He is the godfather of college football coaches. He has won eight SEC championships and six national titles. In 12 seasons at Alabama, Nick Saban is 141-21. He’s also 67 years old and will turn 68 midway through the 2019 season. As dominant as Saban is as a coach, he simply cannot go on forever. That brings up the question “who will replace Saban at Alabama?”
Duh? Dabo! Not only has Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney beat Saban twice in the last three seasons to capture the College Football Playoff national championship, but he’s also an Alabama graduate. Swinney was a walk-on wide receiver for the Crimson Tide in the early 1990s. He eventually earned a scholarship and was a member of the 1992 national championship team under head coach Gene Stallings.
Swinney has built Clemson into a national power. He has plenty of job security. He is fiercely loyal to his Tigers and that may be why he stays, but any mention of Saban leaving or retiring should cue up the Swinney-to-Alabama call immediately.
The Smart Choice Like Swinney, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart was born in Alabama. He was raised in Georgia though. Smart also played for the Bulldogs and got his first coaching job at Georgia back in 1999. Smart became a Saban disciple in 2004 when he was named LSU’s secondary coach. Smart followed Saban to the Miami Dolphins and then to Alabama where he spent nine seasons, most of those as the Tide’s defensive coordinator.
In three years at Georgia, Smart is 32-10 with an SEC championship and a national championship game appearance under his belt. He’d be a great choice to replace Saban, but would he leave the one school that has been his home for most of his life?
Another ‘Bama Boy Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt has Alabama and Saban ties. Born in Rainsville, Pruitt played at Alabama for Stallings in the mid-1990s and was a graduate assistant for the Tide in 1997. After a long career in Alabama high school football – most notably state power Hoover HS – Pruitt was hired by Saban in 2007. By 2013, he was the defensive coordinator at Florida State. After a stint at Georgia (2014-15), Pruitt came back to Saban to serve as his defensive coordinator.
Pruitt is another defensive-minded coach that would be a great fit. He knows Alabama high schools and has tons of SEC experience. Pruitt does have only one year at Tennessee and his Vols were only 5-7. Maybe by the time Saban actually does leave Alabama, Pruitt would have turned around the Tennessee program.