Once again, Alabama football will have to replace its offensive coordinator. Mike Locksley is heading back to Maryland, where he has served as an assistant twice, to be the Terrapins’ new head coach.
After one year with Alabama in 2017, Brian Daboll left to be the offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills. The year before, Lane Kiffin famously took the FAU job. He was briefly replaced by Steve Sarkisian, who parlayed it into the same job with the Atlanta Falcons.
Nick Saban has had plenty of turnover, but has done a nice job of finding replacements at both coordinator positions. This year brings some extra pressure, with the job that Locksley did with Tua Tagovailoa. Alabama’s 2018 offense is better than its ever been.
There are both internal and external candidates for the job, including one big name who is a prime candidate for the Nick Saban career rehabilitation program.
Here are five candidates to take over as the next Alabama football offensive coordinator.
The name that has gotten the most speculation:
Hugh Freeze – former Ole Miss head coach
Along with Auburn’s Gus Malzahn, Freeze’s offenses have given Nick Saban’s teams the most trouble over the last few years. He was let go by the Rebels amid NCAA controversy and his own personal scandal, but it does sound like he will probably be back in the college ranks in 2019, in some capacity.
Locksley has been connected to the Maryland job for some time, leading to speculation about Freeze to Alabama. Tennessee, Florida State, and Auburn are also reportedly interested in him, though Auburn’s boosters angry with Malzahn may be undercutting his ability to add a big name like Freeze to the staff.
Freeze runs an explosive modern offense, which could be a good for for Tagovailoa and Alabama’s many dynamic weapons. This would be a scary match for the rest of the SEC.
Dan Enos – Alabama quarterbacks coach
Enos is the former head coach at Central Michigan, who voluntarily took a step back to become Arkansas’ OC back in 2015. He is in his first year on staff at Alabama, and has been credited, along with Locksley, with unlocking Tagovailoa’s incredible potential this season.
This might be the most seamless match. Enos has obviously been directly involved in the offense this year, and has the experience to keep the Crimson Tide rolling into 2019.
Josh Gattis – Alabama co-offensive coordinator, wide receivers coach
As impressive as Enos’ quarterbacks have been, Gattis’ wide receivers are another huge part of the equation. The Crimson Tide group is basically untouchable in Gattis’ first year on Nick Saban’s staff.
He comes over from the James Franklin tree, coaching under him at Vanderbilt and Penn State from 2012-2017.
If Saban wants to go with a younger option, the 34-year old could take the reigns as the sole offensive coordinator, or get paired with Enos, but with the ongoing push for young offensive-minded head coaches in both college and the NFL, he may not be long for Tuscaloosa, no matter what.
Larry Fedora – former North Carolina head coach
The shine may be off Fedora after two brutal seasons to end his tenure at UNC, but it wasn’t long ago that his Tar Heels were playing in the ACC Championship and going to big bowls.
Fedora’s explosive offense was at the center of that success. Before taking over Southern Miss and eventually UNC, he learned under Mike Gundy at Oklahoma State. He also reportedly turned down the chance to be Nick Saban’s first offensive coordinator at Alabama, back in 2007. That spot wound up going to Major Applewhite, now the head coach at Houston.
Given his previous success at UNC, it seems likely that Fedora will get another shot as a head coach. A successful stint with Alabama could put him back on the fast track.
Chip Long – Notre Dame offensive coordinator
Long is another fast-rising offensive mind, who has risen quickly through the college football ranks. The 35-year old follow Mike Norvell from Arizona State to be Memphis’ offensive coordinator, and after one year, went to Notre Dame.
Now, he and Brian Kelly have the Fighting Irish in the College Football Playoff.
Long comes from the Bobby Petrino system, serving as a graduate assistant at both Louisville and Arkansas. He is also an Alabama native, and attended North Alabama, where he played receiver and tight end. It might take a raise, but a move to the Crimson Tide could be a homecoming for him.