During ESPN’s telecast of the Ole Miss-Alabama game, Todd Blackledge pointed out the potential benefit that Kirby Smart acquired through Alabama assistant director of player personnel Tyler Siskey, a former assistant under Hugh Freeze at Arkansas State and Ole Miss.
Siskey stood in the Alabama coaches’ booth with binoculars looking at Ole Miss personnel, signals, and formations.
Blackledge said during the fourth quarter, “Alabama has really been locked in to what Ole Miss is doing offensively. They haven’t been fooled by much of anything. Again, I go back to Tyler Siskey being on the Alabama staff. He spent those years with Hugh Freeze. Even though he wasn’t coaching on the field, he was very involved this week in helping to prepare the Alabama defense.”
The situation has irritated a portion of the Ole Miss fan base, who find it morally pathetic of Siskey to take advantage of his knowledge of Ole Miss signals.
To start, it’s important to know that Ole Miss’ offensive staff foresaw this issue all off-season and thus changed signals and line of scrimmage terminology since Siskey departed the staff last March.
Having coached the wide receivers at Arkansas State under Freeze, Siskey, like every other college coach in the country would do, undoubtedly used his knowledge of Freeze’s formation, pass protection, and play-calling tendencies to help prepare the Alabama staff.
But did he do anything wrong on game day? No.
From experience, I can tell you the in-game impact couldn’t have been anything more than minute.
Having worked for David Cutcliffe for five years at Ole Miss, I was in a similar situation as Siskey in 2006. On that particular day, I was coaching for the University of Memphis and Cutcliffe was back coordinating the offense at Tennessee. I basically told our defensive backs coach at Memphis through the headset the exact play Tennessee was fixing to run at least 50% of the plays in the first half after seeing the formation. To say the least, it didn’t help one darn bit.
But a coach highly suspecting a particular play upon seeing the formation doesn’t help a defense unless the players can do something with that knowledge. Perhaps at the absolute most, Kirby Smart was able to check defenses a few times based on Siskey’s prediction of a particular scheme. In reality, that sounds good, but it just doesn’t happen like one may think. Siskey wasn’t even wearing headsets, which means he would needed to relay the information to someone in the box with headset who then communicate with Smart. Folks, that didn’t happen. In addition, what Siskey may have done is something any other coach that is willing to relentlessly prepare for an opponent is capable of doing.
I once coached in a game where our staff not only had all of the defensive signals of the opponent, but we also had the defensive playbook. And we still couldn’t move the ball.
If Siskey was able to take advantage of any Ole Miss signals, which is hard to imagine, then that blame would go on the Ole Miss staff 100%.
The bottom line is there is no reason to think poorly about Siskey and think how (but you don’t know) he may have helped the Alabama staff.
Was it advantageous to Nick Saban to have him on staff. Sure, no doubt. But did Siskey do anything wrong? No.
Could Hugh Freeze have hired one of Alabama’s quality control assistants right after Saban hired Siskey? He could have. Was it necessary? No.
Are Ole Miss fans making too big of a deal out of this situation? Yes.
The combination of players, a lack of execution, and what Hugh Freeze described as a lack of answers against the Alabama defensive schematics (which included unusually wide alignments by defensive ends / OLB’s), decided that game on Saturday night.