Jimbo Fisher, Jim McElwain & Kirby Smart All Lined Up As Potential Successor
Alabama football is in good – no, make that great –hands right now, and things look pretty bright for the future because of Nick Saban’s coaching tree.
Like Paul “Bear” Bryant before him, Saban has developed a line of assistants who have gone on to become head coaches. Few of Bryant’s were overwhelmingly successful and the jury is still out with two of Saban’s most recent disciples, but it certainly appears that a successful successor is being well groomed away from The Capstone.
Jimbo Fisher has already proven himself at Florida State by winning a National Championship. Jim McElwain is shaking things up at Florida and doing things the “Saban way.” (One is to hire a fleet of off-field assistants who do everything from breaking down game film – sometimes months in advance of playing an opponent – to keeping track of recruits’ social media accounts.)
Kirby Smart – the most unproven of the bunch because this is his first year as a head coach – appears to be instilling long-needed mental discipline and determination at Georgia. He’s certainly succeeding on the recruiting trail, grabbing a few recruits that appeared to be headed to Bama.
Will Muschamp is another Saban assistant who is now a head coach, but it’s generally agreed that he’s much better as an assistant than as a head coach.
Alabama fans are keeping a close watch on these former Saban assistants because they know one may some day be leading the Crimson Tide. They were happy for McElwain’s 10-win season in his first year at Florida, tho they want proof that he can be successful in the long haul.
They love the fact that Smart is getting head coaching experience; all those “Saban is leaving” rumors the past few years had fans shaking that if Smart were named successor, would he prove to be a great coordinator who could not succeed as a head coach (see Muschamp and also the memories of Mike DuBose can still cause nightmares).
There’s also one more coach Alabama fans are watching, and are loving it that he’s having success. And he’s not a Saban guy. It’s Clemson’s Dabo Swinney. Perhaps even better than coming from Saban, he’s an Alabama guy.
All this has Alabama fans sitting back, relaxed about the long-term future of the program. The thought is that whenever Saban steps down, one of these will step in and keep the team humming without missing a beat.
Of course, Saban is a few years – four, maybe five, perhaps even six or more – from hanging up his non-houndstooth hat. This is evidenced by his continued tenacity on the recruiting trail and occasional blowups at the media.
The Tide is on a roll and it looks as if may be rolling for a while, too.