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Can Alabama remain a DB factory without Nick Saban?

Alabama transfer DB Domani Jackson (#1) going through spring practice with Co-defensive coordinator/CB coach Maurice Linguist.
Gary Cosby Jr. - Tuscaloosa News / USA Today Sports

Nick Saban made the Alabama football program “Everything U” during his 17 seasons as head coach, but he specialized at one position in particular.

He was a defensive back in college at Kent State University (1970-72) and that spot was his baby at Alabama.

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Saban had defensive back coaches on staff, yet he was the de facto coach at the spot.

He mentored so many cornerbacks and safeties that would become All-Americans and first-round NFL Draft picks.

Players such as Kareem Jackson, Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, DeMarcus “Dee” Milliner, Ha’Sean “Ha Ha” Clinton-Dix, Marlon Humphrey, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Patrick Surtain II, and Terrion Arnold were first-rounders. Saban put several defensive backs into the NFL, and his techniques helped Alabama’s defensive secondary assist the team to national championships.

Alabama was the place for NFL teams to get a quality defensive back under Saban, but will that position remain a factory for the Crimson Tide with Kalen DeBoer at the helm? DeBoer, 49, is known as an offensive mind. The former Washington head coach took the Huskies to a Pac-12 Championship and nearly won the College Football Playoff National Championship in 2023. 

DeBoer got to Washington from Fresno State in 2022. He put only two defensive backs for the Huskies in the NFL Draft, but one (Trent McDuffie) was a first-rounder in 2022.

DeBoer brought two defensive back coaches — Maurice Linguist and Colin Hitschler — but will they continue the Tide’s success with defensive backs?

Both helped DeBoer maintain the 2024 class Saban brought in.

Malachi Moore projects as a first round talent for 2025.

He could be the first one of the DeBoer era to go early in the draft to represent Alabama. Keon Sabb, Domani Jackson, DeVonta Smith, and DaShawn Jones are other names that could go first round next year for the Tide with a marquee season.

Alabama can hold on to its DB factory title without Saban, but it comes down to how well the coaching staff develops the players and which individuals rise to the challenge? 

It will be interesting to see what happens.

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Stephen M. Smith is the 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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