Former USF coach Charlie Strong reportedly has entered that vague nook of the coaching profession reserved for guys on the rebound or rise.
He’s headed to Alabama to serve as an analyst for Nick Saban. Terms of the deal aren’t yet known. Neither are his duties. Heck, the title might even be subject to change.
After all, one school’s “analyst” is another’s “consultant.”
By any name, they refer to the guys who remain primarily in the program shadows. They observe practices, break down an opponent’s tape and tendencies, and offer a fresh perspective to the staffers who actually are allowed to coach the players.
“Basically what you could do was coach the coaches,” said new USF offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr., who spent two labor-intensive seasons (2015-16) as a Saban analyst.
“Of course we’d know the players and have great relationships and all that stuff was good, but you couldn’t coach on the field.”
Seems more and more staffs are being proliferated with coaches who don’t exactly coach. The 2018 Alabama media guide listed 13 “analysts” on staff. The 2019 FSU media guide listed four.
For former coaches, the transition to analyst can be a challenge. At least it was for former USC head coach Steve Sarkisian, who held that position under Saban before getting promoted to offensive coordinator just before the January 2017 national championship in Tampa.
“It is frustrating as an analyst when you go out to practice and you’re not coaching,” Sarkisian said at the time. “I mean, that’s what you love to do. But in my situation, when you’re not allowed to do that, it’s a lot of note taking. It’s a lot of watching coaching, watching the other guys coach.”
Strong, with a smorgasbord of coaching stripes, presumably will be doing a lot of that, serving as a veteran sounding board for Saban and defensive coordinator Pete Golding.
Weis Jr., by contrast, essentially bunkered himself in an office for weeks on end, preparing 20- to 25-page reports on every defense the Crimson Tide faced. Each took up to two weeks, he said.
“It took forever,” said Weis, who as an analyst was not allowed to coach on the field or recruit on the road.
“The first year I got hired, I think it was in March, so I kind of got a little bit of a late start. But for the 2016 season, I started breaking down (‘16 season-opening foe) USC a week after the (2015) national championship game.
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“When they’re on the road recruiting, I’m just in my office like, headphones on, head down, and I’m just breaking down games and going through stuff and watching tape over and over and over, just trying to get all this information down.”
Where could Charlie Strong go from here?
A look at where some of Saban’s previous analysts went after their off-field role in Tuscaloosa:
Steve Sarkisian: The former USC/Washington head coach started his path back as an offensive analyst and was promoted to coordinator after Lane Kiffin left for Florida Atlantic just before the January 2017 national title game in Tampa. He spent two years as the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive coordinator before returning to that role with the Crimson Tide.
Billy Napier: He took a job as a Saban analyst after being fired as Clemson’s offensive coordinator after the 2010 season. Napier turned that into a job as an on-field assistant on Jim McElwain’s first Colorado State staff and now is the head coach at Louisiana-Lafayette … until he’s poached away by a Power Five program.
Mike Locksley: The best-case scenario for Strong. Locksley failed at New Mexico and as Maryland’s interim coach, then rehabilitated his career under Saban, first as an analyst and then as offensive coordinator. He just finished his first full season as Maryland’s head coach.
Joe Judge: Working as a special-teams analyst under Saban helped springboard his career to one of the hottest coaches on the market this offseason. Mississippi State heavily pursued him, but he instead chose to become the head coach of the New York Giants.
Tosh Lupoi: Rose from analyst to position coach to defensive coordinator for Saban’s Tide before becoming an NFL assistant.
Chris Weinke: Saban hired the former FSU Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback before the 2017 season. After one year in Tuscaloosa, the ex-NFL assistant got a job as a position coach at Tennessee.
Kevin Garver: The Bucs’ receivers coach began his climb in the profession as an analyst for Saban.