TUSCALOOSA – Nick Saban and Dan Enos didn’t overlap much during their time together at Michigan State.
But their single season together in 1987, when a freshman Enos served as the Spartans’ scout-team quarterback facing off against Saban’s defenses in his last season as coordinator, proved more than memorable to both parties.
Before coaching against a Saban-led Alabama for the first time in 2015, Enos famously joked with Arkansas reporters: “(Saban) got after me a little bit in practice every day. I don’t know if he’ll remember that or not.”
What the 66-year-old veteran coach does remember is how well Enos competed, both in those practices three decades ago and when an Enos-led Razorbacks offense racked up 473 total yards against the top-ranked Crimson Tide in 2016. It’s one of the many reasons Saban ultimately hired the 50-year-old Enos to be Alabama’s new quarterbacks coach this offseason when the NCAA added a 10th assistant coach.
“I’ve known him since college when he was a player. He’s always been a really bright guy and had great competitive character,” Saban said of Enos this week on the SEC coaches teleconference. “I followed him when he was a head coach at Central Michigan and having to play against him when he was at Arkansas for the last few years, we were always very challenged by the system and the scheme and the things that they did. I thought their offense was always really well coached.
“So I guess I’ve always had a high opinion of him, but having to play against someone you develop even a greater respect for how they’re doing what they do.”
Enos, who was Arkansas’ offensive coordinator from 2015-17 under then-coach Bret Bielema, will now help guide Alabama’s new pass-happy aerial attack to even greater heights in his return to Fayetteville, Ark., for Saturday’s 11 a.m. kickoff against the Razorbacks (1-4, 0-2 SEC), who have lost four straight early in their first season under new head coach Chad Morris.
Meanwhile, under Enos’ tutelage, the No. 1 Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0 SEC) has seen improvements by leaps and bounds in the quarterback department.
Behind golden-armed sophomore left-hander Tua Tagoavailoa, Alabama is on a historic offensive pace averaging a NCAA-best 54.2 points per game while Tagovailoa ranks first nationally with a 238.3 passer rating and is second completing 75-percent (66-of-88) of his throws through the first five games.
Even junior backup Jalen Hurts, who lost the starting job due in large part to inefficiency in the passing game, is making considerable progress with a career-best 70-percent (26-of-37) completion percentage so far this season.
“I think Dan has done a really good job with our guys,” Saban said. “I think the biggest thing is the preparation and preparation that whatever the play is, whatever the call is, that the quarterbacks have a very clearly defined read of what their expectation is on that play and that they don’t pre-determine things before the snap, and they develop confidence in going through that read progression so you’re getting the ball in the right place at the right time.
“Our guys have done a pretty good job of that, but I think Dan has really helped them understand exactly what the expectation is on every play. And that comes through really good teaching and preparation through the course of the week.”