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Duane Akina announces that he’s remaining at Arizona

The architect of DBU was expected to return to Austin as an analyst before Brennan took over the Wildcats program.

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As the fallout from the retirement of Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban continues to reverberate around the college football world, the fluidity of coaching moves makes words like “expected” take on heightened significance.

On Sunday, the Texas Longhorns were expected to bring back longtime defensive backs coach Duane Akina as an analyst, a decision that seemed final enough at Arizona that the SID deleted Akina’s page in the staff directory.

That was so long ago that Arizona Wildcats head coach Jedd Fisch had just agreed to replace Kalen DeBoer with the Washington Huskies after DeBoer left for Tuscaloosa.

In the days since, Brent Brennan departed the San Jose Spartans program to take over in Tucson, placing an apparent priority on keeping Akina with the Wildcats for an undisclosed role that suggests the possibility he could move from analyst to defensive backs coach again, though that is perhaps as fluid as everything else while Brennan assembles his staff.

“I do think I have a decent commitment from Duane Akina to continue to be part of this, which is exciting,” Brennan said on Wednesday. “Just the teacher he is, the person he is, the leader he is. I’m excited about that.”

On Friday, Akina announced on Twitter that he is staying in Tucson.

A native of Hawaii who played quarterback at Washington in the 1970s, Akina joined Mack Brown’s staff at Texas as the defensive backs coach in 2001, a position that he held in various capacities until 2013, including titles as associate head coach and three years as the co-defensive coordinator. During that time, Akina helped establish Texas as DBU by producing a litany of standouts in the secondary, including two Thorpe Award winners, two more finalists, and 14 first-team All-Big 12 selections

Akina came to Texas from Arizona, where he coached for 14 seasons, including developing the famed “Desert Swarm” defenses under Dick Tomey that featured Thorpe Award winner Darryl Lewis in 1990 and finalist Cris McAlister in 1998, who was also named the Mosi Tatupu National Special Teams Player of the Year. With the Wildcats, Akina started as the defensive backs coach, became the offensive coordinator, and then moved back to the other side of the ball as the defensive coordinator.

The tie between Akina and the current Texas coaching staff seemed to be new co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Johnny Nansen, whose longtime relationship with Steve Sarkisian convinced him to leave his defensive coordinator job with the Wildcats.

During the period when Akina appeared headed to Austin as Arizona searched for its next head coach, Nansen loomed as a possible candidate to take over for Fisch thanks in part to pressure from current players trying to leverage their ability to enter the NCAA transfer portal, with public support from standout linebacker Jacob Manu and others.

But that push was relatively short-lived as Arizona honed in on Brennan on Monday and Nansen hit the recruiting trail for Texas in the state of California on Tuesday.

So while the Texas support staff took a blow from Akina staying at Arizona, Sarkisian avoided having to replace his linebackers coach for the second time this month.

Consider that a trade Sarkisian is willing to make in this fluid environment.