Nick Saban is inarguably the greatest coach in college football history. The 72-year-old is currently still at the throne in Tuscaloosa where he has been since 2007. Saban’s record during his time with the Alabama Crimson Tide is an impressive 206-29.
While the Tide continue their run, the talk for the last several years is that Saban is going to retired. Yet each year he keeps coming back.
At this point however, father time keep creeping upward, so the window is inevitably closing for the time we have remaining to appreciate Saban as a head coach.
Although it is not known when he will step down, but it is always worth visiting and reviewing the list of top candidates to replace Saban in Tuscaloosa.
In order, here is my top four potential candidates to replace Nick Saban as head coach at the University of Alabama.
Top 4 candidates to replace Nick Saban at Alabama one day
Lane Kiffin - Kiffin coached under Saban as the offensive coordinator of the Crimson Tide. During his time in Tuscaloosa, he helped lead the Tide to a national championship in 2015. Since then, Kiffin has been the head coach at Florida Atlantic University and Ole Miss. Kiffin rebuilt each program during his time there, and currently still remains head coach of the Rebels in Oxford. In his seven full seasons between the two schools, Kiffin has compiled four seasons with 10 wins or more. This is impressive considering that both of these programs needed to be rebuilt when he got there.
Kiffin is also one of the most successful assistants after leaving Alabama and being mentored by Saban.
One of the biggest question marks on Kiffin is whether or not he can win at a program with the prestige of Alabama. Earlier this year after losing to the University of Georgia, Kiffin came out and said that he needed more resources to help make Ole Miss a contender. If this is indeed the case, he will have these resources in T-town if given the chance and should do just fine.
Glenn Schumann - Glenn Schumann is not necessarily the first name many think of. And in-part, it is because he has never been a head coach. Schumann however is a protégé of both Nick Saban and Kirby Smart, who are inarguably two of the top coaches in the country, and inarguably the top two coaches in the SEC.
Schumann started as a student assistant under Saban from 2008-2011 before becoming a graduate assistant from 2011-2014. From there Schumann followed Smart to Athens in 2016 and has become one of the brightest young defensive minds in the game. Schumann has been promoted during his time at the University of Georgia to co-defensive coordinator which is a role he is held since 2021.
And the other kicker that should not go unnoticed is that Schumann graduated from the University of Alabama. We have seen time and time again that one is loyal to, and often times wants nothing more to be the head coach at their alma mater. Two recent examples of this would be University of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, and University of Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh. Smart has been in Athens for eight seasons, and Harbaugh in Ann Arbor for nine years. Loyalty matters when it comes to your alma mater, and these two coaches are proof. Schumann may be a third if he can succeed in Tuscaloosa.
The question mark on Schumann is obvious in that he has never been a head coach. And that is a big risk. Alabama is obviously hoping to replicate what Georgia did with Smart. Smart had never been a head coach before joining the Bulldogs in 2016 after serving as Saban’s defensive coordinator for eight seasons.
Steve Sarkisian – Steve Sarkisian is forever grateful to Saban for giving him a second chance at coaching after his self-admitted struggles with alcohol during his earlier coaching years. Things got so bad that Sarkisian was let go by the University of Southern California, and was then out of coaching for a few years.
Sarkisian resurfaced in Tuscaloosa as an offensive analyst for the Crimson Tide in 2016. After a brief stint in the NFL, Sarkisian returned to the Tide in 2019 and 2020 and helped lead the Tide to a national championship in 2020.
Sarkisian then left for the University of Texas where he was hired on as head coach in 2021 and has been in Austin since. Sarkisian just coached the Longhorns to their first ever college football playoff appearance, and first 12-win season since 2009.
With his proven success on and off the field the last several years, one cannot help but think the Tide would take a stab at landing Sarkisian. It would be a long shot though as the Longhorns can presumably match a salary offer many by pretty much any other university. This is why Sarkisian sits third on the list and not at number one.
DeMeco Ryans – DeMeco Ryans played linebacker at the University of Alabama under former head coach Mike Shula from 2002-2005, so never for Saban. However, the former consensus first-team all American was mentioned this past year as a potential replacement at defensive coordinator for the Tide. So he is obviously not totally out of the realm of possibility as a head coach.
Ryans had a 10-year playing career in the NFL and was a standout for the Houston Texas during the first five years of his career, before joining the Philadelphia Eagles where he continued his conquest until his retirement in 2015.
From there, Ryans took immediately to coaching in the NFL and has moved up the ladder. Ryans is in the middle of his first season as a head coach with the Houston Texans, and has them as a playoff contender already.
With that being said, there are a few more question marks surrounding Ryans than the other three names mentioned. For starters, although he is a proven winner at the NFL level, he has never done it in college. The college game is also much different in regards to having to recruit, handle the transfer portal and NIL; none of which Ryans has experience with even as an assistant.
Whoever does replace Saban will have expectations that are through the roof and nearly impossible to follow as he has six national championships during his 17-year run to this point in Tuscaloosa. If they are not consistently winning 10 or more games per season, they could be out the door as quick as they came in considering what Saban has built, and the constant desire from a fan base to keep contending for national championships year-over-year.
While Saban remains in seat, the end will approach at some point. And right now, there are my top names to replace the all-time great.
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