Alabama football is exploring every option for Nick Saban to coach the game on Saturday, but the rules from the NCAA are making things difficult.
In the event he misses the Alabama-Georgia matchup, two coaches must pull the Crimson Tide through at Bryant-Denny Stadium: Steve Sarkisian and Charles Kelly.
For Sarkisian, this is an audition to prove he can be a head coach again at some point. He would never want his opportunity to come at the expense of Coach Saban’s health; however, one cannot dictate where chances occur.
Sarkisian was a head coach for seven years at the University of Washington (2009-13) and University of Southern California (2014-15).
He may have jumped into the role a little too early, but Sarkisian learned a lot from it. His personality is different from Saban’s, but the players must rally around him for this week.
If he can show the masses his ability to run a whole team, Sarkisian would rise to the top of the list of potential coaches that could take over Alabama once Saban decides to call it a career.
When it comes to Kelly, he gets a chance to inject some fire into the defense.
Saban is normally helping Pete Golding — Alabama’s defensive coordinator — when he’s in a bind, but Kelly will be called to heavily assist the group. As an associate defensive coordinator and safeties coach, Kelly has valuable experience with calling defenses at major programs such as Georgia Tech and Florida State. He has 11 years (two as high school DC) under his belt as a coordinator, but he produced some great numbers with the Seminoles from 2014-17.
Under Kelly, Florida State had a sack specialists in DeMarcus Walker (10.5 sacks in 2015, 16 sacks in 2016) and other talents that include Mario Edwards, Jalen Ramsey, Derwin James, Josh Sweat, Jacob Pugh, Brian Burns and Tarvarus McFadden. The Seminoles generated 51 sacks in 2016, while forcing 46 interceptions (four returned for touchdowns) in Kelly’s tenure.
It allowed 17.5 points per game in 2015.
After allowing an average of 30.3 points per contest in three games, Kelly’s responsibility for the Tide will be to simplify the defensive strategy for Georgia. Fortunately, the Bulldogs are different from Ole Miss in terms of style.
Georgia brings more of a true prostyle offense, and it sets up as a better matchup for Alabama.
The players will go all out for Saban, but the idea is to make sure they are not thinking too much.
Kelly must help Golding get the right personnel on the field and have calls/adjustments made in a timely manner. When he was hired in 2019, Saban thought hard about making Kelly the defensive play caller.
He chose to go with Golding and through 16 games, the 36-year-old is still adjusting to things.
Kelly missed the Missouri game, but he is about to seize this moment on defense.
*Get the BEST Alabama football insider information, message board access, and recruiting coverage today! SIGN UP HERE to unlock our subscriber only content!*