This is the latest in a series examining the 15 most important assistant coaching hires of the 2018 season. Previous installments:
No. 15: Rod Smith, Illinois
No. 14: Matt Canada, Maryland
No. 13: Harlon Barnett, Florida State
No. 12: Jerry Azzinaro, UCLA
No. 11: Bob Shoop, Mississippi State
No. 10: Clark Lea, Notre Dame
No. 9: Bush Hamdan, Washington
No. 8: Herb Hand, Texas
No. 7: Tyson Helton, Tennessee
No. 6: Kendal Briles/Randy Clements, Houston
No. 5: Ed Warinner, Michigan
No. 4: James Cregg, LSU
Who: Pete Golding, Alabama
Title: Co-defensive coordinator/inside linebackers coach
Previous stop: UTSA defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach (2016-17)
Why he’s important: Pete Golding was not yet part of Nick Saban’s Circle of Trust last season. A native Louisianan, Golding played at Delta State and jumped into coaching as a GA at his alma mater in 2006. He spent three seasons as the defensive coordinator at Tusculum, returned to his alma mater as defensive coordinator in 2010 and climbed the ladder from there. Golding probably thought he’d had it made when he returned to his hometown of Hammond, La., to be Southeastern Louisiana’s defensive coordinator in 2012-13, but two years later Southern Miss hired him to be their defensive backs coach. From there he joined Frank Wilson’s staff as defensive coordinator, where in two years he helped the Roadrunners leap forward from 101st nationally in scoring defense the year prior to his arrival to eighth in 2017.
But a leap forward like that still doesn’t compare to the one Golding took personally when Saban picked him to join his staff in December. A coach with no history in the Saban universe, who’d never coached at the Power 5 level, joining the most elite staff in the country? That doesn’t just happen without fate intervening.
In Golding’s case, fate took the form of Jimmy Sexton. Golding became a Sexton client while at UTSA, and now he’s on the staff of the preeminent Sexton client.
Saban announced Golding’s hiring as the Tide’s 10th assistant on Dec. 15, with the early signing period just days away, a date with No. 1 Clemson in the Sugar Bowl two weeks away, and three weeks before Golding could actually join the staff. This tell us Saban wanted Golding in crimson, and the details would sort themselves out later.
“We hired Pete Golding as an assistant coach,” Saban said upon Golding’s hiring. “Technically, we’re hiring him as the 10th coach, which we can do, but he can’t be activated as a coach on the field until Jan. 9. We’ll address the other staff issues when we get finished playing. I don’t have time right now to do a search, get ready for this game, recruit, have an early signing date and try to hire coaches, too.
“There’s just not enough time in the day. When we get more information about staff issues, we’ll certainly pass them along to you. But right now we don’t have any more information relative to that.”
Golding will work alongside first-time coordinator Tosh Lupoi, who carries the defensive coordinator title and will continue to handle outside linebackers. Alabama’s defensive line (Craig Kuligowski) and defensive backs (Karl Scott, who worked with Golding at Southeastern Louisiana and was brought to Tuscaloosa by Golding) coaches are also new to the staff.
Alabama has suffered a high number of attrition at both linebacker through graduation, injury and suspension. But it doesn’t matter. The Alabama linebacker room(s) is short-listed among the most talented in college football. Each 5-star lost is replaced by a newer, shinier, meaner 5-star.
It’s a new day for college football’s most fearsome unit. The players will largely be new, and the staff is entirely new. Lupoi, a Saban veteran, will sit at the head of the defensive table, but sitting at his right will be a fresh face with a wealth of coordinator experience, though none at a level close to the SEC.
And the directive for this new defensive staff: Either we win another national title or this season is a failure.