Alabama has found Nick Saban’s successor, hiring Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer to take over the storied Crimson Tide football program. DeBoer, who led the Huskies to a semifinal appearance in just his first season, signs a long-term deal with Alabama after a whirlwind courtship following Saban’s surprise retirement announcement earlier this week.
DeBoer Brings Offensive Innovation from Washington
The 48-year-old DeBoer becomes just the fourth Alabama head coach since 2000, bringing an exciting offensive system honed over successful stops at Fresno State, Indiana, and Washington. After serving as Fresno State’s offensive coordinator in 2017 and 2018, DeBoer took over as head coach in 2019, leading the Bulldogs to a 9-1 record before leaving for the Indiana offensive coordinator job.
After just one season directing the Hoosiers’ offense, DeBoer was hired by Washington in 2021 and engineered one of the greatest single-season turnarounds in college football history. The Huskies went from 4-8 to 12-2 under DeBoer, winning the Pac-12 title and reaching the national semifinals. Now he’ll try to work similar magic at Alabama in the wake of Saban’s sudden departure.
Kalen DeBoer’s Year-by-Year Coaching Record
|Hawaii Bowl Champions
|Mountain West Champions, Las Vegas Bowl Champions
|Pac-12 Champions, CFP Semifinalist
DeBoer takes over an Alabama program that has won 6 national titles under Saban since 2007. But the Crimson Tide slipped in 2022, going 10-3 with losses to Tennessee, LSU, and Kansas State. Alabama’s offense struggled at times as offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien’s scheme failed to maximize quarterback Bryce Young’s talents.
DeBoer is known for installing innovative, quarterback-friendly systems. His Washington offense averaged 39 points per game this season, produced a Heisman Trophy finalist quarterback in Michael Penix Jr., and throttled high-level defenses like Oregon, Utah, and Penn State. Alabama is betting DeBoer can rebuild the Crimson Tide into the offensive juggernaut fans grew accustomed to under Saban.
Washington Left Searching for Next Leader After Breakout 2022 Season
Washington now finds itself searching for a new head coach on the heels of its best season in over two decades under DeBoer’s leadership. The program had finally regained its footing as a Pac-12 and national contender in DeBoer’s first year directing the Huskies. Now athletic director Jen Cohen will look to make another home-run hire to keep the momentum going.
Names like former star quarterback and current Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Liam Coen, as well as Oregon offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham, have already emerged as top targets. But replacing a coach who led Washington within one game of the national championship in his first season will be a monumental task.
Potential Washington Head Coach Candidates
- Liam Coen – Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator, former UW quarterback
- Kenny Dillingham – Oregon offensive coordinator
- Jonathan Smith – Oregon State head coach
- Justin Wilcox – Cal head coach, former UW defensive coordinator
- Dave Aranda – Baylor head coach, former Wisconsin/LSU defensive coordinator
The next head coach will inherit a loaded roster headlined by star wide receiver Jalen McMillan, breakout running back Wayne Taulapapa, and standout linebacker Bralen Trice. Getting Washington back to the Pac-12 Championship Game must be priority number one in order to build on 2022’s success and keep pace in a much-improved conference landscape.
Alabama Invests in DeBoer Long-Term to Forge New Era
DeBoer’s deal with Alabama is a 5-year contract reportedly starting at $10 million per season including performance bonuses. Those numbers put the new Crimson Tide head coach among the highest paid at both the college and NFL levels right off the bat.
And there are other unique contract clauses that show Alabama’s willingness to invest heavily in DeBoer and move past the Saban era. DeBoer’s buyout starts at a staggering $12 million if he were to leave for another college job in the first two years, illustrating the school’s commitment to building long-term with their new head coach.
The contract also reportedly allows DeBoer to select his own strength coach, nutrition team, and other football support staff – perks not afforded to previous Alabama coaches. Those small details further demonstrate the freedom and resources DeBoer will have to reshape parts of the program as he sees fit right away rather than just picking up where Saban left off.
Make no mistake, expectations haven’t changed in Tuscaloosa – DeBoer will be expected to win at the highest levels immediately. But Alabama officials have clearly communicated through the unique contract terms that they view DeBoer as perfectly positioned to lead the Crimson Tide into a new chapter of continued excellence.
What’s Next for Alabama with DeBoer at the Helm?
DeBoer and his staff face a tall task holding together Alabama’s 2023 recruiting class, ranked 2nd nationally. Opposing coaches will certainly attempt to poach committed prospects in the wake of Saban’s exit. Identifying gems out West and re-solidifying bonds with local recruits in the Southeast will be paramount priorities in the coming weeks leading up to National Signing Day.
Several Alabama stars like quarterback Bryce Young, linebacker Will Anderson Jr. and others face decisions about declaring for the NFL Draft or returning to school. DeBoer will need to meet with those players quickly and sell his vision for an innovative offense maximizing their talents in 2023. Even a few key returners opting to come back could make a world of difference in easing the coaching transition.
Building a Powerhouse Staff
Assembling a stellar assistant coaching staff will be one of DeBoer’s most critical tasks in his first weeks on the job. Will any Washington staffers make the move to Tuscaloosa too? Does DeBoer try to woo a current NFL coach to be his offensive coordinator? There will be no shortage of eager candidates should DeBoer tap into the national network he’s built through successful stops across college football.
While the Alabama administration no doubt believes DeBoer can sustain the program’s championship pedigree, the pressure facing Nick Saban’s successor is immense. Winning 10 games would be a disappointment given the Crimson Tide’s usual standards under Saban.
DeBoer appears to have the offensive creativity and quarterback expertise to keep Alabama competing for titles consistently. Now Tide fans anxiously await seeing how he assembles his staff and sets the tone for a new era during winter workouts and spring practices.
The DeBoer tenure is off to a fast start at Alabama. How quickly he gets the Crimson Tide back to the mountaintop will determine whether this high-profile hire was the right move entering the critical post-Saban period.
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