Who can replace Nick Saban at Alabama? Dan Lanning, Steve Sarkeesian and other candidates

Alabama's Nick Saban retires. The 72-year-old Saban will be considered the greatest coach in the history of college football. He won seven national titles, one at LSU and six with the Crimson Tide.

Saban brought Alabama back to the top of the college football world, leaving behind a tremendous legacy and having the largest coaching tree in the sport. Replacing him will be a monumental task for Alabama and athletic director Greg Byrne.

Among the names that industry sources expect to receive interest are two of Saban's former students.

Oregon's Dan Lanning He is a former graduate assistant under Saban and has risen through the coaching ranks, helping Georgia win a national title as defensive coordinator and then hitting the big time in Eugene, where he went 22-5. Lanning is only 37 years old, but he is wise beyond his years. He has proven that he can put a good staff together, recruit at a very high level, and is skilled at name, image and likeness (NIL). I'm told his family really loves it at Oregon, and he has a team ready for 2024 that could be a favorite to win a Big Ten title in his first season. TThe terms of his contract with the school state the buyout amount is $20 million, but I've heard it would actually cost a lot more if Lanning left the Ducks job. The Tide football program printed money under Saban. Does Lanning want to be the guy to take over for Saban? He's got a good job, but it's also a place where no one has ever won a national title.

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Texas Steve Sarkisian He revived his career in Tuscaloosa after off-field issues ended his brief tenure at USC. Under Saban, the 49-year-old Sarkisian learned well how to run a program, and his offensive philosophy has evolved. He went 25-14 in three years at Texas. This season, Sarkisian's Longhorns went 12-2, beat 'Bama in Tuscaloosa, and made the College Football Playoff.

Texas coach Steve Sarkisian, left, revived his career at Alabama. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The 2023 Horns were the best opposing coaches the Texans had seen in years. “It's not even close,” one Big 12 analyst said. “Apart from the talent, they are the most disciplined, and also the hardest. They have always been the most talented, but we always thought we would be the toughest team and we can get to them mentally. I think they are very disciplined, more than ever. That's a great compliment to Sark.”

I'm told Sarkisian impressed Tide officers while at Alabama. Will he leave a good situation he worked hard to build in Austin to take over a legend who will leave a huge shadow behind? Is it a better job than the one he has?

Washington Calen DeBoer He did a great job in two seasons in Seattle. He took over a 4-8 team two years ago and led them to the national title game this season. The 49-year-old DeBoer, who won three NAIA national titles in Sioux Falls, has an impressive career record of 104-12. Over the past two years, the Huskies have gone 10-1 against top-25 teams. DeBoer is 12-2 all-time against ranked opponents.

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“As head coaches, we all talk about balance right now, but he just lives it,” Washington State coach Jake Dickert said. The athlete last week. “He's so great, so collected. He's able to stay in every moment and keep pushing through it. Whether it's right, wrong or indifferent, he proves that coaching is really important because most of the players on that roster were now on a 4-8 team before Two years — and I know (quarterback Michael) Penix wasn't there, but almost all the other guys were still there. What he did to turn those guys around is unbelievable. I know he's respected by the entire coaching world.”

The South Dakota native is a great builder of offensive mind and culture. He loves it in Washington, and his daughter will be a freshman on the Huskies softball team next year. He has never worked in the SEC, which may give some at Alabama pause as this league is viewed as a different animal, but DeBoer recently hired Jimmy Sexton, the same agent for Saban and many of the SEC's coaches. Bama's opening could lead to Sexton negotiating big raises for other coaches.

Florida State Mike Norvell He may be out of the ACC before his team can. Norvell, who did an amazing job rebuilding the 'Noles Club, was only paid $4 million. He took over a struggling program, and in four seasons went from three wins, to five wins, to 10 wins, and was on the brink of the playoffs, going 13-1. The 42-year-old Texan, like DeBoer, has never coached in the SEC. But Norvell has shown he has an excellent understanding of the transfer portal and could be an interesting fit for the Tide.

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Clemson's Dabo Swinney Played at Alabama. He also beat his alma mater and Saban to capture two national titles. He has been a great fit for the Tigers, but feels to many in the sport that he is finding it difficult to adjust to life through the transfer portal. His program has declined in the past few years. After six top-four finishes (those two national titles), the Tigers are 14th, 13th and this year 20th. There are doubts he wants to replace Saban, and it's unclear whether Alabama will come after him.

(Top photo of Oregon coach Dan Lanning: Soobum Im/USA Today)

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