Alabama Football: Player exits, no surprise – new coach, big surprise

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

As expected, Alabama football is losing five juniors to the NFL draft. The Tide’s new assistant coach hire, Jeff Banks was unexpected.

Surprising no Alabama football fan, it was confirmed on Thursday Minkah Fitzpatrick, Da’Ron Payne, Calvin Ridley, Bo Scarbrough and Ronnie Harrison will pursue NFL early entry opportunities. Minkah and Ridley are likely first-round picks. Payne is projected first or second round. Ronnie Harrison is projected as second-round. Bo Scarbrough’s pre-draft grade was not disclosed.

The big surprise on Thursday was the news former Texas A&M assistant, Jeff Banks will become the Tide’s newest onfield coach. Banks is expected to become a special teams coach, taking over the duties that were shared in 2017 by Burton Burns and Joe Pannunzio. Other more prominent assistant coaches were rumored to be Nick Saban’s next hire, while there had been no public speculation about Banks.

Banks was a top, Pac 12 punter in the late 1990’s, playing for Mike Price at Washington State. More from Bruce Feldman from,

"Under Banks’s leadership, A&M led the nation in blocked kicks with eight. In 2016, the Aggies blocked an SEC-high three kicks, ranked third in net punting (39.4) and second in kickoff return defense (18.3)."

Jeff Banks was most recently the interim head coach for the Aggies after the termination of Kevin Sumlin. Banks had been on the Aggies staff since 2013. He also coached tight ends but is not expected to do so for Alabama football. Before joining TAMU, Banks coached at Virginia, Texas El-Paso and Idaho State. He is a highly respected recruiter who lured the dynamic Christian Kirk and Kyle Allen to College Station.

More coaching news to come

A designated special teams coach is new for Alabama football. When the NCAA voted to add a 10th onfield assistant to college staffs, many Alabama football fans hoped a designated special teams coach would be hired. In hiring Banks, the Tide may also immediately benefit 2018 recruiting. 5-Star cornerback and Crimson Tide target, Issac Taylor Stuart was being recruited by Banks for TAMU.

The Banks’ hire leaves Alabama football with one current opening. Names that have been rumored are Chris Partridge, linebackers coach at Michigan and Corey Raymond, defensive backs coach at LSU. If, as some insiders believe, Karl Dunbar decides to return to the NFL, Nick Saban could have room for Partridge and Raymond.

On a lighter note (and honestly meaning no disrespect to a coach losing a job) but Lamar Thomas was fired at Kentucky. Yes, that trash-talking Lamar Thomas from Miami, who was stripped of the football by George Teague in the 1992 national championship game. Cecil Hurt’s tweet in response to the news,

Next: Alabama Football enters new offensive era

Talking about Karl Dunbar, it was learned today his backpack was stolen in Atlanta two days before the national championship game. Among other items, it contained the Crimson Tide playbook.