Early Predictions for the CFB Coaching Carousel When Nick Saban Leaves Alabama
The CFP National Championship is over, and national signing day has passed. Spring practice is coming up, but it's the offseason, people. Let's jump aboard the hypothetical train.
Today, we're stepping into the time machine and exploring the moment when Nick Saban decides to leave Alabama.
Now, before the lovely Crimson Tide fans get upset, Saban is only 67 years old. There's a strong chance the six-time national champion has another decade left in that coaching body, all right?
But how will college football change when Saban has coached his final game? The possibilities range from "Alabama hires from within" to "Dabo Swinney bolts for Bama and Clemson promotes a coordinator" to a convoluted series of hirings.
We're exploring all three options. Take a seat and enjoy the one-way ride to Imagination Station.
Dabo Swinney Goes Home
Dabo Swinney needs to be the first call. The current Clemson coach played receiver for the Crimson Tide and began his coaching career at Alabama.
As the Clemson dynasty grows, the chances Swinney leaves for Tuscaloosa could be shrinking. But, as my esteemed colleague Adam Kramer said, Alabama absolutely must give Swinney an opportunity to become mayor of the state first.
If he leaves, the initial shock will be dramatic. Yet it's entirely reasonable that the aftermath would be quite mild.
Clemson has relied on co-offensive coordinators Jeff Scott and Tony Elliott since 2015. Brent Venables became the defensive coordinator in 2012 and has annually turned down interested schools while becoming the nation's highest-paid assistant coach.
They won't be assistants forever, right?
Elliott and Scott are Clemson grads, but Venables' experience makes him our choice. The coaching carousel wouldn't spin for long if he finally decides to become a head coach.
Kirby Smart Pulls a Stunner
Kirby Smart is building something special at the University of Georgia, his alma mater, so it's entirely possible he won't be interested in returning to Tuscaloosa.
In 2004, did anyone think Saban would coach at both LSU and Alabama?
One key difference is the current Crimson Tide boss had no previous connection to Alabama. Smart, on the other hand, spent nine seasons with the Tide, including the final eight as defensive coordinator under Saban.
Smart's departure would create a fascinating vacancy. Surely Georgia wouldn't return to Mike Bobo, who served as offensive coordinator during the Mark Richt era? If former defensive coordinator Mel Tucker has succeeded as Colorado's head coach by this hypothetical time, he'd be a terrific option.
Tucker, now 47, has a decade of NFL experience, coached under Saban three times at Michigan State, LSU and Alabama and spent three seasons under Smart. He'd be an ideal match for the culture Smart has created.
In his absence, Texas State head coach Jake Spavital may offer Colorado strong Big 12 ties, Pac-12 experience and a solid reputation in recruiting-rich Texas.
There's a definite chance Spavital wouldn't be with the Bobcats by this point; he could thrive and take over an AAC or Big 12 program. But if he leaves Texas State, the school should repeat how it landed Spavital and hire a rising coordinator eager to become a head coach. Whoever that is, well, it's anyone's guess right now.
Alabama Hires Jeremy Pruitt
Jeremy Pruitt's home is Alabama.
He was born in Rainsville, played for the Tide, was a grad assistant for Alabama in 1997 and coached at powerhouse Hoover High School before landing on Saban's staff. After that, Pruitt made stops at Florida State, Georgia and back to Alabama prior to becoming the head coach at Tennessee.
Pruitt has plenty to prove in Knoxville, and a couple of subpar campaigns may dull the shine on his coaching resume.
But few choices are more sensible than Pruitt.
So, if his performance at Tennessee merited this opportunity, it means the Vols thrived under his defensive mind and turned around a struggling offense.
Geoff Collins is eyeing a similar description as his Georgia Tech tenure begins in 2019. The "Minister of Mayhem" will attempt to modernize a triple-option offense into a spread attack. Achieve that, and he can handle UT should Pruitt leave.
At that point, Georgia Tech should be looking to sustain improvement on that side of the ball. Eliah Drinkwitz, the new Appalachian State head coach, has a chance to back up his rising reputation and solidify App State as a dominant Sun Belt squad.
If that happens, Drinkwitz's background as a coordinator at Boise State and North Carolina State will reinforce his appeal.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Frank Ponce, who followed former App State coach Scott Satterfield to Louisville, is our replacement for Drinkwitz.
Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.