different schools (one at LSU, five at Alabama). But for anyone who does want to hold off on the Saban conversation, what more could you possibly need? Do you need Alabama to win another national title?

If you do, then watch out. Alabama was fueled Monday night by a freshman quarterback (Tagovailoa), a freshman running back (Najee Harris) and a freshman wide receiver (Smith). Alabama’s not going away anytime soon, because Saban has established a factory of college football talent in Tuscaloosa that is built to compete, have players step into big roles at any moment, and win.

Saban has won national titles with crippling defense. He has won a national title with an offense coming alive in a shootout. Now, Saban has won with freshmen leading the way. And ogh yeah, he also did it without winning a division title.

There will come a day when Saban decides enough is enough and he settles into retirement with time away from a sideline, but there does not appear to be an end in sight to the Saban dynasty in Tuscaloosa. Until Saban calls it a career, Alabama will continue to cement Saban’s legacy as the greatest coach of all time.

Nick Saban makes a QB change for second half

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After a rocky first half of football from the Alabama offense, Nick Saban isn’t messing around in the second half. True freshman Tua Tagovailoa has replaced Jalen Hurts at quarterback as the second half is underway in Atlanta.

Hurts was 3-of-8 for 21 yards and rushed six times for a team-high 47 yards in the first half. Hurts picked up 31 of those yards on one play. After Alabama was shut out by the Georgia defense in the first half, and with Alabama trailing 13-0, this is out of the ordinary for Saban under these conditions. Saban has never shied away from playing multiple quarterbacks to try and figure out who is the best option to run with, but that typically happens in the beginning of the season, not the end.

Tagovailoa was a four-star recruit out of Hawaii for Alabama in the Class of 2017. Rivals ranked him the third among dual-threat quarterbacks in the recruiting class. After completing one pass for two yards, Alabama’s offense went three-and-out to start the second half.

There is a solar eclipse tomorrow, but Nick Saban has work to do

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Stores may be sold out of special solar eclipse glasses for what some are dubbing the Great American Eclipse on Monday, but Alabama head coach Nick Saban may be more likely to be found in his office preparing for a mega matchup to open the season next week.

Besides, Saban has seen how an eclipse works already because he is a devoted fan of The Weather Channel.

“I watch the Weather Channel every day,” Saban said Saturday, according to AL.com. “They’re already saying what it’s going to look like in every city in America. So, what’s going to be significant? Watch the Weather Channel and you’ll see what it’s going to be like in Portland, Oregon.”

That Saban sure is a curmudgeon, isn’t he? But that’s part of the legacy of Saban. Unless the eclipse can help Alabama win a game against Florida State in Atlanta next week, Saban has little time to worry about such nonsense. Otherwise, it is business as usual for Saban and Alabama. However, Saban will allow his players to take advantage of what is, for some, a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“We’ll set it up so if the players want to go out there and get some sunglasses, I guess they can,” Saban said.

The eclipse is having a slight impact on some football practices around the country, including in the NFL. The Tennessee Titans, for example, have modified their practice schedule for Monday due to the eclipse and will organize a team party around the event.

“I thought what a cool thing to do, but then I thought I’d like them to finish practice and give them time to put the glasses on and really enjoy the experience,” Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said (per ESPN.com). “I wanted to be on the field when it happened, as a team, I thought it’d be a neat memory for these guys.”

Clearly, Mularkey is not watching the Weather Channel on a daily basis.

Saban, Meyer, Harbaugh, Swinney and more among 19 Dodd Trophy watch list candidates

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When you really think about it, a watch list for a college football award is nothing more than a way to keep public relations staffers in college football programs busy this summer. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it is nice to have a number of key players for the upcoming season highlighted whenever possible (unless you are a Big Ten team going to Big Ten media days). But a watch list is generally pretty pointles sin the long run for most awards. This is especially true for a watch list of college football coaches.

The Dodd Trophy watch list was released today with a list of 19 coaches from many of the top programs around the country. Yep, a watch list for head coaches. Silly, right? It really is the easiest watch list to put together.

The award watch list, compiled by the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, includes four coaches from the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, two coaches from the Big 12 and one from the American Athletic Conference. You know all of the names, like national championship coaches Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, and Dabo Swinney; household names like Jim Harbaugh, Mark Richt, Bill Snyder, and Chris Petersen; and conference championship coaches like David Shaw, James Franklin.

Some notable names not on the list? How about Jimbo Fisher of Florida State? Fisher has a playoff contender in Tallahassee and is the ACC favorite. He also has a national championship ring. Not having Fisher on a preseason watch list for top coaches seems like a bad oversight. Not having new Big 12 coaches Tom Herman (Texas) and Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma) also feels like a swing and a miss if pulling together a list of potential coach of the year candidates. If we are not going to just list all 130 head coaches in FBS, it seems silly to have such a weird collection of watch list candidates when Butch Jones is on the list.

Five coaches on the watch list are former winners of the Dodd Trophy; Snyder, Petersen, Swinney, Saban, and Paul Johnson. Paul Chryst, Ken Niumatalolo, and Petersen were finalists for the award last season as well.

2017 Dodd Trophy Watch List

  • Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
  • James Franklin, Penn State
  • Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
  • Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
  • Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
  • Clay Helton, USC
  • Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
  • Butch Jones, Tennessee
  • Gus Malzahn, Auburn
  • Jim McElwain, Florida
  • Urban Meyer, Ohio State
  • Ken Niumatalolo, Navy
  • Chris Petersen, Washington
  • Mark Richt, Miami
  • Nick Saban, Alabama
  • David Shaw, Stanford
  • Bill Snyder, Kansas State
  • Dabo Swinney, Clemson
  • Kyle Whittingham, Utah