2. How will Nick Saban respond to losing so many assistants?
While it has become commonplace in the Saban era of Alabama football, the 69-year-old head coach has lost at least five assistants to other gigs in this offseason cycle. This includes three assistants becoming FBS head coaches in offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to Texas, running backs coach Charles Huff to Marshall and offensive analyst Butch Jones to Arkansas State.
Not only are Huff, Jones and Sarkisian skipping town to lead their own programs, but offensive line coach Kyle Flood will join Sarkisian in Austin, as well as defensive analyst Charlie Strong joining Urban Meyer’s Jacksonville Jaguars staff. And the Alabama coaching poaching may not even be done, as defensive coordinator Pete Golding may also join Flood and Sarkisian at Texas.
So what this really comes down to is Saban’s ability to replace and sustain. This is not the first time other programs have harvested all his top assistants and it will not be the last. While he should be in good shape offensively with former Houston Texans head coach Bill O’Brien taking over there, keep in mind what happened in 2019 regarding Golding’s underwhelming defense.
It is not going to be an inability to recruit players that will slow down Saban’s Alabama dynasty. Rather, it will be his inability to constantly replenish his coaching staff’s cupboard. While it has not been perfect, that is the standard Saban has set for his program the last several years. Though Alabama will respond well to its new coaching staff, it will be a downtick from a year ago.
1. Is Bryce Young ready to be the next Alabama star quarterback?
Bryce Young was chosen for this. He could have stayed over his native Southern California to be the reason the USC Trojans can back to prominence. However, he decided to venture to the SEC to prove to the world he is capable of being the best quarterback in the best Power 5 conference. Young is undeniably talented, but he has huge shoes to fill with Mac Jones entering the NFL Draft.
The three starting quarterbacks before him at Alabama are college football legends in Jones, Tua Tagovailoa and Jalen Hurts. Jones is projected to be a first-round pick like Tagovailoa was last spring by the Miami Dolphins. Hurts transferred to Oklahoma, becoming a Heisman runner-up and a second-round pick by the Philadelphia Eagles. Young will be the 2021 version of Spencer Rattler.
In his first year as the Oklahoma Sooners starter, Rattler had his ups and downs. He struggled initially in conference play but thrived down the stretch to lead Oklahoma to a sixth straight Big 12 championship and a Cotton Bowl Classic beatdown of uninterested Florida. If Young’s career trajectory follows that of Rattler, he will be the favorite to win the 2022 Heisman Trophy.
However, Alabama’s standard is much higher than Oklahoma’s. While both blue-bloods are expected to win their conference championship annually, Oklahoma has never won a College Football Playoff game in four chances. Alabama is not only expected to win a playoff game but is expected to win the title bout when they get there. Overall, Young faces so much pressure in 2021.
Overall, Alabama’s biggest offseason questions are all centered around one primary thing: Can the Crimson Tide sustain its dominance despite losing so much talent to the NFL and so many coaches to other jobs? If Alabama can avoid the slightest inklings of complacency and get back to work, the Crimson Tide will be ready for whoever wins in Jacksonville to meet them once again in Atlanta.
What other questions will the Crimson Tide have to answer this offseason?