For the fourth year in a row, the Alabama Crimson Tide will start the 2019 football season with yet another offensive coordinator. In what’s becoming an all-too-familiar trend, current offensive coordinator Mike Locksley has agreed to become the next head coach of the Maryland Terrapins. Locksley joins Brian Daboll, Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian, all of whom left Alabama for new jobs without reaching a second season in Tuscaloosa.
Locksley will remain with the Crimson Tide as they pursue another College Football Playoff national championship this year, but who will be next in line to step in and take over Alabama’s dynamic offense in 2019?
Locksley agreed to a five-year deal worth $2.5 million per year to become the next head coach at Maryland, where he’d previously coached two stints over a 10-year span. The 48-year-old coach accepted the position on the same day he was awarded the Broyles Award as the top assistant coach in college football.
With an offense that scored 47.9 points per game and racked up 527.6 yards per game heading into the postseason, there are some major pieces in Tuscaloosa ready for the next OC to fill Locksley’s shoes. With quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, running back Najee Harris and wide receivers Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, Henry Ruggs and Jaylen Waddle all returning next season, things could get even better next year with the right hire.
Here are four candidates who could be leading the Crimson Tide offense in 2019:
4. Hugh Freeze, Former Ole Miss Head Coach
The biggest reach outside of an internal promotion would be bringing in Hugh Freeze, who’s currently serving as offensive coordinator of the Arizona Hotshots in the startup Alliance of American Football league.
Freeze’s time at Ole Miss brought four winning seasons in five years, which included a 10-3 record and Sugar Bowl victory during the 2015 season. A bitter separation involving a personal and NCAA scandal forced Freeze to resign from the Rebels program, but this guy knows offensive football and has to be itching for a second chance.
During that 2015 season, Ole Miss led the SEC in total offense (517.8 YPG) and scoring offense (40.8 PPG). Freeze has the credentials to return to college football, but he’d be the flashiest hire for head coach Nick Saban.
UPDATE: Hugh Freeze was hired as the next head coach of the Liberty Flames after Turner Gill resigned following a seven-year run with a 47-35 record. Liberty will have full FBS bowl eligibility in 2019 after transitioning from the FCS level.
3. Chip Long, Notre Dame Offensive Coordinator
Poaching coaches from other schools isn’t necessarily fair play, but Chip Long might be looking for a change of scenery out in South Bend.
For the past two seasons, Long has been the OC of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish under coach Brian Kelly. While defense is the name of the game for Notre Dame, the Irish have scored at least 33 points per game and nearly 450 yards of total offense during Long’s two seasons.
The 35-year-old might have reached his ceiling with the Irish, and a return to Alabama makes a lot of sense. He was born in Birmingham and played his college football for the North Alabama Lions, so why not go ahead and learn from Nick Saban in 2019?
2. Josh Gattis, Alabama Wide Receivers Coach
Described as “a rising star in this profession” by Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead, who worked alongside him at Penn State, Josh Gattis has the technical, offensive mind that could help this passing offense for the Tide thrive even more.
Having shaped this Alabama receiving corps into one of the most explosive we’ve ever seen in just one season, Gattis held the title of co-offensive coordinator during the 2018 campaign. Here are a list of some of the top wide receivers Gattis has coached:
— 2011, Western Michigan’s Jordan White: 140 catches, 1,911 yards, 17 TDs
— 2013, Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews: 112 catches, 1,477 yards, 7 TDs
— 2014, Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton: 82 catches, 899 yards, 2 TDs
— 2016, Penn State’s Chris Godwin: 59 catches, 982 yars, 11 TDs
— 2018, Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy: 59 catches, 1,101 yards, 12 TDs (as of 12/1)
Josh Gattis knows offense, and if you thought Alabama was dangerous in 2018, imagine what they’d do next year with Gattis at the helm.
1. Dan Enos, Alabama Quarterbacks Coach
The likely choice to succeed Locksley would be 50-year-old Dan Enos, who joined Saban’s staff as quarterbacks coach at the start of the 2018 season.
Prior to his time at Alabama, the former quarterback himself at Michigan State spent five seasons at the head coach of the Western Michigan Broncos and posted a 26-36 record before resigning to join the Crimson Tide. Enos has coached quarterbacks and offenses at Arkansas, Michigan State, Cincinnati, North Dakota State, Western Michigan, and Missouri State among a few others.
He might be looking for a head coaching job soon, and if history is any indication, Dan Enos, or any candidate to take over for Mike Locksley, would need only one season coaching the Alabama Crimson Tide offense before he gets a slew of offers coming his way.