How Tommy Rees broke the mold for Nick Saban’s offensive
Chris Low, ESPN Senior Citizen WriterJan 1, 2024, 08:00 AM ET Close College football press reporter Joined ESPN.com in 2007
- Graduate of the University of Tennessee
PASADENA, Calif.– About the only thing Nick Saban has actually had more of than national championships at Alabama stinks coordinators.As Saban looks down what might be his seventh national title with the Crimson Tide, he does so with his seventh offensive organizer in the past 11 years and his ninth overall. Incredibly, Saban has actually won nationwide titles with 5 different offending coordinators.Enter the new kid in town, 31-year-old ex-Notre Dame quarterback Tommy Rees, whose hiring in February might have raised a few eyebrows since of his age and lack of ties to Saban and the SEC. Today, with Alabama going from disabled to vibrant offensively on its way to 11 straight wins and a face-off with Michigan in Monday’s College Football Playoff semifinal at the Rose Championship game provided by Prudential (5 p.m. ET, ESPN ), any eyebrows being raised are the outcome of the task Rees has carried out in his very first season at Alabama.”I reflect to where we were, all the concerns about our quarterbacks, whether we were good enough and what our identity was on offense, and you have actually got to offer Coach Rees a great deal of credit for pressing the ideal buttons with everybody, not just me, “stated Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe, who went from being benched in Week 3 to ending up sixth in the Heisman Prize voting.”He remained in the middle of that storm with us and led us out of it. I’m not saying it was easy, but you never ever saw any panic or anything that made you feel like he didn’t have the answers to get us where we are right now.”Breaking down CFP semifinals
The College Football Playoff is set for New Year’s Day on ESPN and we have actually got all the angles covered.
– Inside Michigan-Alabama (5 ET)- Inside Washington-Texas (8:45 ET)
– Connelly’s CFP mega-preview
– What’s behind Saban’s advancement of QBs
– How Harbaugh, McCarthy fit together
– Kalen DeBoer’s winning pedigree
– 2 sides of UT’s T’Vondre Sweat
It’s clear that calling plays for Saban on offense isn’t for everyone, and it’s certainly not for the weak at heart. But when Saban went searching for his brand-new OC last year, he ultimately found his way to Rees, who wasn’t necessarily Saban’s very first option. Washington’s Ryan Grubb flew to school to interview in late January, however the Huskies’ OC decided to remain in Seattle. There were others, too, as Saban consistently casts a large web when talking with candidates.But when Saban sat down and talked to Rees, the search was over.”What you observed right away was how bright he was, how ready he was, and then you saw how good he was with the players and the way he went about teaching the players,”Saban said.”You’ve seen that play out on the field this year.”He’s transformed our offense.
I believe he’s one of the best coaches in college football.”Rees was a shift from previous Saban offensive
planner hires. His previous five offending organizers– Bill O’Brien, Steve Sarkisian, Mike Locksley, Brian Daboll and Lane Kiffin– all had previously been either NFL or FBS head coaches or, in Daboll’s case, an NFL offending organizer. Daboll is now the New York Giants’head coach.And although it’s never been a prerequisite for Saban, he didn’t have any real ties to Rees
aside from knowing his dad, Costs, who coached at UCLA and operated in the NFL in different searching and workers functions. However with Rees, Saban saw a bit of himself at a younger age and wasn’t as worried about bringing in someone who had formerly called plays or worked in the SEC. “One of the important things I liked about Tommy is that he had played quarterback and had likewise coached quarterbacks, and I knew that was a position that was agitated for us entering into the season,” Saban stated.”The other thing was that he thought in running the football and being physical, all the things that have actually been at the core of what we’ve always done here.” Once Jalen Milroe strengthened his spot as Bama’s QB1, Tommy Rees adapted the offense to profit from his skills. Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire Rees was flattered that”among the best coaches to ever do it”would even be interested
in him. However he wasn’t star-struck and definitely wasn’t lacking in self-confidence or presence. He had a chance to follow Brian Kelly to LSU after the 2021 season but chose to sit tight at Notre Dame under Marcus Freeman. But when Saban called, Rees knew it was a chance he couldn’t refuse.”You advise yourself that this boggles the mind, the learning experience and the growth you’re having while likewise existing in the minute of going after success and finding methods to be efficient on the field,” Rees said.In other words, winning and winning now.Saban doesn’t work with organizers he believes need training wheels, which definitely wasn’t the case with the Crimson
Tide coming off a season in which they missed the playoff for just the 2nd time considering that its introduction in 2014.”I know people indicated Tommy’s age, but he grew up in a coaching household. He was the quarterback at Notre Dame. He coached at Notre Dame, so it’s not like he
‘s been in jobs that no one focused on,” stated Alabama protective organizer Kevin Steele, who has worked under Saban for three separate stints.”He’s been around pressure before, and he never flinched this season. Never ever.”Rees’lack of ego and his passion to get to know everybody in the football complex, from the protective coaches to trainee workers to the janitors, was a success with everyone in the program. Another thing that resonated, despite Rees being less than 10 years older than a few of his players, was that he was skilled and mature enough to know how to deal with Saban.Editor’s Picks 2 Related It’s Saban’s offense, and constantly will be, however the 72-year-old coach has shown an extraordinary ability to develop as the game has changed and enable his playcallers to put their stamp on the group. Through the shift
, Rees had the ability to get his point throughout and
take Saban’s instructions– no matter how brutally sincere that”direction”was– and not let it faze him.As one team member said,”Tommy does an actually excellent job of hearing the message and not necessarily the delivery, and a great deal of guys collapse under that.” For Rees, it was everything about conviction.”To have the capability to state,’This is why we wish to do particular things,’I indicate, you’ve got to
have self-confidence. You’ve got to have thick skin, all that,” Rees stated.”However I think conviction is truly crucial with Coach Saban when you present what you wish to do offensively.”Those who understand Rees best aren’t the least bit surprised that he’s been such an excellent fit at Alabama. In fact, they stated he’s practically a younger version of Saban in that his competitive fire never permits him to be satisfied. “He wishes to win so terribly,”stated Jack Coan, who played quarterback at Notre Dame under Rees in 2021 and now plays in the XFL for the San Antonio Brahmas.”He’s so competitive and he takes everything personal, whether it’s breaking the defense in practice or breaking a defensive planner on a different team. “He does not simply want to win.
He wants to really dominate those guys and take it to them each time. Nobody is more psychotic than him when it comes to game-planning, reviewing every information in precise style and wanting to win. “If that sounds familiar, it should. It mirrors Saban’s ethos given that he was playing quarterback at Monongah High in a little coal-mining town in West Virginia in the late 1960s. For Rees, the opportunity to work under Nick Saban at Alabama was too excellent to skip. AP Photo/Ryan Sun Saban stated Rees’toughness has actually been reflected in the way Alabama has repeatedly provided in clutch scenarios on offense this season and the manner in which system stuck together and never ever wavered regardless of a Week 2 loss to Texas and anawful performance a week later on in a 17-3 win over South Florida that saw the Tide complete simply 10 passes for 107 yards.Among fans and
the media, there were mounting doubts about Rees at that point, and it would have been simple for doubt– and even some department– to creep within the program, specifically with all the quarterback unpredictability and Rees being in his very first year. “But Tommy never allowed that to happen,” Saban said.”He never wavered, stayed dedicated to his convictions in the things we needed to do, however he was flexible. He wasn’t inflexible in stating, ‘Hey, we have actually got to do it simply by doing this.’ “Rees showed that same willpower as a player at Notre Dame. He passed for 2,871 backyards and 20 touchdowns as a sophomore in 2011, however likewise tossed 14 interceptions and was tagged with the nickname”Tommy Turnover”by some fans. Rees was suspended for the very first game of the 2012 season by Kelly after an alcohol-related arrest at an off-campus party. Rees played in all 11 games that season however started only two.In the second game that season, starting quarterback Everett Golson was hurt. Boos sounded out when Rees entered, however he wound up conserving the Irish that day by leading a game-winning drive. He likewise came off the bench to lead Notre Dame to wins over Michigan and Stanford, leading the Irish’s path to the BCS championship game game, where they were routed by Saban and Alabama.”He’s geared up to deal with those circumstances, the bad moments, the ups and the downs, but that’s how he’s always been, constantly even-keeled and always confident no matter what’s going on around him,”said Miami(Ohio) coach Chuck Martin, who was Rees’ offensive planner at Notre Dame.How the CFP groups were developed From recruiting to the portal, each playoff team is constructed differently. We take a look at the 4 teams.No. 1 Michigan Wolverines”No. 2 Washington Huskies” No. 3 Texas Longhorns”No. 4 Alabama Crimson Tide “Bowl schedule “| Forecasts “After Rees lost the QB task in 2012, Martin said, there was no pouting, even though, Martin added, Rees never ever really had a chance to contend for it. “But he managed it.
Yeah, he was annoyed, he was upset, he was pissed, which he deserved to be all those things
,”Martin said. “
However then he managed it. He determined,’OK, this is where I’m at, and how do I make the most
of it?’It’s a gift due to the fact that he’s constantly been able to arrange things out, have a plan and move on the best way possible, and he’s the same method as a coach.”As I’ve stated, the game’s constantly been simple for him
.”There was absolutely nothing easy about sorting out Alabama’s offending doldrums to start this season. The Tide went through spring practice and had no concept who their beginning quarterback was going to be. Rees wasn’t sold on Milroe or Ty Simpson, prompting the Tide to generate one of Rees’former quarterbacks at Notre Dame, Tyler Buchner, by means of the transfer website after spring practice.The quarterbacks were still sharing repeatings in practice going into the Texas game in Week 2, and there were other concerns on offense that couldn’t be pinned just on the quarterbacks. Alabama was struggling with charges and handled simply 107 hurrying yards versus Texas, 131 versus Ole Miss and 23 versus Texas A&M over the first 6 weeks of the season.But once it ended up being clear to everybody on the staff that Milroe was the guy at quarterback, Rees zeroed in on customizing the offense to Milroe’s strengths.
“It resembled we went on our first date, to being together for a month and after that it was like we ‘d been dating for many years,”Milroe stated, laughing.”He learnt more about me, and I got to know him. The thing that assisted me as much as anything was having a coach who played quarterback. I ‘d never ever had that before. He had actually existed. He understood that you were going to make mistakes and knew that you had to have the flexibility to get better from those errors and keep playing.” As much as anything, Rees stated his focus was to ensure Milroe was comfy and
playing intuitively.” The other thing, when we made a decision, everyone was going to be together on it and stating, ‘This is what we’re doing, ‘”Rees stated. “There was no other viewpoint.” While viewing the transformation of the Alabama offense, Coan, who communicates with Rees, remembered something Rees told the quarterbacks at Notre Dame. Rees shown them that he practically felt more pressure as a playcaller than he did as a quarterback.”
It’s due to the fact that he didn’t wish to mess it up for the players, and you respect that so much when you’re playing for somebody
like that, “stated Coan, who started his career at Wisconsin before transferring to Notre Dame.”Coaches can get stuck in their
ways, however not [Rees] He does not have a cookie-cutter way to coach his players. “He feels in one’s bones how to get the best out of them.”