5 candidates who could replace Nick Saban as Alabama head coach

These five coaches could be in line to replace the legendary head coach at Alabama

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How do you replace a legend?

That's the question that Alabama must answer after head coach Nick Saban announced his retirement on Wednesday. Saban spent 17 years in Tuscaloosa, posting a 201-29 record with six national titles and two undefeated seasons.

Getting hired immediately after Saban will put instant pressure on the next head coach. Expectations are sky-high at Alabama, a storied program that has known nothing but winning since the early 20th century.

So, who could realistically follow Saban with the Crimson Tide? Here are five potential candidates to watch:

Steve Sarkisian, Texas head coach

After limited success in his first two head coaching stops at Washington and USC, Sarkisian has brought Texas back to relevance. He led the Longhorns to a College Football Playoff berth last season, largely thanks to an early-season road win at Alabama.

Sarkisian served as Saban's offensive coordinator in 2019 and 2020 before taking the Texas job. So while he's familiar with the school, you have to wonder if Sarkisian would actually want to leave Texas and start over at Alabama. Both are premier college football programs, and Texas is joining Alabama in the the SEC next season with his starting quarterback Quinn Ewers set to return.

Kalen DeBoer, Washington head coach

DeBoer has rapidly risen up the ranks to become one of the nations top coaches. From 2005 to 2009, he went 67-3 at his alma mater Sioux Falls, a Division II school. DeBoer's first D-I opportunity then came at Fresno State, where he 12-6 in two seasons (2020-21) before being hired by Washington. Leading a prolific offense, DeBoer's Huskies have gone 25-3 over the last two seasons -- including their loss to Michigan in the national title game earlier this week.

While DeBoer doesn't have any ties to Alabama, he would represent a clean break and a new chapter post-Saban. Securing a buyout with Washington wouldn't cost Alabama as much as getting Sarkisian from Texas, too.

Here are five things to know about University of Washington football coach Kalen DeBoer.

Mike Vrabel, former Titans head coach

If Vrabel is open to moving back to college, Alabama should listen. The former NFL linebacker began his coaching career as an Ohio State assistant for three seasons. He jumped up to the NFL in 2014 with the Houston Texans, and then became the Tennessee Titans' head coach in 2018. Over six seasons, Vrabel compiled a 54-45 record with three playoff appearances before getting fired this week.

Like DeBoer, Vrabel doesn't have a connection to Alabama. He's an Ohio State alum, though, so he's familiar with big programs. Vrabel obviously coached plenty of Alabama products in his time with the Titans, including Derrick Henry, Julio Jones and Rashaan Evans.

Dabo Swinney, Clemson head coach

Even though the last few years haven't been perfect, Swinney is among the most proven candidates who could replace Saban. The two-time national champion has posted a 170–43 record in 16 seasons at Clemson, including two title game wins (2016, 2018) and one loss (2015) against Alabama. Clemson went 9-4 in 2023, its worst season since 2010.

Swinney has deep ties to Alabama, not just including the three championship showdowns. He was a walk-on wide receiver for the Crimson Tide, playing a reserve role on their 1992 championship team. Then, he served as an assistant from 1993 to 2000. Despite his connection to the program, current students don't seem too interested in bringing Swinney home.

Deion Sanders, Colorado head coach

Wouldn't this be something? Sanders has one season coaching a Power Five program, leading Colorado to a 4-8 record after an electric start. While controversial, there's no doubt that Sanders got his players to buy into what he was selling. Coach Prime went 27-6 in three seasons at Jackson State before moving to Colorado.

Sanders, a Florida State alum, has never worked for a program near Alabama's level. It would be a massive step up for a coach after one sub-par season at Colorado. He improved the team from the year prior, but he's never proven to be able to win at this level. It's certainly a longshot, but it would be a flashy hire if Alabama goes this route.

With a nine-year MLB career and 14 seasons in the NFL, here are five things to know about Deion Sanders, head football coach at Colorado.
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