With Jeremy Pruitt’s departure, Nick Saban faces a problem he hasn’t had in a while.
It’s why the last two defensive coordinators for Alabama were Saban proteges.
He groomed Smart, nurturing him as a defensive back coach at LSU, the Miami Dolphins and Alabama while teaching him the nuanced pattern-matching coverages that are a staple of a scheme that dates back to Saban’s days as an NFL coordinator.
As a result, Smart was able to step in for Kevin Steele in 2008 and run Saban’s defense through the Tide’s 2015 national championship victory.
He was immediately succeeded by Pruitt, who had also developed a firm understanding of Saban’s complex system as a secondary coach before moving on to become a coordinator at Florida State and Georgia.
Presiding over a unit that has led the nation in scoring defense each of the last two seasons, Pruitt has distinguished himself. The void he leaves is considerable, because there isn’t anyone in Alabama’s organization with the credentials Pruitt had when he came back to the Tide in 2016.
Derrick Ansley has supervised the defensive backs, but he has been a position coach at Alabama for merely two seasons. Tosh Lupoi has worked with the team’s pass rushers, yet has only been an on-field assistant with the Tide one year longer than Ansley has.
That’s why hiring Pruitt’s successor could be one of the most challenging pursuits Saban has faced as Alabama’s coach.
Obviously, this is more like don’t cry for me, Tuscaloosa, than anything. Saban’s going to have a wealth of choices to select from and if anyone ought to know what he’s looking for, it’s Nick Saban. Still, the recent situation this reminds me of in a weird way is what Georgia faced in 2015 when the quarterback well ran dry. In the very short run, that didn’t work out too well.