Veteran coach Kevin Steele will return to the field for Alabama in 2014 after serving as the Crimson Tide's Director of Player Personnel in the 2013 season. In Steele joining the on-field coaching staff, Alabama adds not only an experienced assistant and respected teacher, but one of the south's best recruiters.
Steele recruited first round pick and Minnesota Viking QB Christian Ponder to Florida State in 2006.
The Dillon, South Carolina native has garnered a reputation as an outstanding recruiter, dating as far back as his tenure as linebackers coach for Nebraska under Tom Osborne in the early 1990's. While in Lincoln, Steele recruited Cornhusker quarterback legend Tommie Frazier out of Bradenton, Florida. Frazier would go on to lead Nebraska to back-to-back national championships in 1994 and 1995.
After coaching in the NFL for the Carolina Panthers and four seasons as the head coach at Baylor, Steele was hired at Florida State, where he played a key role in helping the Seminoles land one of the nation's top classes on an annual basis. Steele did particularly well in plucking talented players from the Carolinas, including current Pittsburgh Steeler linebacker and former top 100 prospect, Lawrence Timmons, beating out Clemson, Tennessee, Florida, and North Carolina.
Other Carolinans that Steele recruited to Florida State included 4-star running back Jamal Edwards, top 100 defensive back Jamie Robinson, 4-star linebacker Derek Nicholson, and 4-star outside linebacker Dekoda Watson.
"When Kevin Steele was at Florida State, he had a chance at every kid from South Carolina he was in on. Dekoda Watson may have been the best evaluation ever. The kid had very few offers until the Shrine Bowl (coaches could go then) and Steele liked him and got him to FSU. At the time, though, the Seminoles had a pipeline into the Palmetto State of sorts- the Boulwares and Greg Jones were among the gets," said 247Sports' National Director of Recruiting, JC Shurburtt.
"Still, Steele is from Dillon, S.C., and knows most of the coaches in that state on a personal level. There are two Palmetto State natives that typically are at out-of-state programs that Clemson and South Carolina both have hated seeing over the years. One is Steele, the other LSU defensive coordinator John "Chief" Chavis. Ironically, both are from Dillon and both went to the University of Tennessee."
Steele's responsibilities weren't limited to the Carolinas, as he also recruited areas in Florida, including Tallahassee and South Florida. 2005 saw Steele named national recruiter of the year, after he recruited 5-stars Fred Rouse and Antone Smith along with Geno Hayes, Jamie Robinson, and Derek Nicholson. That haul comprised five prospects who were widely considered to be in the top 100 prospects, if not top 50, in the nation.
Two additional big gets for Steele in the 2006 class came by way of then Miami (Fla.) Gulliver Prep cornerback and current New Orleans Saint, Patrick Robinson and future Minnesota Viking quarterback, Christian Ponder. Robinson took official visits to both Florida and Florida State in January and was considered a Gator lean at one point, before ultimately committing to the Seminoles prior to National Signing Day. Ponder, who came out of Colleyville (Texas) Heritage, and would also go on to be a first rounder, selected the Noles over Arizona, Baylor, Georgia Tech, UNC, and Oklahoma State.
After the five year stay in Tallahassee, Steele joined Nick Saban's first staff at Alabama in 2007 as defensive coordinator and later, associate head coach. The next two years would see Steele aid the Crimson Tide in landing several key pieces to Alabama's 2009, 2011, and 2012 national championship teams. In Alabama's 2007 class, Saban's first, Steele signed Marquis Maze, William Vlachos and Josh Chapman all from the Birmingham area.
Steele signed Marcel Dareus and Barrett Jones (pictured) among others in Alabama's famed 2008 class.
The next year saw Steele play a pivotal role in landing several top prospects in the Tide's lauded 2008 class, including future top 5 pick, Marcel Dareus and Outland/Rimington Trophy winner, Barrett Jones. Steele also brought in tight end Michael Williams, and five-star offensive tackle Tyler Love.
Steele served as Clemson's defensive coordinator from 2009-2011, where he landed 5-star linebacker Stephone Anthony in the 2011 class. He returned to Tuscaloosa in February of 2013 as Alabama's Director of Player personnel and has helped direct the Tide's recruiting efforts, which includes the nation's top class in the 2014 cycle, according the 247Sports Composite.
As Director of Player Personnel, Steele has continued to have an impact on prospects. Alabama commit Joshua Casher singled out Steele after committing to the Crimson Tide in October.
“I’ve developed a relationship with Coach Steele. I think he’s a very genuine and honest person. I really like Coach Steele. I think that he really wants what’s best for me and Alabama. I like the way he talked to my parents and they got a good feel for him. The thing I liked the most about him was his honesty. I really liked that he was genuine,” said Casher.
Steele has a reputation as a strong relationship-builder on the recruiting trail.
"With Steele, I think you get that hands on approach. A lot of kids talk about how easy he is to talk and how good he is at building relationships. That's a huge factor and a trait that every successful recruiter I know has," said BamaOnline Recruiting Editor Tim Watts. "It also doesn't hurt he has so much experience. The guy has recruited such a broad territory that he has connections and a good reputation pretty much everywhere in the South over to Texas."
Look for Steele to have an even larger effect on prospects moving forward, as he moves onto the field, adding yet another top recruiter to Nick Saban's staff.
The previous experience working for Nick Saban should provide a seamless transition as Steele moves into the new role.
"I think Alabama benefits because Steele and Saban have a good relationship and he understands how Saban works," said Watts. "He fits in well with Kiby Smart, Lance Thompson and Bo Davis and there is some continuity because those 2008 and 2009 classes they all recruited together were the basis for the future defenses that were so good."
247Sports National Recruiting Insider Ryan Bartow echoed Watts' sentiments.
"He already knows the recruiting operation inside-out at this powerhouse program since he ran it. Now getting the Man of Steele back on the road gives Saban a powerhouse force on the recruiting trail. Steele organized and ran the Tide’s operation which has resulted in this year’s current No. 1 recruiting class by 247Sports," said Bartow. "But getting back on the road, in the homes of recruits where he thrive,s and in front of prospects and high school coaches on a regular basis will see an immediate dividends to add to Alabama’s already strong recruiting efforts."
Look for the benefits to come as soon as the 2015 cycle, as Steele will work to help the Tide to land what could be its fifth consecutive no. 1 class according to the 247Sports Composite team rankings.