In 2023, Nick Saban faces the unenviable task of replacing both of his coordinators. On Tuesday, RBR had a lively discussion about potential offensive coordinator candidates. Today, it’s the other side of the ball.
Despite the ugly picture that detractors are trying to paint of a revolving door at defensive coordinator, Alabama has only had five different coordinators in Nick Saban’s 16 seasons at the Capstone. That is less than some programs have had in head coaches in that same time span.
Pete Golding had an interesting tenure at Alabama. Saban basically plucked him out of obscurity and molded in him into what he thought a defensive coordinator should be. But it wasn’t enough. Gone were the top five defenses. Gone were the takeaways and non-offensive scores. The defenses were good, but just not good enough.
Much like Bill O’Brien’s departure, Golding’s job change did not come as a surprise. Again, onlookers have to wonder if the Crimson Tide head coach already has someone lined up as a replacement.
Below are a few possible replacement candidates.
Jeremy Pruitt - Former New York Giants defensive assistant
If you have come to this site and clicked on this article, there is probably not much need to give you this guy’s background. Erik Evans gave an interesting argument over the legitimacy of his candidacy for defensive coordinator at Alabama. While he is an attractive target, there are many factors behind the scenes that need to be worked out. Included are his statuses with the NCAA and SEC, as well as any potential payments he might still get from Tennessee. These are some murky Waters. If I was a betting man, I would not think that he becomes Alabama’s next DC but a position as analyst is possible. It would not be a big issue if Alabama had to fire him from that spot.
One other thing to consider: Pruitt has taken many a lumps these past couple of years. Does he still have the fire?
Glenn Schumann - Georgia co-defensive coordinator
From these eyeballs, Schumann is the best candidate for so many reasons. He is an Alabama graduate who was a student assistant during his undergraduate years. He would become a graduate assistant and then director of football operations. Saban clearly saw potential in him. However when Kirby Smart made his classless exit from Tuscaloosa while photographing the recruiting board, he also stole a few Bama rising star staff members including Schumann. After a couple years as inside linebacker coach, he was promoted to co-defensive coordinator along with another former Bama staffer Dan Lanning (also pilfered). Those two built the best defenses in the nation. When Lanning got the Oregon job, UGA did not miss a beat. Perhaps it was Schumann all along who was deserved the credit?
He has proven his worth. He knows the system. He can recruit. He is an Alabama man. And taking a guy back from Kirby would be so satisfying. I should stop the article here, but Saban is an unpredictable guy...
Jimmy Lake - Former Washington head coach
Remember this name? Saban once tried to hire Lake when he was defensive coordinator at Washington. However, he stayed in Seattle as coach in waiting. He got the UW job but was fired after only 13 games. After sitting out last year, he should be raring to go. Lake’s specialty is defensive backs. Since he joined UW in 2014, he had nine DBs such as Budda Baker, Marcus Peters, Byron Murphy, and Taylor Rapp drafted and 23 defenders overall. His Huskies defenses consistently ranked in the top 10 in scoring defense. It would be hard to imagine him getting another head job this year, so why not Bama?
Jim Leonhard - Former Wisconsin defensive coordinator
Leonhard’s name was one of the first to pop up once Golding hit the ol’ dusty trail. He starred as a hard-nosed safety at Wisconsin and then played 10 years in the NFL. In 2016, he began his coaching career at his alma mater tutoring the defensive backs. He was promoted to defensive coordinator after one season and would become interim head coach (5-3) after Paul Chryst was canned amid this past season. However, he was not retained and remains jobless. He is a no-nonsense kind of guy but it worries me that his whole career has been spent in the land of cheeseheads against run-heavy and mostly undynamic Big 10 teams. Is he ready to coach and recruit in the SEC?
Derrick Ansley - Chargers defensive backs coach
This Alabama native was a Tide grad assistant (2010-11) before leading defensive backs at Tennessee and Kentucky. He returned to Tuscaloosa to coach that same unit in the defensive heydays of shoulda-been championship year of 2016 and the championship year of 2017. He moved on to the NFL Raiders and then to Jeremy Pruitt’s Tennessee as DC. The Vols defense saw marked improvement in his two years there but he was not retained after Pruitt’s dismissal. The last two seasons have been spent with the Chargers, coaching DBs with star pupil Derwin James returning to the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2018.
I CAN’T SEE IT
Todd Grantham - Alabama defensive analyst
This name has been bouncing around for some reason. I suppose because he has a year in the system and because he was on a Saban Sparty staff a quarter of a century ago. It would be an uninspiring, disappointing and shocking choice.
Kevin Steele - Miami defensive coordinator
Some monkeys with laptops have been banging out scenarios where this guy returns to Alabama.
Two weeks ago, Saban made the interesting move of plucking Austin Armstrong out of Southern Mississippi to work with inside linebackers for the Crimson Tide. Could it be that the Bama head coach sees another Pete Golding-like prospect that he can bring along and mold? If that is the case, might there be a veteran defensive mind who is creeping up on retirement who could man the defense for a few years and help mentor young Armstrong?
As he is wont to do, Saban sometimes pulls out a name nobody has thought of. Who could that person be?
Who would you like to see as next Alabama DC?
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