Alabama facing highest coaching turnover in Saban era

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Upon the news that Alabama wide receivers coach Mike Groh accepted the Chicago Bears receivers job, it now marks three top assistant coaches Nick Saban will have to replace from the Tide’s back-to-back national championship teams.

And coaching turnover, or lack thereof, has been very kind to Saban during his Alabama tenure, which doesn’t always happen to successful programs. The most notable assistant who has been with Saban throughout is defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, who could have had his pick of the litter of several jobs in the last couple of years.

However, Saban has lost top assistants in offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, who left for the Eagles, and defensive secondary coach Jeremy Pruitt, who left to become Florida State’s defensive coordinator. And now wide receivers coach Mike Groh has taken the Bears job. All moves have been promotions.

Groh is a dynamite recruiter, as he was named 247Sports’ National Recruiter of the Year. Groh was the primary recruiter for Arkansas’ Altee Tenpenny, Texas’ A’Shawn Robinson and Pennsylvania’s Robert Foster. And it was Groh who wooed five-star defensive lineman Dee Liner to Alabama after he started to waver on his Auburn commitment.

Groh and Pruitt are big losses in the recruiting realms, and there should be some concerns in that department moving forward.

Alabama hired former FIU head coach Mario Cristobal, who has a direct line to South Florida, to replace Stoutland and former Colorado defensive coordinator Greg Brown to replace Pruitt coaching the secondary. And now Saban looks to hire Billy Napier to replace Groh, as Napier worked under Saban in 2011 as the offensive quality control assistant and coached the quarterbacks last year at Colorado State.

Coaching turnover is ultimately inevitable for successful programs. Athletic directors raid successful staffs and hire proven coordinators to become their next head coach, while other head coaches pick apart the assistants, often giving them a coordinator job or a promotion.

Here’s a look at Alabama’s coaching turnover since 2007:

  • From 2007 to 2008, Alabama lost offensive coordinator Major Applewhite to Texas and assistant coach Ron Middleton to Duke. Saban gave the staff an upgrade by hiring Jim McElwain to replace Applewhite.
  • From 2008 to 2009, Alabama lost defensive coordinator Kevin Steele to Clemson and Lance Thompson to Tennessee. Saban already had Kirby Smart in place to run his defense.
  • From 2010 to 2011, Bama lost defensive line coach Bo Davis to Texas and hired Chris Rumph to replace him.
  • From 2011 to 2012, Bama lost offensive coordinator Jim McElwain to Colorado State, Sal Sunseri and corners coach Derek Ansley to Tennessee.

Nick Saban is a master at being the architect of a great staff, and losing Groh, Stoutland and Pruitt is a hit, especially on offense – but Saban will forever be the central cog to a dominant force in Tuscaloosa.

Is losing three top assistants cause for concern? It will make a bigger impact in recruiting than in day-to-day coaching decisions. But losing three proven assistants hurts more with staff continuity than it does anything else. After all, Stoutland was the backbone of the Bama ground-and-pound machine the last two years, and losing Stoutland, along with three starters, is cause for concern.

Coaching turnover assisted to the demise of Urban Meyer at Florida and had its hand in the downturn of USC. It hasn’t affected Alabama’s ‘process’ yet, but this is their biggest and toughest coaching turnover yet.

Photo Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

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