What seemed to be just another Wednesday for the college football landscape became one many won’t forget. On Jan. 10, 2024, it was announced that Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban would retire. Even more difficult than imagining a football world without Saban in it? Being the man who follows in his footsteps.
For the first time since 2007, we attempt to answer the question: Who will be Alabama’s head coach next season?
Alabama Coaching Candidates Who Could Replace Nick Saban
Saban’s retirement came as a bit of a shock, and he reportedly worked till the very end, conducting interviews for coaching staff vacancies prior to the announcement. The future Hall of Fame coach’s official statement read:
“The University of Alabama has been a very special place to Terry and me. We have enjoyed every minute of our 17 years being the head coach at Alabama as well as becoming a part of the Tuscaloosa community. It is not just about how many games we won and lost, but it’s about the legacy and how we went about it.
“We always tried to do it the right way. The goal was always to help players create more value for their future, be the best player they could be and be more successful in life because they were part of the program. Hopefully, we have done that, and we will always consider Alabama our home.”
Becoming the new head coach at any D1 football program — let alone a top SEC institution — is a massive undertaking. But filling the shoes of the greatest college football coach of all time? Impossible. Still, someone will have to do so (notably not Dan Lanning or Mike Norvell), and these five coaches should be among the top candidates.
Kalen DeBoer, Washington Head Coach
Kalen DeBoer became Washington’s head coach at the same time Lanning started with Oregon. And while Lanning has been successful, DeBoer has been even more so. The Huskies have lost just three games in DeBoer’s tenure, with their latest coming at the hands of Michigan in the 2023-2024 National Championship — their first title bid since 1991.
DeBoer comes with two more years of experience as a head coach, leading Fresno State in 2020 and 2021. With Lanning and Norvell off the board, it appears Washington’s leading man is the new favorite.
Dabo Swinney, Clemson Head Coach
When you think of the greatest college football head coaches in the last couple of decades, Dabo Swinney is right up there. Of course, the Tigers haven’t quite reached their potential in recent seasons, especially when compared to their run of 12+ wins from 2015 to 2019.
There’s also the issue of Swinney’s buyout having a 1.5x multiplier if he joins Alabama, but a fresh start for both Clemson and the head coach might be the best for all parties.
Bill O’Brien, New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator
With the Patriots naming Jerod Mayo as their next head coach, uncertainty surrounds Bill O’Brien. He could stay … or he could throw his name into Alabama’s coaching search. Sure, New England’s offense wasn’t great last year, but the talent O’Brien was working with wasn’t great either.
He has been a head coach at the college and NFL levels, worked under both Saban and Belichick, and even has experience as the successor to a big-name HC at a big-time program (Joe Paterno at Penn State, although that was under very different circumstances). O’Brien isn’t the sexiest hire or one many have discussed, but it can’t be entirely ruled out.
Glenn Schumann, Georgia Co-Defensive Coordinator
Another Georgia DC leaving the program to become a top head coach in the FBS? Glenn Schumann may not be a name your average football fan has at the top of their mind for a Nick Saban replacement, but long-time Alabama followers may recognize the name. Before joining the Bulldogs as an ILBs coach in 2016, Schumann was an assistant with Alabama from 2008-2014 and then the program’s director of football operations in 2015.
Schumann proved himself following Lanning’s departure and has coached one of the country’s best defenses over the last two years. If he doesn’t land with Alabama, he’ll find a head coaching role elsewhere in no time.
Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss Head Coach
Lane Kiffin used Alabama to reshape his image after falling out with USC and coming off his best campaign as Ole Miss’ head coach (11-2), a reunion could be in store. As an offensive guru, Kiffin could help Jalen Milroe and Co. reach new heights, but a well-suited DC hire would be needed.
Kiffin and coaching rumors have been synonymous in years past, and it seems 2024 is no different.
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