Alabama Football: Nick Saban may be close to finishing staff rebuild

Alabama Football: Tide fans have been worried about departures from Saban’s staff. Now he appears close to finishing the rebuild.

The Alabama Football 2021 staff is coming together quickly. Despite the exiting trio to Texas and another becoming a head coach, Saban is close to filling all his on-field, coaching slots.

Bill O’Brien has not been officially announced as the Crimson Tide’s new Offensive Coordinator but he’s reportedly already reaching out to recruits. Multiple reports have Doug Marrone joining the Tide staff to coach the offensive line.

Doug Marrone and Bill O’Brien are closely connected. Like O’Brien, Marrone has NFL head coaching experience. He was the head man at Buffalo in 2013 and 2014 and until recently had been the Jaguars head coach, going back to 2017. Marrone was also a college head coach at Syracuse for four seasons. As an assistant, Marrone has coached for Georgia Tech, Tennessee, the New York Jets and the New Orleans Saints. He was an assistant in Jacksonville, before being named Interim Head Coach in 2016.

The NFL experience and connections the two men bring to the Alabama Crimson Tide program is remarkable. Any college program having two former NFL head coaches on his staff is impressive. Nick Saban does not need any added credibility, but for Tide players and recruits having NFL dreams, O’Brien and Marrone will make an impact.

Unlike the expected deal that fell apart Tuesday for LSU, a delay before official announcements should not concern Crimson Tide fans. Moving beyond the two hires, it appears previous concerns of Charles Huff taking Holman Wiggins and Karl Scott with him to Marshall were unfounded. Huff may be too loyal to Saban to hire a Tide coach without Nick’s blessing. Guys like Wiggins and Scott would not necessarily enhance their paths to future head coach jobs by becoming non-Power Five Coordinators. Wiggins and Scott will have other chances to leave the Alabama football staff but currently, are not expected to make a move.

Assuming O’Brien and Marrone are done deals and that Wiggins and Scott will not leave, Saban has only two openings. The running back and tight ends – special teams slots are still open. Names being tossed around are Lance Taylor for the running backs position and Joe Pannunzio or Jay Boulware for the tight ends – special teams position.

Taylor is a former Alabama Football wide receiver who played for Mike Dubose, Dennis Franchione and Mike Shula. He was a graduate assistant for Nick Saban in 2007 and 2008. Taylor also has NFL experience. He was an offensive analyst and assistant tight ends coach for the Jets and assistant wide receivers coach for the Panthers. He was a Stanford running backs coach for three seasons before joining Brian Kelly at Notre Dame in 2019. His title for the Fighting Irish is Running Backs Coach and Run Game Coordinator.

Pannunzio coached for Nick Saban at Alabama in 2017 and 2018, first as the tight ends coach and then the running backs. Like O’Brien and Marrone, he has extensive coaching experience. His college coaching stops include TCU, Minnesota, Ole Miss, Auburn and Miami. In 2011-2014 he was Director of Football Operations for Saban. Currently, he is Director of Team Development for the NFL Eagles. Pannunzio has a reputation as a top recruiter with strong south Florida connections.

Jay Boulware played for the Texas Longhorns in the early 1990s. He is not expected to be retained by Steve Sarkisian. Boulware has coached tight ends and running backs at Texas, Northern Illinois, Stanford, Utah, Iowa State, Auburn and Oklahoma. His Texas recruiting connections could immediately be used to fill the void left by Jeff Banks’ exit.

Two more coaches believed to be under consideration are Kevin Sumlin and Eddie Gran. Though Gran was fired at Kentucky after the season, he has a good reputation as a running backs coach from his stops at Auburn and Florida State. Sumlin is respected for his offensive knowledge and he may want to rejuvenate his career in Tuscaloosa.