It has been reported that Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is the leading candidate to replace Mark Richt as the UGA coach. If that move occurs, how would Alabama act to fill its defensive coordinator vacancy?
The Crimson Tide would probably turn to one of the following candidates:
Mel Tucker, Alabama defensive backs coach
If Nick Saban wants to replace Smart by promoting from within the Alabama program, the best name to consider is probably Tucker, who has experience as a defensive coordinator at both the college and NFL level. Tucker was brought in this season to overhaul an Alabama pass defense that yielded 226 yards per game in 2014, which ranked 11th in the SEC. The Crimson Tide has indeed gotten better under Tucker’s watch. Alabama is giving up just 185.7 passing yards per game in 2015, improving to fifth in the league.
Jeremy Pruitt, UGA defensive coordinator
With his future at UGA uncertain, Pruitt may become the biggest free agent in college football. UGA won four straight games to close out the regular season, and Pruitt’s defense was undeniably the reason why. UGA allowed an average of just 10 points per game over that stretch. Pruitt is also known as a fierce recruiter and is a former Saban assistant at Alabama.
Will Muschamp, Auburn defensive coordinator
Is it crazy to think a coach could switch allegiances in the Iron Bowl rivalry? It happened this past offseason when linebackers coach Lance Thompson left Alabama to go to Auburn. Why couldn’t it happen with Muschamp moving from Auburn to Alabama? After all, Muschamp was a defensive coordinator for Saban at LSU and with the Miami Dolphins.
D.J. Durkin, Michigan defensive coordinator
In the event Smart leaves to become a head coach, the best candidate available outside the South might be Durkin. The Wolverines defense has been one of the best in America this season, ranking 11th in Football Outsiders’ defensive efficiency rating. Durkin also has ties to the SEC, serving as Florida’s defensive coordinator as recently as 2014.
Most of the names on this list are quite famous, and it would require big bucks to secure them as the Crimson Tide’s next defensive coordinator. But Alabama won’t accept anything less. In eight years working with Saban’s defense, Smart has made himself one of the biggest names in his profession. If Smart truly is ready to cash in on that notoriety and become a head coach, it’s a sure bet that Saban knows only a big-name replacement will do.