TUSCALOOSA, Ala.– He has yet to serve an offseason at the University of Alabama and yet, Steve Sarkisian secured job offer in the National Football League. After being an offensive analyst and coordinator in 2016, the California native will replace Kyle Shanahan for the Atlanta Falcons.
During his 10 seasons at Alabama as head coach, Nick Saban is known for handling things internally.
With this being noted, the promotion of Mike Locksley to offensive coordinator may be the next move. He’s accumulated over 20 years of experience on that side of the ball, while mentoring names such as quarterback Juice Williams (Illinois), receiver Arrelious Bend (Illinois), quarterback C.J. Brown (Maryland), running back Brandon Ross (Maryland), receiver Stefon Diggs (Maryland) and receiver Deon Long (New Mexico).
If Saban choses to step outside the program, Chip Kelly and Mark Helfrich would be ideal candidates.
Regardless of his NFL career, Kelly was one of the biggest offensive innovators in college football. He struck gold during his years at the University of Oregon (2007-12) as both coordinator and head coach. He turned in a 46-7 mark in four seasons at head coach, which included four BCS bowl appearances (wins in Rose, Fiesta).
Even in his unorthodox style, balance is achieved. Kelly coached six 1,000-yard backs including LaMichael James—who hit the mark three times (2009-11). While Jeff Maehl was Oregon’s lone 1,000-yard target (2010, 1,076), Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas (twice) and Marcus Mariota were all 2,000-yard passers.
All three threw less than 10 interceptions as starters.
Following his tenure as an offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, Helfrich took over at Oregon in 2013. His overall record wasn’t as good as Kelly’s; however, he did guide the Ducks to a Pac-12 championship, a Rose Bowl title and a berth in the College Football Playoff in 2014.
Like Kelly, Helfrich was dynamic with quarterbacks, running backs and receivers.
He coached three 1,000-yard backs—Bryon Marshall and Royce Freeman (twice)—two 1,000-yard receivers—Josh Huff and Byron Marshall—and a quarterback in Marcus Mariota, who totaled 3,000-plus yards in 2013 and 2014 (4,454, in 2014). His output of 42 touchdowns to four interceptions during the 2014 season led to him winning the Heisman Memorial Trophy.
Lincoln Riley and Charlie Weiss, Sr., are two other named in the rumor mill.
Getting Riley is unlikely for the Tide, but Weiss is a possibility. Another entertaining scenario would be having Arizona State offensive coordinator Billy Napier return to Tuscaloosa. He left to replace the departed Chip Linsdey, shortly after Locksley was promoted to on-field assistant. Tracking Saban’s next move will be interesting. Stay tuned to tdalabamamag.com for more information and updates on Sarkisian’s successor.