Alabama has found their replacement for retired head coach Nick Saban, hiring Washington’s Kalen DeBoer as the new leader of the Crimson Tide football program. DeBoer, 49, has agreed to a long-term contract after meeting with Alabama officials earlier this week.
DeBoer Leaves Washington After One Season
DeBoer joins Alabama after spending just one year as the head coach at Washington, where he led the Huskies to an 11-2 record and a conference championship. However, the lure of taking over college football’s premier program proved too difficult to pass up.
“This is truly a special opportunity,” said DeBoer at his introductory press conference. “The chance to lead a program like Alabama doesn’t come around very often. I’m honored to be the next coach of the Crimson Tide.”
DeBoer brings an innovative offensive mindset to Tuscaloosa, with his Washington offense ranking among the nation’s elite this past season. Alabama is hopeful he can reinvigorate an offense that sputtered at times during Saban’s final years.
Saban Will Have Continued Program Access
In a surprising concession, Alabama has agreed to provide Nick Saban complete access to practices, meetings, and all football facilities whenever he wishes. DeBoer personally ensured Saban would have an open door policy:
“Coach Saban built this Alabama program from the ground up, and he deserves to remain a part of it,” DeBoer said. “I want him to feel he’s still welcome here. It would be insane not to utilize his football expertise on a regular basis.”
|Rose Bowl Champions
|Alamo Bowl Loss
Saban retired after 17 years at Alabama, citing fatigue from the grind of college coaching. He leaves with 6 national championships and a record of 274-65-1. However, Saban made it clear he still wishes to have a voice within the program.
Recruiting Needs Restocking After Down Year
One of DeBoer’s first priorities will be restocking a 2024 recruiting class that currently ranks uncharacteristically low at 13th nationally. DeBoer was known as an ace recruiter during his time at Fresno State, where he delivered several highly ranked classes.
“We need to hit the ground running and let these top high school players know there’s a new energy in Tuscaloosa,” said DeBoer. “I’ll work night and day to sign a stellar recruiting class this cycle.”
DeBoer has his work cut out, with Alabama having already lost commitments from 5-star QB Ricky Slade and 4-star RB Bijan Daniel, among others. Convincing other wavering blue-chip prospects to recommit will be critical for DeBoer in these opening weeks on the job.
Assistant Coach Shakeup Coming
In addition to recruiting, DeBoer must sort out his assistant coaching staff. Offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien has taken the head coaching job with the New England Patriots, and other staff changes are expected. DeBoer is likely bringing 2-3 assistants from Washington, with the rest still to be determined.
Potential Assistant Coaching Hires
- Ryan Grubb (Washington OC)
- Julius Brown (Washington CB Coach)
- Tommy Rees (Notre Dame OC)
There is pressure for DeBoer to retain RB coach Tashard Choice and defensive coordinator Pete Golding. Alabama officials prefer some staff continuity, while letting DeBoer install his preferred offensive scheme.
What Happens Next for Alabama
DeBoer is seen as a high upside, high risk hire for Alabama after only one year of Power 5 head coaching experience. However, at just 49 years old, he theoretically could lead Alabama for the next 15 years if he finds early success.
Reactions among players and fans have been mixed initially, with some questioning whether DeBoer can handle the unrelenting pressure and expectations at a program like Alabama. DeBoer doesn’t seem concerned:
“Alabama isn’t really a place where you should come to dip your toe in the water and see how it goes,” DeBoer said. “Either you’re 100% committed to winning championships, or this isn’t the job for you. I assure you I’m here for the long haul.”
DeBoer will need to quickly adjust to being the face of the most high-profile program in college football. Each decision will be analyzed endlessly by media, fans, and school administrators alike. It’s a white-hot spotlight that eventually wore down even the legendary Nick Saban.
However, the Alabama administration felt DeBoer possesses the right combination of football intelligence, recruiting prowess, and offensive ingenuity to keep the Crimson Tide competing for titles annually. For DeBoer, it’s the opportunity of a lifetime at one of sport’s greatest modern dynasties.
“We believe coach DeBoer has all attributes to successfully lead Alabama football into a new era,” said Alabama AD Greg Byrne. “Though the expectations here will never change, we are confident Kalen is the perfect fit to pursue those championship aspirations.”
Only time will tell, but the Kalen DeBoer era has officially begun in Tuscaloosa.
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