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2014 Alabama Defensive Staff: Old Faces Return

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Bo Davis had told everyone, even recruits, that he was going to become the new defensive line coach at the University of Southern California under incoming head coach Steve Sarkisian. Instead, he shocked the college football landscape by deciding days later to take the same position at Alabama, returning to coach under former boss Nick Saban.

While it might not have garnered the same outcry as when a recruit flips his commitment, the decision still caught many off guard.  There are two things you can take away from this event: 1. Bo Davis is immensely sought after as a defensive line coach, 2. If you can coach, Saban wants you on his staff.

Davis coached defensive line from 2007 until 2010 in his first stint at Alabama. He then left for the same position at Texas. With Mack Brown being forced out this year, Davis decided to look elsewhere, and came back to Tuscaloosa.

It’s not the first time Saban has taken back a coach who had previously left. Lance Thompson coached linebackers for Saban’s first two seasons in Tuscaloosa before bolting for Lane Kiffin’s staff at Tennessee. Thompson even went on to take some jabs at Saban while recruiting the Memphis area. Any issues between the two were clearly resolved when he rejoined the staff before the 2012 season.

Davis and Thompson are two pieces of a puzzle that Saban appears to be putting back together on defense. With the losses over the seasons of Sal Sunseri, Jeremy Pruitt and Chris Rumph, there has been a lot of shake-up on one of the most highly regarded coaching staffs in the country. But to long-time Bama fans, the result looks very familiar. And that is reason to get excited.

The 2014 Alabama defensive staff will look a lot like the 2008 and 2009 staffs.  After a disastrous stint as the Clemson defensive coordinator, Kevin Steele returns to coach linebackers, while Thompson will focus on outside linebackers. Kirby Smart will remain the coordinator, but he will take a more active role with the defensive backs, his former assistant position. With Davis back coaching the defensive line, it’s almost as if Saban decided enough was enough and wanted to get his most trusted help back together to return the Tide to the top of the defensive charts.

Most of the coverage of Saban’s staff this off-season will focus on the offense, in particular on the controversial hire of Lane Kiffin to be the offensive coordinator. But for the Bama faithful, seeing Saban get the boys back together on defense is a breath of fresh air. It reinforces the concept that this team will always focus on stopping the other team before anything else.

This staff has its work cut out for them though. C.J. Mosley is gone, as is Ha Ha Clinton-Dix. The line is talented but young. Landon Collins will easily be the best defensive back, but the corners are unsettled. Trey Depriest appears to be the leader of the linebacking core, but after him there is not a clear second best. The pieces are plentiful, especially with all the 5-star talent coming in such as Tony Brown and DaShawn Hand, but the lack of experience is concerning.

All that being said, this is the staff that built one of the greatest college football defenses of all-time. Just recapturing a portion of that success could revive a sleeping giant.

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