Alabama made a move to replace departed linebackers coaches Kevin Steele and Lance Thompson on Saturday, deciding to promote defensive analyst Tosh Lupoi, Sports Illustrated reported.

An ace recruiter with strong West Coast ties, Lupoi, 33 years old, already has significant coaching experience, but the specter of a potential NCAA violation marginalized him the last two years.

RELATED: Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin will return in 2015

Lupoi served as a key recruiter and the defensive line coach for then-Washington coach Steve Sarkisian. When Sarkisian replaced Lane Kiffin at Southern Cal, he appeared poised to bring along Lupoi. But a Los Angeles Times report alleged he may have paid for academic help for a Huskies commitment. (Read more about the saga here.)

The NCAA since has announced it will not take any action against Lupoi, who has maintained his innocence, but Sarkisian decided not to hire Lupoi when the rumors first surfaced. Alabama hired Lupoi last spring after the NCAA cleared him, and he’s been a significant behind-the-scenes recruiter.

The defensive line coach at Cal from 2008-11, named him Recruiter of the Year in 2010. On an aging staff at Alabama, he brings youthful energy as well as ties to a geographic area rich in prep football talent.

From the Sports Illustrated report:

This past season, an SEC staffer told The Inside Read that Lupoi has been instrumental in Alabama’s current recruiting class that is ranked as the nation’s best. The staffer described Lupoi as a “recruiting beast.”

“He’s been a big asset for [them],” an SEC staffer told The Inside Read. “Tosh has relationships across the country with recruits.”

As a defensive analyst, Lupoi had previously not been allowed to recruit off-campus per NCAA rules, but could have contact with recruits under certain scenarios. That changed when Alabama designated him to recruit off-campus after the departures of Steele and Thompson.

Lupoi has injected youth into a Crimson Tide staff that, excluding wide receivers coach Billy Napier, is either pushing or over 40 years of age.

“It’s been a big deal for Alabama as far as trying to stay on top,” the staffer said. “With Ole Miss and Auburn getting all these good classes the last few years, he’s been the younger guy with experience that’s helped them.”

Earlier Saturday, the Crimson Tide announced Kiffin will return to the team in 2015 as offensive coordinator, a public move likely designed to prevent other teams from using negative recruiting against the team in the final week before National Signing Day.

Perhaps Lupoi and Kiffin can trade some more grumblings about their dealings with USC in between recruiting duties.

It seems likely that coach Nick Saban and Alabama still will hire another assistant coach on the defensive side of the ball, but with Lupoi’s promotion, the Tide have done plenty to neutralize the recruiting sting from losing Steele and Thompson.