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What’s next for Nick Saban and the open defensive coordinator position with Todd Grantham out of the running?

Alabama head coach Nick Saban walks the field at Bryant-Denny Stadium during pregame before Mississippi State matchup
Gary Cosby Jr. - USA Today Sports

Nick Saban is down an option for Alabama’s open defensive coordinator position.

ESPN’s Chris Low reported Friday that Todd Grantham, a Crimson Tide defensive analyst, is returning to the National Football League as an assistant for the New Orleans Saints. Grantham has experience coordinating defenses at Louisville, Mississippi State, Georgia, and Florida, but he will not have the title for the Tide. His departure allows Saban to move elsewhere to get Alabama back on track. However, what becomes the next move for the 71-year-old?

RELATED: Alabama fans react to Crimson Tide hiring Tommy Rees for OC role

Several names have been in the conversation, including Glenn Schumann (Georgia), Jim Leonhard (Wisconsin), Jimmy Lake, and Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt, an Alabama native, has been the most popular name among Tide fans.

They remember the defensive players in 2016 and 2017 under his leadership and how they performed. Pruitt coordinated the nation’s most entertaining defense in 2016 and assisted the 2017 defense to a College Football Playoff National Championship.

He started as a player developer (2007-09) and became an on-field coach from 2010 to 2012 (defensive backs) and 2016 to 2017. Pruitt has recruiting violations from his tenure at the University of Tennessee as a head coach (2018-20) over his head, but he’s been fighting to get that off his name. 

Close sources have told Touchdown Alabama Magazine he could be either an analyst or defensive coordinator, but Pruitt does not want to be an analyst. Schumann, Leonhard, and Lake all have experience running defenses. Schumann has assisted Kirby Smart to back-to-back CFP National Championships at Georgia. Leonhard is a bright defensive mind for the Badgers, while Lake had Washington with one of the nation’s best defenses as a coordinator.

Marvin Constant, a former Alabama linebacker, discussed a name on The Bama Standard that Saban needs to consider.

He said Deshea Townsend is an incredible defensive mind and someone that relates to the players.

Townsend, a former Alabama defensive back, was a three-time All-SEC selection and two-time Super Bowl champion. He played all five positions in the secondary and is the defensive backs coach for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Townsend has the energy to motivate players, get individuals playing together to a standard, and have a defense excel. No one knows what Saban’s move will be, but he does have options on the table. Pruitt, Schumann, Leonhard, Lake, or Townsend would fit the Crimson Tide’s system.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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