Being an Analyst for Nick Saban Is the Best Stepping Stone in College Football

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2020

Alabama analyst Butch Jones (previously a head coach at Tennessee) before an NCAA college football game against Mississippi, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)
Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

From elite recruiting to outstanding development to excellent in-game decisions, Nick Saban has developed a powerhouse at Alabama for many reasons. One contributing factor, though, is the wise voices constantly in the room.

More specifically, the voices that normally aren't available.

Saban has added another such person for 2020, hiring former Louisville, Texas and South Florida head coach Charlie Strong as a defensive analyst. Strong had frustrating stints with the Longhorns and Bulls, but his knowledge will be a valuable asset to the Tide. He passed up "several opportunities to join [other] SEC staffs," per ESPN's Chris Low.

Strong is the latest member of a fascinating list of coaches who serve an off-field role as analysts on Saban's staff.

It's not the greatest job in college football. Yes, Saban and Dabo Swinney and Ed Orgeron have better jobs. Heck, Pat Fitzgerald will never be fired at Northwestern; that's pretty cool! Being an analyst isn't the goal. The pay isn't great, either.

Saban's image-rehabilitation program is remarkable, though. Hold an analyst job, and offers seem to follow quickly.

Lane Kiffin is the most popular name, serving as Alabama's offensive coordinator from 2014 to 2016 before heading to Florida Atlantic. His success there led to a job at Mississippi. Still, we're focused exclusively on the analysts.

Over the last half-decade, Alabama has hired Steve Sarkisian (USC head coach), Mike Locksley (Maryland OC and interim HC), Butch Jones (Tennessee HC), Chris Weinke (Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach), Mike Stoops (Oklahoma defensive coordinator) and Major Applewhite (Houston HC) as analysts.

Long story short? Most of their reputations have recovered.

Steve Sarkisian and Tua Tagovailoa
Steve Sarkisian and Tua TagovailoaVasha Hunt/Associated Press

Sarkisian went to the Atlanta Falcons as the offensive coordinator before he returned to Alabama in the same role. Locklsey is entering his second year as Maryland's head coach. Weinke headed to Tennessee as the running backs coach and now oversees UT's quarterbacks.

Jones interviewed with Rutgers for the head-coaching spot and found himself mentioned in Michigan State, Colorado and Colorado State searches. That's no small improvement. For him, Stoops and Applewhite, promotions will probably come.

And the list isn't limited to coaches a casual fan might identify.

Billy Napier spent 2011 in the role after getting dismissed as Clemson's offensive coordinator. While he's since become Louisiana's head coach, a Power Five offer is likely on the horizon.

"I probably learned as much in that one year that I'd learned in a long time," Napier said in 2016 of his time under Saban, per Manie Robinson of the Greenville News.

Lou Spanos was the Tennessee Titans' linebackers coach, spent a year in the image program and left to become UConn's defensive coordinator in 2019. Dan Werner was Mississippi's co-offensive coordinator, stopped at Alabama and then departed to be South Carolina's quarterbacks coach and co-offensive coordinator.

Eric Kiesau was Colorado's and Washington's offensive coordinator, headed to the Tide and left to be Fresno State's coordinator. He now oversees Boise State's offense. Jake Peetz's journey went from Oakland Raiders quarterbacks coach to analyst to Carolina Panthers running backs and now QBs coach.

Ian Rapoport @RapSheet

Changes to the #Panthers staff for coach Matt Rhule: The plan is to move RBs coach Jake Peetz to QB coach, sources say, and to hire former #Redskins TE coach Brian Angelichio as Carolina’s TEs coach. Peetz’s time at Alabama under Nick Saban gives him added offensive depth.

Plus, as you'd expect, it's not all about image reconstruction. Several coaches have utilized the analyst position as they rose the coaching ladder.

Saban swiped a rising star in Tosh Lupoi in 2014. He'd been Washington's defensive line coach but accepted a role as an analyst after not joining Sarkisian at USC.

"When that opportunity came across my plate, there wasn't a lot of thinking involved," Lupoi said, per John Talty of AL.com. "It's probably the best decision I've ever made in my life."

Lupoi rose to defensive coordinator before heading to the Cleveland Browns in 2019 and recently joining the Falcons.

When former Alabama offensive coordinator Brian Daboll left for the Buffalo Bills to take the same role in 2018, he brought along analysts Shea Tierney and William Vlachos. Brendan Farrell parlayed his job into being an assistant special teams coach for the Miami Dolphins. Wes Neighbors became FAU's safeties coach, and Keary Colbert coaches USC's receivers.

There are other instances, but we've overwhelmed your brain with enough examples to last a calendar year.

You know, until the next round of success stories.

In some cases, a coach simply needed time to reset. In otherssuch as JonesAlabama benefited from financial details that allowed a coach to work for a fraction of his buyout.

Being an Alabama analyst isn't a destination job, yet it's a tremendous stepping stone with the advantage of rehabbing a coaching image. There simply isn't a comparable pipeline in all of college football.

A decade of evidence has made that perfectly clear, and Strong should be the next coach to capitalize on it.


Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR