After spending three years coaching at Alabama on the staff of coach Nick Saban, Georgia Tech coach Brent Key absorbed plenty from Saban that he has incorporated in his first head-coaching job.
After the first day of spring practice, Key said he had incorporated the flow of practice – “what drill went to the next drill, how it progressed,” he said – from Saban and former Tech coach George O’Leary. Last fall, after the Yellow Jackets’ loss to Virginia, he shared a piece of Saban wisdom – “You can never waste a failure.”
New linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer was on Saban’s staff 2010-12 as director of player development. He sees the similarities with Saban and, while he is judging only by what he has learned and heard (having never been on an O’Leary staff) with O’Leary also.
“I think practice structure – making sure that the reps are certain ways, the practice flows in a certain way – (is similar),” Sherrer said.
Other elements of practice have elements of Saban’s methods, according to Sherrer, as Key leads his team through his first spring practice.
“Right now, they’re just learning how to practice,” Sherrer said. “What we mean by that is practice from the beginning to the end of the play, run on and off the field the proper way. Don’t knock guys to the ground to keep injuries down. All of those type deals. But it’s going to make them a better player.”
Not everything is the same.
“The one thing I can say that’s different is (Key) is probably a little more diplomatic in his approach to say, ‘Here’s how I want it done’ than coach Saban probably is,” Sherrer said. “Just from a standpoint of, (Saban) doesn’t have time to explain. Just get it done.”
This is the fourth consecutive job for Sherrer in which he is on the staff for the first full season of a first-time head coach (following Kirby Smart at Georgia, Jeremy Pruitt at Tennessee and Joe Judge with the New York Giants).
“The first year, every day is a new day until you get to the first day of the second year,” he said. “And not only that way for the players, it’s that way for the coaches, it’s that way for coach Key, who’s a first-time head coach. Even though he has all of these visions of what went on, sometimes things may not be aligned that way, and it takes a little longer. But that first year is always the toughest one. And then next year, not saying it’ll be easy, but everything should be streamlined to the point where, (you can say), ‘OK, this is what he expects.’”
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