Liberty? Alabama Football Completes Staff With Hiring Of Flames’ Linebackers Coach

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Is Alabama football coach Nick Saban flaming out?

The seven-time national champion Crimson Tide coach has not won the title since the 2020 season, and he missed the College Football Playoff last season for the second time since 2019. Now he is hiring an assistant coach from the Liberty Flames?

Liberty Flames Not Exactly A Household Name

Liberty is a rising program that has reached four straight bowls as an independent, but it is not exactly a household brand name. And Auburn recently hired journeyman Hugh Freeze from Liberty to be its head coach.

So, now Saban is dipping into Auburn’s bucket of schools for coaches? He just hired Liberty linebackers coach Robert Bala to be his inside linebackers coach, according to various reports Saturday morning.

Alabama coach Nick Saban just hired two new coordinators, but he had to make another hire recently when he lost just-hired inside linebackers coach Austin Armstrong to the defensive coordinator post at Florida.(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

And Bala, 36, was just a defensive analyst in the 2022 season under Freeze. He was only recently promoted to linebackers coach.

Bala’s previous stops do not jump out at you either, though he was defensive coordinator at Southern Utah from 2018-21. He coached defense at Ottawa University in 2017 and ’18 and coached from 2011-16 at Palomar College in San Marcos, California. He played played linebacker at Palomar before graduating in 2008. He also previously coached at Snow College in 2009 and ’10 in Ephraim, Utah.

Not exactly an impressive work history on paper.

Nick Saban Just Lost Austin Armstrong To Florida

But Saban, 71, did dip into this hiring pool late in the game. He had hired rising young coach Austin Armstrong in January to be his inside linebackers coach. Armstrong previously was Southern Mississippi’s defensive coordinator.

But Armstrong just left for a promotion at Florida as its defensive coordinator last week. That was just nine days after Alabama officially announced Armstrong. Armstrong replaced Patrick Toney, who left the Florida defensive coordinator position to be a defensive backs coach with the NFL Arizona Cardinals.

So, Saban may have been faced with slim pickings as most of the college coaching openings were already filled when Armstrong bolted.

Saban thought he was finished two weeks ago when he announced Armstrong as a hire. Saban previously hired new defensive coordinator Kevin Steele from Miami and new offensive coordinator Tommy Rees of Notre Dame.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

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