Alabama’s offseason turmoil continued Tuesday with news of the offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien is leaving His post two seasons later to accept the OC position with the New England Patriots. The development comes less than two weeks after the defensive coordinator Pete Goulding is gone For DC’s job at Ole Miss, that means coach Nick Saban, 71, will replace both coordinators as he enters his 17th season with the Crimson Tide.
It will mark the fifth time in Saban’s tenure that he will field a team of new coordinators on both sides of the ball, and the development comes at a crucial time for the Crimson Tide. With Georgia rising from within the SEC — led by former Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart — to challenge Saban’s dynasty, the jury is out on whether a return to the top of college football is imminent for Alabama.
The Crimson Tide capped off an 11–2 season with a Sugar Bowl victory over Kansas State. It was a good campaign by most programs’ standards, but it marked some disappointment for a pre-season No. 1 squad that returned Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Bryce Young and consensus All-American edge rusher Will Anderson. Now, those star players have departed and a major overhaul of the coaching staff is in order.
It’s never wise to bet against Saban, who won six at Alabama and seven national titles during his career. But the changes coming to the Crimson Tide entering the 2023 season will be one of the biggest challenges yet for the game’s second-oldest coach. Alabama has never gone three consecutive seasons without a national title under Saban, and the program will have to thrive with new faces at key positions if that’s going to hold true in the coming year.
The Crimson Tide never won a national championship under Saban in a season when they had new coordinators on both sides of the ball.
The 2007 team, Saban’s first, finished 7–6 and won the Independence Bowl with new coordinators Major Applewhite (offense) and Kevin Steele (defense); The 2008 team finished 12–2 and lost in the Sugar Bowl with new coordinators Jim McElwain (offense) and Kirby Smart (defense); The 2018 team finished 14–1 and lost in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game with new coordinators Mike Locksley (offense) and Tosh Lupoi (defense); The 2019 team finished 11–2 and won the Citrus Bowl with new coordinators Steve Sarkeesian (offense) and Golding (defense).
Changing only one offensive coordinator has proven to be a manageable hurdle to overcome for Saban, who did so in 2012 with Nussmeier in his first season as OC and in 2017 with Dabol in his first and only season as OC. Won a title. But the program never won it all with the first-year defensive coordinator.
The 2018 team was elite with Locksley and Lupoi in their first season as coordinators. It defeated 13 of 14 opponents by double digits during its 14–0 start. But ultimately, the Crimson Tide lost to Clemson in the title game that season, 44–16.
That group also comes with a caveat. Although this was Lupoi’s first season as head defensive coordinator, it was his fifth on Alabama’s coaching staff, and he had held the title of co-defensive coordinator prior to the season. Offensively, this was Locksley’s third season on Saban’s staff, and he had served as co-offensive coordinator the year before.
coordinator under saban
Offensive and defensive coordinator every season under Saban. Seasons with first-year coordinators on both sides of the ball are in bold.
|offensive coordinator||defensive coordinator||record (postseason)|
|2007||Major Applewhite (I)||Kevin Steele (1st)||7-6 (W Independence Bowl)|
|2008||Jim McElwain (1st)||Kirby Smart (1st)||12-2 (Lee Sugar Bowl)|
|2009||McElwain (2nd)||smart (second)||14-0 (w BCS Championship)|
|2010||McElwain (3rd)||smart (third)||10-3 (W Capital One Bowl)|
|2011||McElwain (4th)||smart (fourth)||12-1 (w BCS Championship)|
|2012||Doug Nussmeyer (1st)||smart (fifth)||13-1 (w BCS Championship)|
|2013||Nusmeer (second)||smart (sixth)||11-2 (Lee Sugar Bowl)|
|2014||Lane Kiffin (1st)||Smart (7th)||12-2 (El CFP Semifinals)|
|2015||Kiffin (second)||Smart (8th)||14-1 (w CFP Championship)|
|2016||Kiffin (3rd)||Jeremy Pruitt (1st)||14-1 (El CFP title game)|
|2017||Brian Dabol (1st)||Pruitt (second)||13-1 (w CFP Championship)|
|2018||Mike Locksley (1st)||Tosh Lupoi (1st)||14-1 (L in CFP title game)|
|2019||Steve Sarkeesian (1st)||Pete Golding (1st)||11-2 (W Citrus Bowl)|
|2020||Sarkeesian (2nd)||Golding (2nd)||13-0 (w CFP Championship)|
|2021||Bill O’Brien (1st)||Golding (3rd)||13-2 (El CFP title game)|
|2022||O’Brien (2nd)||Golding (4th)||11-2 (W Sugar Bowl)|
candidate for inauguration
On the heels of the 2017 national title defense of Locksley and Lupoi’s internal promotion program for the 2018 season was clear to Saban. But after consecutive non-title seasons, the list of internal candidates is less attractive this time around. BamaOnline starting hot board The OC lists only one internal candidate for the position, and that is offensive analyst Derek Dooley.
In regards to the defensive coordinator opening, defensive analyst Todd Grantham appeared on BamaOnline starting hot board, as did former defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Hiring Pruitt made sense for Saban because Pruitt had spent eight years under Saban in various on- and off-field roles over two stints in the past. But there may be hurdles to overcome before a reunion is practical with Pruitt, who has a program in Tennessee. was accused of 18 Level I NCAA violations.
Saban should have no trouble attracting talented coaches to work for him, but it is possible that he may have to go beyond his current staff or previous tree of coaches to recruit one or both coordinators, and This will raise everyone’s learning curve in the months to come. ,
Alabama’s next offensive coordinator will be the ninth of Saban’s tenure and the program’s sixth in the last eight seasons. O’Brien departed after two seasons in the role, the first offensive coordinator to serve more than one season under Saban without winning a national title.
Adding to the importance of the offensive coordinator hire for Saban is the uncertainty of the schedule for the quarterback entering the 2023 season following Young’s departure for the NFL Draft. After backing up Mac Jones as the Crimson Tide won the 2020 national championship, Young stepped in and became a star for Alabama over the past two seasons.
Ultimately, he will go down as one of the best quarterbacks in program history to never win a national title, and replacing him will not be easy. Young’s backup, Jalen Milroy, is set to return for his redshirt sophomore season in the 2022 season after a mix of promise and worrisome decision-making while seeing significant action against Arkansas and Texas A&M amid Young’s injury.
Former five-star prospect Ty Simpson is also an option at the position after appearing in four games during his true freshman season in 2022. spring session. For whoever Saban tabs to replace O’Brien, developing a quarterback will be a key responsibility.