Steele heads to Clemson; recruiting impact unclear

It is official. Kevin Steele has left the Alabama Crimson Tide for the defensive coordinator’s position at Clemson on Dabo Swinney’s staff.

Saban released this statement: “Kevin is an outstanding coach and really did an excellent job with each and every responsibility he had while he was here at the University of Alabama. We appreciate all that he did in terms of his time and his dedication.

“We’ve known each other for a long time and he has always been a close friend through the years. Although we are sorry to see them go, we wish Kevin and his family all the best at Clemson. He will do a great job as he always has.”

Clemson needs a great job from Steele to make a tougher team than was on display in 2008. Steele will coach linebackers in addition to his coordinator role. Steele adds gravitas to Swinney’s staff; Swinney is young and could be described as inexperienced. Steele brings a superb resume and years of experience to Clemson.

“Kevin Steele is one of the most respected coaches in the nation,” said Swinney. “He has served under Hall of Fame head coaches who have won national championships and also has experience in the NFL. He has also been ranked as the number-one recruiter in the nation and has coached in eight BCS level bowl games. He has recruited this state for many years and is respected by the high school coaches of South Carolina. He is a perfect fit for this staff.”

Steele hasn’t said what prompted the move from Alabama to a lower-tier program like Clemson. In his official statement released by Clemson, Steele said he was glad to return to South Carolina.

“I am very excited to join Dabo Swinney’s staff at Clemson,” said Steele. “It feels great to return to the state of South Carolina. I have recruited this state for many years and feel at home in this area. Clemson has an outstanding tradition and I am excited about the opportunity to work for Coach Swinney who is one of the bright young coaches in the game.”

The move was not unexpected as rumors swirled of a Steele exit at the conclusion of the 2007 season. Steele was very active in recruiting top names in last year’s recruiting class. However, it is unclear the level of his participation in recruiting contact this year. According to Rivals.com, Steele was responsible for recruiting Rod Woodson (four-star defensive back) and two targets including Greg King (three-star linebacker) and Austin Long (four-star offensive lineman).

Last year Steele was listed as responsible for eight commitments including five-star Tyler Love and six four-star commitments including Jerrell Harris and Alonzo Lawrence.

If the Rivals database is correct, that is an interesting reduction in recruiting contact. Could we read anything into this? Perhaps. Perhaps not. We could certainly anticipate Steele’s departure to have a minimal impact on Alabama’s 2009 class. However, longer term the impact is unclear. Steele is a superb recruiter.