Alabama Football: Power Ranking the Best Coaches in Nick Saban's Coaching Tree
As the legend of Alabama football coach Nick Saban continues to be written, he is beginning to create a pretty impressive list of former assistants who are hitting the big time.
Saban himself comes from the Bill Belichick coaching tree.
As he continues to win year after year and add more and more national titles to his trophy case, Saban's assistant coaches are often the ones reaping the rewards.
The drawback of continued success is that most of the football world naturally assumes that the assistants are going to follow in the footsteps of their mentor's success. Often, they're right.
Alabama has lost many coaches to other positions and faster career paths during Saban's tenure, and as hot of a commodity as current defensive coordinator Kirby Smart is, he may very well be the next to go.
Here is a list of the top five coaches who grown into head-coaching positions after learning from the master.
5. Derek Dooley
The son of legendary Georgia Bulldog coach Vince Dooley, Derek Dooley was an assistant under Saban with both LSU and the Miami Dolphins.
When Saban left for Alabama in 2007, Dooley landed the head job at Louisiana Tech where he went 17-20 over three seasons, including one bowl appearance.
From there, Dooley may have bit off a little more than he could chew by taking on the mess at Tennessee that was left for him by previous head coach Lane Kiffin. Dooley struggled to a 15-21 record in three seasons with the Vols before being fired near the end of last season.
Truth be told, not too many coaches would have come out of that situation with much more than a pink slip.
Now a wide receivers coach for the Dallas Cowboys, Dooley is looking to work his way back up the ladder.
4. Mike Mularkey
After finding little success in two years as head coach of the Buffalo Bills, Mike Mularkey became the offensive coordinator for Saban at Miami in 2006.
From there, Mularkey took the same job with the Atlanta Falcons and led them to three playoff appearances in four years.
In 2012, Mularkey took the head job in Jacksonville, suffering through a franchise-worst 2-14 season before being shown the door.
Just 52 years of age, Mularkey now faces the challenge of being a two-time NFL reject trying to find his way back in the good graces of the league.
3. Jim McElwain
In four years as Saban's offensive coordinator at Alabama, Jim McElwain improved the Tide's offensive output each and every year.
He left Alabama after the 2011 season to become the head coach at Colorado State.
McElwain won his first game before running into a six-game losing streak. By the end of the season, the Rams had recovered to win three of their last five and finished with a 4-8 record.
Now, looking to improve upon a slow start, McElwain must go through his former boss when Colorado State travels to Tuscaloosa next fall.
If McElwain can right the ship, he may be onto something really positive out west, as winning the in-state recruiting battle is a real possibility due to the lack of success that rival school Colorado has seen as of late.
2. Jimbo Fisher
Current Florida State head man Jimbo Fisher worked his way into the head-coaching realm by way of LSU. He was Saban's quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator in Baton Rouge.
Challenged with the daunting task of replacing the great Bobby Bowden in Tallahassee, Fisher took the helm for the Seminoles in 2010.
Just three seasons in, Fisher has compiled a 31-10 overall record, has won at least nine games per year, and will enter next fall coming off of a 12-2 season with hopes for even more.
While replacing a legend is rarely a successful venture, Fisher seems to have worked his way through the fog left at the end of the Bowden era and has also managed to win the approval of FSU fans.
Headed into his fourth season with the 'Noles, Fisher could be competing for a national title of his own very, very soon.
1. Will Muschamp
As Saban's defensive coordinator at LSU, Will Muschamp's rise to the top didn't take very long.
He was hired by the Florida Gators to replace departing head coach Urban Meyer in 2011. After working through a tough 7-6 campaign in his first year, Muschamp appears to have turned the Gator program around.
With a stable of young new talent, Muschamp led his Gators to an impressive 11-2 mark a season ago, and were it not for a turnover-filled loss to Georgia in October, he would have found his team facing Saban for the SEC championship in December.
Now, with a Top 10 finish under his belt, Muschamp looks to find continued success in Gainesville. With his high level of intensity and fierce competitiveness, he is sure to get there.
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