Three things Alabama football needs in its next offensive coordinator
For the third time in four seasons, Alabama football will have to replace its offensive playcaller immediately after a College Football Playoff National Championship Game.
The process has begun, as Bill O’Brien and Adam Gase have been reported as candidates to replace Steve Sarkisian, but it is far from over. As Nick Saban and UA continue the process while preparing for Monday’s game against Ohio State, here are some things the staff would do well to gain in its new offensive coordinator.
A quick developer of talent
This is more of an immediate need than one on a long-term basis, but given UA’s recent record of offensive coordinators, UA may be best served to look for short-term needs because most offensive coordinators never see the long term.
2021 could be a year of offensive transition for UA. Wide receiver DeVonta Smith and running back Najee Harris are almost certain to leave, along with at least one, if not multiple offensive line starters. NFL evaluations could be tempting for quarterback Mac Jones and wide receiver Jaylen Waddle. Unless UA is able to pull multiple draft decision wins as it did last year, it will be breaking in a lot of new pieces.
UA has an obvious heir apparent at many of those positions: Bryce Young at quarterback, Javion Cohen on the offensive line and a trio of Javon Baker, Thaiu Jones-Bell and Xavier Williams at wide receiver. UA also has an immensely talented freshman class coming in that could produce immediate offensive contributors.
To whatever extent UA loses its key offensive pieces over the winter, the new offensive coordinator will have to get those pieces operating at a high level immediately.
Rotator of running backs
Sarkisian had a track record of sticking to feature running backs over the rotations that UA has typically used in the Saban era. That tendency worked well with the two rosters Sarkisian was given, with Harris being the team’s best option with a gap between him and his backups.
As soon as Harris departs, that may no longer be the case.
At the bare minimum, UA will have two of the top 10 running backs in the class of 2020, Jase McClellan and Roydell Williams, and will add the No. 2 running back in the class of 2021, Camar Wheaton, if he follows through on his commitment and signs in February. Keilan Robinson could return after opting out of the 2020 season, and Brian Robinson Jr. could return for an additional senior season after the NCAA eligibility waiver on the fall of 2020.
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Presuming Harris enters the NFL Draft, UA will not have an obvious feature back, thus likely benefitting from the rotation it grew accustomed to in recent years. Finding an offensive coordinator comfortable with that is paramount.
West Coast recruiting ties would help
UA doesn’t make a living recruiting the West Coast, but it is often in on the biggest prospects the area produces and signs its fair share of them. Sarkisian played a prominent role in securing Young, a five-star Californian quarterback, after his commitment to USC in the 2020 class, adding to Najee Harris and Tommy Brown as California natives.
Sarkisian is involved in UA’s recruitment of two top prospects in the 2022 class from Mater Dei, Young’s former high school: five-star running back Raleek Brown and four-star wide receiver C.J. Williams. Brian Daboll was involved in the successful recruitment of West Coast prospects in his one year at UA despite little recruiting experience at all, much less specific to the West Coast. That being the case, this is not a requirement for UA’s new offensive coordinator, just a bonus if it can be found.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson