Kalen DeBoer to Become Next Head Coach at Alabama, Replace Nick Saban

Kalen DeBoer to Become Next Head Coach at Alabama, Replace Nick Saban article feature image

Getty Images. Design by Matt Roembke/Action Network. Pictured: Former Washington head coach and new Alabama head coach Kalen DeBoer.

  • Former Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer has struck a deal to become the next head coach at Alabama.
  • DeBoer will replace Nick Saban, who is widely regarded as the greatest college football coach of all time.
  • Check out Brett McMurphy's article on what DeBoer brings to the Crimson Tide.

No one ever wants to be “the guy who follows the guy,” but Washington’s Kalen DeBoer will attempt to be “the guy who follows the GOAT.”

DeBoer has officially been announced as Alabama's next head coach, less than 48 hours after Nick Saban announced his retirement.

Alabama initially targeted Oregon’s Dan Lanning, Texas’ Steve Sarkisian and Florida State’s Mike Norvell, sources told Action Network. However, all three coaches indicated they were remaining at their respective jobs.

Norvell received a new eight-year deal worth more than $10 million annually at Florida State.

Despite DeBoer not being the first choice — and yes, no coach is officially “offered" the job unless he accepts — in his two years at Washington, DeBoer went 5-0 against Lanning and Oregon and Sarkisian and Texas.

DeBoer finished 25-3 in two seasons at Washington, losing to Michigan in Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship.

Before he started at Washington, DeBoer was 14-6 at Fresno State (2020-21). He also was a head coach at Sioux Falls, going 67-3 in five seasons (2005-09) and winning three NAIA national titles. His overall head coaching record: 104-12.

DeBoer also was offensive coordinator at Southern Illinois (2010-13), Eastern Michigan (2014-16), Fresno State (2017-18) and Indiana (2019).

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“As far as the dreams and things like that,” DeBoer said last week in Houston, “the dreams of being at the top of your level and winning the championships, whether that's a MAC Championship or Pac-12 Championship, a Big Ten Championship, a National Championship now, you're aspiring to try to be at the highest level you can possibly get to against the most competitive people out there. That's what makes this fun. So, embracing something like that right now is something I'm certainly enjoying.”

Early Friday morning, a Seattle radio station announced it had to “reschedule” an interview with DeBoer, an early indication DeBoer could be on the move.

Besides having the unenvious task of replacing Saban, who won six national titles at Alabama, DeBoer will face a schedule in 2004 featuring five games against teams in Action Network’s Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings: home vs. Georgia (Sept. 28) and Missouri (Oct. 26) and road games at Tennessee (Oct. 19), LSU (Nov. 9) and Oklahoma (Nov. 23).

Alabama also plays at Wisconsin and has home games vs. South Carolina and Auburn.

DeBoer Bringing Offensive Expertise to Alabama

What kind of coach can Alabama expect? While Saban’s expertise was on defense, DeBoer is one of the game’s top offensive minds.

“There’s a lot of people that are much more aggressive than I am,” DeBoer said. “But I think it's just picking and choosing the right times. A lot of it, you understand the percentages and the chances, and of course, there's a million different ways to look at the analytics of everything and what you should do. For me, there's a piece of that, but it's also where we are at in the game and your gut instinct.

“Obviously, you're trusting in the game plan and you're trusting in the calls that your coaches are going to make. And, of course, most importantly, you're trusting the execution of your guys.

“We talk about it all offseason, even in spring ball, just being ready to play four downs on defense, being ready to make an opportunity happen on fourth down offensively. So, we practice it a lot in every scrimmage we have — spring, fall camp. And obviously, the game situations, we're working on that a lot of the time, to be confident in those moments.”

How is DeBoer Similar to Saban?

Like Saban, DeBoer demands perfection.

“I would hang our hat on what we consider our non-negotiables — family, accountable, tough,” DeBoer said in Houston. “You’ve got to be tough to play the game, mentally, physically.

“There's got to be accountability in all ways — player to player, player to coach, coach to coach, coach to player. And I think it always comes down to love. You've got to have a family environment. And just those types of things are what really draw you together.

“And when it comes down to those big impact moments, that trust that you've had because of the communication, because you do care, because you have a family-type environment that hopefully everyone's been a part of facilitating, I think those are some of the keys. I know there's a lot more. But the trust and communication leading to that environment, the accountability and toughness that it takes to win on the football field.”

Speaking of family, DeBoer’s daughter, Alexis, is a top high school senior softball prospect. She has signed to play at Washington next season, but there's no word on if she’ll follow Dad to Tuscaloosa.

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