Grading Alabama’s decision to hire Kevin Steele as the team’s next defensive coordinator
Alabama recently announced the hiring of Kevin Steele as the team’s next defensive coordinator. Steele served this past season on Mario Cristobal’s staff as Miami’s defensive coordinator.
Steele has been coaching for quite a while. He begin his coaching career in 1980 as a graduate assistant at Tennessee. He has come a long way since then as he has held numerous titles such as linebackers coach, defensive coordinator, and head coach.
It is safe to say that Steele has been around the game of football for quite some time. Coaching experience can prove to be valuable in different instances. This time it could really benefit Alabama as several of the Tide’s top defenders declared for the NFL draft.
Today, Roll Tide grades several areas regarding Alabama’s most recent hiring of Kevin Steele as the team’s next defensive coordinator.
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There is reason for Alabama fans to believe that Kevin Steele is the man for the job. After all, he previously served as Alabama’s defensive coordinator back in 2007. That was Coach Saban’s first year in Tuscaloosa. He also returned to Tuscaloosa in 2014 after serving as the defensive coordinator at Clemson. His role then was as the director of player personnel. Steele is familiar with what Saban wants to accomplish on the defensive side of the ball. The two have been coaching defenses for a number of years. Overall, Steele makes sense to be the next play-caller in Tuscaloosa. I think his philosophy, along with the input of other defensive assistants will help the Tide’s defense develop over the course of the season.
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Throughout his coaching career, Steele has helped sign just one five-star. That five-star was former Alabama offensive lineman Tyler Love. The one thing that almost all of the coordinators at Alabama have been able to do is consistently recruit. Granted, sometimes the best players were ranked as three-stars in high school. With Steele, that does not appear to be the case. In his time at Alabama, he has helped sign some familiar names that Alabama fans might recall like Jerrell Harris, Marquis Maze, and Barrett Jones. However, he has alos signed players that did not pan out as expected like Kerry Murphy, Undra Billingsley, and the aforementioned Tyler Love. With that said, it is hard for me to get on board with hiring Steele from a recruiting aspect.
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As far as schematics are concerned, Steele seemed to struggle this past season at Miami. Upon being announced as Miami’s defensive coordinator, Steele was quoted saying that his players will have “speed on the field, relentless effort [and] physical and mental toughness.” Well, that did not appear on the field in 2022 as the Hurricanes’ defense allowed almost 380 yards per game while allowing a staggering 26.75 points per game. To his defense, Miami does not have the amount of talent that Alabama has. Therefore, things could work out differently for Steele in Tuscaloosa. With a surplus of highly-rated prospects and starters returning, he should be able to acclimate quickly. He has coached multiple times in the SEC and knows what it takes for his defenses to compete at a high level. He did that at Auburn several years ago. The Tigers’ defense was the staple of their time and in large part because of Steele’s 4-3 scheme.
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Considering the fact that Steele will be 65 in March, it raises concerns regarding his longevity as Alabama’s defensive coordinator. However, that may not matter in due time. Touchdown Alabama’s Stephen Smith provided some insight on why Alabama hired Steele. Smith said that Alabama could have a deal in place in the future to hire Jeremy Pruitt as an analyst. Smith also added that Pruitt said that the only way he would come to Alabama as an analyst was if the administration hired someone that he trust. That person was Steele. The two have coached together several times and could be reunited in the future. Steele is 64-years old and could be eyeing a retirement in the near future. It makes sense that Pruitt steps in as Alabama’s defensive coordinator if that were to happen. That is under the presumption that the NCAA will clear Pruitt to coach in the SEC again. This could be a very wise decision that was made on behalf of Saban and the administration as well.
Previous coaching stops
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This seems to be a questionable hire to some fans simply because of his coaching stops in the past. He has coached for a long list of programs that include Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, and Clemson among others. A series of questionable coaching decisions along the way were made by Steele as well. Overall, he has served at five programs as the team’s defensive coordinator. Remarkably so, his best stop likely came with Auburn where he spent five seasons on Gus Malzahn’s staff. His defenses on the Plains finished ranked No. 7 (2016), No. 11 (2017), No. 14 (2018), No. 17 (2019), and No. 38 (2020). In case you did not notice, the trajectory of Auburn’s defense during that time spiraled downwards. That said, he does not have a great track record as a defensive coordinator. However, he has a lot of very bright assistants to aid him in running Alabama’s defense. As mentioned earlier, Pruitt could also be joining the staff in the future. That remains to be seen.