Jan 1, 2024; Pasadena, CA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban walks the sideline during the first half against the Michigan Wolverines in the 2024 Rose Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Rose Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Saban healthy, mental grind became unsustainable with age

Health issues were not a factor in Nick Saban retiring as head coach at Alabama.

“In hiring coaches and recruiting players, my age started to become an issue. People wanted assurances I’d be here … three years, five years, and it became harder to be honest about it,” Saban said Thursday in an ESPN interview. “And to be honest, this last season was grueling. It was a real grind for us to come from where we stared to where we got to. It took a little more out of me than usual. When people mentioned the health issue, it was really just the grind of, ‘can you do this the way you want to do it?’ Can you do this the way you’ve always done it and be able to do it, and sustain it for the entire season.

“If I couldn’t make a commitment to do that in the future the way I have to do it, I thought maybe this was the right time based on those two sets of circumstances.”

Saban reiterated “There’s no illness. Miss Terry is fine, I’m fine. When I was young, I could work until 2 in the morning and be back at 6. When you get a little older, that gets tougher. I’m sure people can relate to that.”

Saban, 72, won six of his seven national titles in his 17 seasons at Alabama, tying the school mark set by Bear Bryant. He finishes with a career mark of 297-71-1, 206 of those wins coming at Alabama (with 29 losses).

“I don’t think there’s any good time, especially when you’re a coach. When you’re a coach, you think you’re going to coach forever,” Saban told ESPN.

He led the Crimson Tide to nine Southeastern Conference championships.

Saban’s Alabama teams missed the College Football Playoff just twice in 10 years of its existence while winning three national championships.

“Simply put, Nick Saban is one of the greatest coaches of all time, in any sport, and the University of Alabama is fortunate to have had him leading our football program for the past 17 seasons,” Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said. ” He is the consummate coach, mentor and leader, and his impact is felt far beyond the football field.

Players learned directly from Saban of his decision on Wednesday at 4 p.m. Saban said it was important to him for every player to hear the news from him, and not wonder how much they meant to him because others reported the massive news before a team meeting.

NCAA rules permit players 30 days to enter the transfer portal following the change at head coach.

Byrne told players he hopes to have a good idea of Saban’s replacement with 72 hours.

–Field Level Media

Dec 2, 2023; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban leaves the field after defeating the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Saban departure hasn’t dinged Alabama’s odds — yet

Nick Saban’s retirement after 17 years and six national championships at Alabama hasn’t significantly impacted the Crimson Tide’s title odds for next season, but that could soon change.

While BetRivers shifted Alabama’s title odds from +450 to +550 after the news of Saban’s retirement broke on Wednesday, BetMGM told Field Level Media that its trading team “does not have plans to adjust Alabama’s odds unless players start transferring.”

For the time being, the Crimson Tide remain at +550, which is the same odds they had before Saban’s retirement and down from opening at +600.

Who succeeds Saban could trigger players to leave the program, which would then catch more attention from oddsmakers.

Five-star wide receiver Ryan Williams told ESPN on Wednesday night that he has decommitted from the Tide’s 2024 recruiting class. Williams said that Saban’s departure was “the cherry on top” for making his decision after receivers coach Holmon Wiggins also left the program for an expanded role at Texas A&M.

Whether more follow Williams in either flipping their commitments or transferring remains to be seen.

Dan Lanning, rumored to be among Alabama’s top choices to replace Saban, announced in a social media post Thursday that he is staying at Oregon. Lanning had been the -140 favorite at SportsBetting.ag to be Alabama’s next coach.

Next on the list to replace Saban is Florida State’s Mike Norvell at +150, followed by Washington’s Kalen DeBoer (+200), Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin (+550), Texas’ Steve Sarkisian (+1400) and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney (+2800).

–Field Level Media

Sep 23, 2023; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban greets Mississippi Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin midfield after Alabama defeated the Rebels 24-10 at Bryant-Denny Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Take 5: Top Alabama replacements for Nick Saban

The bombshell Wednesday night that Alabama head coach Nick Saban is retiring elicited one clear question.

Who’s next?

Saban, 72, has won seven national titles — six of them coming in the past 17 years at Alabama. That ties him with fellow legend Bear Bryant for the most in program history.

Those are some mighty big shoes to fill, and Saban’s departure immediately brought numerous marquee names to the surface. Here are five top candidates Alabama could tap to take over for Saban.

5. Dan Lanning, Oregon
When Lanning’s name surfaced in connection with Texas A&M after the Aggies fired Jimbo Fisher in November, he was quick to say, “I’m not going anywhere. “There’s zero chance that I would be coaching somewhere else. I’ve got unfinished business here.”

Could an opportunity to succeed Saban soften that stance?

Lanning, 37, came to Oregon after serving as Kirby Smart’s defensive coordinator at Georgia for three seasons. Oh, and he did spend a year as a graduate assistant on Saban’s staff in 2015.

That said, Lanning was extremely emphatic two months ago that he has no intention of leaving Eugene anytime soon.

“I’ll continue to say it until I’m blue in the face. I want to be here at Oregon. That hasn’t changed, that won’t change,” Lanning said in November.

4. Bill O’Brien, Former Alabama OC
It’s hard to believe that O’Brien is still only 54 years old. He first came to prominence as the New England Patriots’ offensive coordinator in 2011 before taking on the daunting task of replacing Joe Paterno at Penn State.

That tenure lasted two years before O’Brien returned to the NFL as the Texans’ head coach. He led Houston to the AFC South title in just his second season and went on to reach the postseason four times before being fired in 2020.

He took over for Steve Sarkisian as Saban’s offensive coordinator three months later and helped Alabama compile a 24-4 record while averaging over 41 points per game over two years. O’Brien returned to the Patriots last year, but could another stint in Tuscaloosa be on the horizon?

3. Mike Norvell, Florida State
Norvell has returned Florida State to national prominence in just four seasons, guiding the Seminoles to an undefeated regular season and the Atlantic Coast Conference title in 2023. FSU was controversially left out of the College Football Playoff, in favor of Saban’s one-loss Crimson Tide.

Norvell, 42, is young, energetic and an excellent recruiter. He has also proven adept at working the transfer portal to find key pieces. The Texas native lacks the Southeastern Conference roots of the other names on this list, but he is 69-32 overall as a head coach and is a proven Power Five winner.

After watching the CFP snub FSU due to the perceived weakness of the ACC, Norvell just might be tempted to make the jump.

2. Lane Kiffin, Ole Miss
Kiffin’s name figures to be the most polarizing on this list, with strong feelings having already been expressed on both sides of the coin. Kiffin, 48, famously served as Saban’s offensive coordinator from 2014-16 after being fired by Southern California. He returned to head coaching with Florida Atlantic in 2017 before taking over in Oxford three years later.

Kiffin has built Ole Miss into a legitimate SEC power, leading the Rebels to the first 11-win season in program history. He also signed an extension last month and has leveraged the “tremendous support of the Grove Collective” to hit the transfer portal as aggressively as any team in the country.

However, there were also rumors that he declined the Auburn job last year for fear that it would prevent him from ever replacing Saban if the opportunity arose.

1. Dabo Swinney, Clemson
Swinney has long been tied to rumors that he might eventually replace Saban at his alma mater. That was especially true as Swinney built Clemson into a powerhouse that twice beat Alabama in national title games. Swinney’s program has fallen off in recent years, including a 9-4 record in 2023. However, Swinney is still only 54 years old and has proven he can shine on college football’s biggest stages.

It would be a full-circle story for the Pelham, Ala., native and former walk-on for the Crimson Tide who was a member of Alabama’s 1992 national championship team. Clemson has been aware of that potential for quite some time, and Swinney’s 10-year contract signed in 2022 includes a $7.5 million payment that he would owe the school should he leave for Alabama.

–Field Level Media

Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele speaks to members of the media Sunday, August 6, 2023.

Report: Alabama DC Kevin Steele to retire

Kevin Steele, a former head coach at Baylor who had three different stints on Alabama’s defensive staff during a 40-year coaching career, is planning to retire, ESPN reported Monday night.

Steele spent the 2023 season as Alabama’s defensive coordinator, leaving a high-profile opening for Nick Saban to fill on his staff.

Steele will turn 66 in March and has nearly spent his entire adult life coaching football, almost exclusively at the Division I college level apart from joining the expansion Carolina Panthers as their linebackers coach for four years.

After his stay with the Panthers, Steele was hired by Baylor in 1999. The Bears went 9-36 and just 1-31 in the Big 12 during his four seasons.

Steele played linebacker at Tennessee and began his coaching career there as a student and graduate assistant. He went on to work for three other Southeastern Conference programs — Alabama, Auburn and LSU.

Steele was Alabama’s defensive coordinator in 2007 and defensive head coach/inside linebackers coach in 2008. He was director of player personnel for the Crimson Tide in 2013 and linebackers coach in 2014.

After serving as defensive coordinator for LSU (2015), Auburn (2016-20) and Miami (2022), Alabama hired him away from the Hurricanes for the 2023 season.

Alabama reached the College Football Playoff as the No. 4 seed and lost to No. 1 Michigan in the Rose Bowl semifinal last week.

–Field Level Media

Dec 4, 2021; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart greets Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban before the SEC championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama, Georgia fix on fight for SEC, CFP spot

Championship preparation is the theme of the week for Georgia and Alabama.

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban, once the boss of Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart, has Alabama positioned to play for the SEC title after an emotional comeback win over Auburn in the Iron Bowl on Saturday.

The reward for Alabama is a rematch with Georgia in Atlanta with a spot in the College Football Playoff on the line.

“I don’t think people realize how hard it is to win 29 games in a row, or even go 12-0 in a season,” Saban said Monday. “They’ve got good players. Well coached. This is a team that doesn’t have a whole lot of weaknesses. That’s why they are who they are, what they are.”

Georgia defeated Georgia Tech 31-23 on Saturday to set the record for consecutive wins by an SEC program.

Neither team lost a conference game heading into the SEC title matchup in a league each has dominated in recent years.

Saban and Alabama won 26 consecutive games (2015-16). The Crimson Tide won the SEC Championship in 2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 202 and 2021. Georgia won last year and lost to national champion LSU in 2019.

“It’s phenomenal what he’s accomplished,” said Saban, who promoted Smart to defensive coordinator at Alabama in 2008. He remained in that role until he accepted the Georgia job in 2016.

But if the Bulldogs lose for the first time in 30 games this weekend, there’s no guarantee a CFP spot will be available. Florida State and Texas could make cases to join Michigan and Alabama in that hypothetical scenario.

Alabama is the last team to beat Georgia, 41-24 in the 2021 SEC Championship. Georgia then defeated Michigan in the CFP semifinals and won the first of back-to-back championships by avenging that defeat to the Crimson Tide.

This version of Alabama had Smart doing double-takes in film preparation. As usual, it starts with Alabama’s versatile and dynamic defense.

“Size, speed, toughness, aggressiveness, players that play multiple positions,” Smart said Monday of the Crimson Tide defense.

Saban downplayed the similarity between approaching this game and the Alabama victory on Dec. 4, 2021, but plans to call on his upperclassmen to show his team how to prepare for Georgia.

“I have a great appreciation for this game. I grew up in the SEC, an SEC footprint kid, grew up coaching in the SEC. I have an appreciation for this game, how hard it is to win,” Smart said. “In some ways, Alabama and us, have been spoiled. I don’t think some kids appreciate, they think it’s a rite of passage. It’s not, it’s earned.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 9, 2023; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban cheers on his players before their game against the Texas Longhorns at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 Alabama fixates on fixes after 10-point loss to Texas

Texas knocked the Crimson Tide down to 10th in the latest Top 25 poll and head coach Nick Saban spent his Sunday spreading one message to his team: Where Alabama goes from here is up to them.

The end of a 21-game home nonconference winning streak and a top-five ranking fade in the rear view as Saban attempts to point the Crimson Tide’s attention on what’s next.

He likened the aftermath of the loss to the Longhorns to counseling a player after a rough test in a class early in the semester.

“We didn’t grade out very well on the test, so what are we going to do to get a better grade?” Saban said. “I think that’s what we have to really learn and grow from and make a commitment to. I think our players with the kind of character and attitude that we’ve shown so far as a team, I think they’ll respond the right way. And I think the coaches will do the same.”

The Crimson Tide sustained self-inflicted wounds in the 34-24 defeat, atypical mistakes for a Saban-coached club. They included 10 penalties, two of which nullified touchdowns, and near constant pressure on quarterback Jalen Milroe, who completed 14 of 27 passes for 255 yards with two interceptions.

“I don’t know that … we had much of an identity,” Saban said. “I think we started out early in the game being able to run the ball effectively and did not mix up the play-action pass to complement the run game. And eventually it got harder and harder to run the ball.”

Alabama (1-1) plays at South Florida this week and kicks off SEC play Sept. 23 facing another former assistant coach when Lane Kiffin escorts No. 17 Ole Miss into town. Saban has lost consecutive games to former assistants Kirby Smart and Steve Sarkisian.

Speaking Monday before practice, Saban was preparing to welcome the team to a mass film session to review the Texas loss. It was the first time Saban and players were together since postgame Saturday night. But he already felt like he knew what the collective response would be this week.

“I would be shocked if these guys don’t come in here today with the attitude that we’re going to go out there and try to improve and get better,” he said. “And the future is now. We’ve got to do it now — that’s the main thing.”

–Field Level Media

No depth chart was released by Alabama on Monday, meaning quarterback Jalen Milroe (4) and others are still competing for their spots. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama coach Nick Saban: No depth chart, no distractions

For the first time in 17 seasons as Alabama head coach, Nick Saban ditched the depth chart.

The Crimson Tide coach said Monday there is no need for a formalized list of starters and their backups, otherwise known as the established and accepted depth chart.

Saban said his players “know who should start” as the program continues to resist naming a starting quarterback to replace No. 1 NFL draft pick Bryce Young.

“When we put a depth chart out you all think that’s final. Like this is like etched in stone,” Saban said.

“It creates a lot of distractions on our team with a lot of guys thinking, ‘Well, this guy won the job now and I’m not going to play.’ And quite frankly we don’t need that.”

The QB picture remains under wraps to the public, but Saban sounded like he could be closer to making the call by assessing the pecking order is “sort of taking shape.”

Saban also said starting one quarterback on Saturday against Middle Tennessee won’t close the door for others to take the top spot the following week against Texas.

Sophomore Jalen Milroe, redshirt freshman Ty Simpson, Notre Dame transfer Tyler Buchner and true freshman Dylan Lonergan are all still competing for quarterback reps.

“We’re going one day at a time,” Saban said.

–Field Level Media

Gadsden City high football safety Dre Kirkpatrick commits to Alabama during a ceremony at the school, following his fathers footsteps on Friday, August 18, 2023.

Nick Saban gets commitment from another Kirkpatrick, Dre Jr.

Dre Kirkpatrick Jr., son of former Alabama great Dre Kirkpatrick Sr., committed to the Crimson Tide Friday, as his father did 14 years earlier, making him the first legacy recruit to pledge to Nick Saban during his Alabama tenure.

The younger Kirkpatrick, a member of the 2024 class, chose Alabama over Arkansas, Auburn and Missouri, among others. The 247sports composite three-star recruit plays safety.

Kirkpatrick Sr., a former first-round draft choice of the Cincinnati Bengals at cornerback, played 10 years in the NFL, last appearing in six games for the San Francisco 49ers in 2021. Under Saban at Alabama (2009-11), he won two national titles and was named to the All-SEC team twice.

Saban, 71, is entering his 28th season as a college football head coach in 2023. The Crimson Tide are coming off an 11-2 season, their 15th consecutive year with 10 or more wins, a streak that began in 2008 — the season before Kirkpatrick Sr. joined Alabama as a freshman.

–Field Level Media

Alabama head football coach Nick Saban waves to the crowd after throwing out the first pitch before the Crimson Tide  s game with Samford at Sewell-Thomas Stadium Tuesday April 25, 2023.

College Baseball Alabama Vs Samford

Alabama, Nick Saban to ‘let the cake bake’ entering 2023

Georgia won the past two college football national titles, but Alabama coach Nick Saban learned the Crimson Tide’s reach remains significant over the offseason.

In Italy to celebrate 50 years of marriage with his wife Terry, Saban toured Ferrari’s headquarters and production facility. He left without a car but found an unexpected turbo boost from the company’s employees.

“We got ‘Roll Tided’ everywhere we went,” Saban said Wednesday at SEC Media Days in Nashville. “Even at the Ferrari plant. These cats don’t even speak English and we’re getting Roll Tide. I guess we have a pretty decent brand, I’m talking about the University of Alabama.”

Saban and “Miss Terry” put off Italy for two years but took the time this summer to head overseas. Now Alabama wants to put a charge in the rest of the SEC after watching the Bulldogs reign as national champs the past two seasons.

There are goals for the Crimson Tide, but Saban doesn’t discuss expectations, a taboo term in his program.

“Expectations are a premeditated way to create disappointment,” he said, “and that’s why you stay process-oriented.”

Alabama, like rival Auburn and Georgia, is unsettled at quarterback entering fall camp. Bryce Young, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and the 2021 Heisman Trophy winner, leaves a crater for the Crimson Tide offense to fill.

Saban said none of his quarterback options created separation in the spring and so, as with “Grandma Saban’s best cake in the world,” the plan is to “not rush it.”

“She’d say ‘if I take it out of the oven too soon, it’s gonna turn to mush.’ We have to make sure we let the cake bake,” Saban said.

Alabama also has new coordinators following the exit of Bill O’Brien on offense, but Kevin Steele returned to fill the void at defensive coordinator for his third stint on Saban’s staff.

Tommy Rees has the dual role of coordinator and quarterbacks coach and drew raves from Saban on Wednesday. Rees was offensive coordinator at Notre Dame, where he played quarterback, for current LSU coach Brian Kelly.

“Tommy Rees is one of the brightest young minds I’ve seen in a long time in this business,” Saban said.

Rees and whomever claims the quarterback job might have an easier time considering the talent Alabama features on the offensive line. That includes junior offensive tackle JC Latham, who wore a massive necklace with the initials “TK” on Wednesday at media days.

“I wanted to have my own name, that’s why I came up with Trench King,” Latham said. “Everybody o-line, d-line, they live in the trenches. I want to be the best.”

–Field Level Media

Apr 22, 2023; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama head coach Nick Saban holds his grandson before the A-Day game at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary Cosby-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama lands commitment from top 2025 RB Anthony Rogers

Class of 2025 running back prospect Anthony Rogers committed to Alabama on Friday.

The four-star running back, an Alabama native, is now with IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. He is ranked the No. 33 overall prospect in his class by 247Sports and No. 39 by ESPN.

The 247Sports composite rankings, meanwhile, peg Rogers as the eighth-best running back in the class.

Rogers, who’s listed at 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds, chose the Crimson Tide over Auburn, Florida, Georgia and Oregon.

While it’s still early, Nick Saban and company have the second-ranked recruiting class for 2025, according to 247Sports, a group led by five-star wide receiver Ryan Williams.

–Field Level Media