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Kalen DeBoer Leaves Washington for Alabama

DeBoer Alabama

Former Washington head coach Kalen DeBoer has been named Nick Saban’s successor at Alabama. In news that shocked the sports world, Saban announced his retirement from Alabama on Wednesday. Speculation began swirling as to who would succeed the legendary head coach. Names included Oregon’s Dan Lanning, Florida State’s Mike Norvell, and DeBoer of Washington. Both Lanning and Norvell took to social media to put the Crimson Tide rumors to bed. DeBoer, however, remained quiet on Wednesday and Thursday. On Friday morning, DeBoer canceled a local radio interview that had been originally scheduled. DeBoer reportedly attended an in-person meeting with Washington Athletic Director Troy Dannen during that time. Contract negotiations with Alabama loomed on Friday afternoon, and reports surfaced. Kalen DeBoer will be the next head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, and a Washington team meeting has called for 1:30pm PT on Friday.

DeBoer’s Tenure at Washington

The former Washington head coach had a short, but significant stint in Seattle. He took over a 4-8 program in 2021 that had just fired its head coach Jimmy Lake for cause. DeBoer re-staffed the 2022 Washington football program, bringing his offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb with him from Fresno State. He also landed Michael Penix Jr. from the transfer portal. DeBoer’s first season at Washington was an 11-2 campaign that included wins at Oregon, against Michigan State, and an Alamo Bowl victory over Texas. 

In 2023, DeBoer led Washington to its most successful season in program history. The Huskies made it through the Pac-12 as 13-0, undefeated conference champions. The season culminated with a number two seed in the College Football Playoff and a rematch against Texas in the Sugar Bowl. The win in New Orleans gave DeBoer and the Huskies 14 wins, and a National Championship Game appearance against Michigan. A rematch of the 1991 National Title against the Wolverines. The 14-win season included two wins over a top-10 Oregon team and five wins over teams ranked in the final CFP Rankings. Washington fell short in the title game. But DeBoer’s 25-3 record in two seasons was not only historic, but it caught the eyes of teams with coaching vacancies. None greater than the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Kalen DeBoer’s Fit at Alabama

It’s impossible to be the guy to replace the guy. And Saban was the greatest college football head coach to ever walk the sidelines. Seven national titles and 11 SEC titles are near-impossible to match. Saban changed the way college football programs staff, recruit, and build rosters, he revolutionized defensive schemes, changed with the times of the sport, and continued to win. Saban had the nation chasing Alabama for nearly two decades. His successor has legendary shoes to fill, and those might never be filled by anyone.

DeBoer has the first shot at doing so at Alabama. He takes over a Crimson Tide program that currently has the number two recruiting class according to 247Sports. It’s a program that has all the resources in the world from boosters to facilities, to access, and is one of the best fan bases in the nation. Not only that, but DeBoer will now have premier access to the hotbed of recruiting that the southeast provides. The offense that he runs combined with the talent he’ll be able to recruit is a perfect recipe for Alabama to continue its success on the field. 

Most importantly, Alabama is getting a winner. In his career as a head coach, DeBoer is 104-12 as a head coach. He won three NAIA championships, and a Pac-12 Championship, and played in the FBS National Championship. For a program used to winning, they are getting a head coach who does just that. DeBoer is not Saban, but he brings a winning culture to Tuscaloosa that the Crimson Tide are not only used to, but they expect.

What’s Next at Washington?

For starters, all players on this current Washington roster now have 30 days to enter the transfer portal if they’d like to explore their options. The domino effect of Saban’s retirement and DeBoer at Alabama will ripple through college football. As head coaching jobs fill with head coaches who leave their current program, the transfer portal will remain active with 30-day windows for each team that loses their head coach in this process. That process has begun in Seattle.

As far as candidates, an internal hire is not likely. DeBoer will probably take Grubb and much of his former Washington staff with him to Tuscaloosa. Washington is a Big Ten job with Big Ten money. Seattle is an attractive destination, and it’s likely to draw interest from several candidates. Here are some early, outside-hire, names that immediately come to mind:

Kellen Moore

The former Boise State quarterback played under Chris Petersen between 2007 and 2011. Kellen Moore is a Washington native and has spent six years coaching offense in the NFL. Moore does not have college football coaching experience, but he could bring innovative offense to Montlake. He interviewed with the Los Angeles Chargers for its head coaching vacancy, but depending on how the Jim Harbaugh dominos fall, Moore may be considering his options everywhere. His lack of collegiate experience makes him a potential high-risk high-reward option.

Bush Hamdan

The current Boise State offensive coordinator spent the 2015 through 2016, and 2018 through 2019 seasons in Seattle coaching offense under Petersen. Bush Hamdan was the passing game coordinator for the Huskies 2016 Playoff team and the offensive coordinator for the 10-4 2018 season. Boise State went 8-6 last season with Hamdan as the playcaller, winning the Mountain West Conference.

Jedd Fisch

A move from Arizona to Washington would no longer be a lateral move. The jump from the Big 12 to the Big Ten for Jedd Fisch would mean a salary increase, and competition in the Big Ten Conference. Fisch has bounced all over college football and the NFL. He’s currently at Arizona and just turned that program a full 180 degrees. He went 1-11 in his first year in 2021, and just finished 10-3 in his third season in Tucson, coming in as the 11th ranked team in the AP Poll. Fisch is another offensive-minded coach that would be a good fit in Seattle.

Paul Chryst

The longtime Wisconsin head coach was fired mid-2022 and is currently an offensive analyst at Texas. Paul Chryst went 67-26 as the head coach in Madison, and his offense averaged 415 yards per game under his direction. He spent time on the west coast with Oregon State in the late 90’s and again early 2000’s as the offensive coordinator.  He won two bowl games and averaged 422 yards per game scoring 30 points per game as the offensive coordinator in Corvallis. Chryst’s name has been heavily involved in the offensive coordinator search at Iowa. However, with that job still remaining open, Chryst might have been holding out to see how the dominos fell with the Alabama hire. With DeBoer to Tuscaloosa, Chryst to Seattle might be a solid option for the offensive-minded head coach.

Justin Wilcox

The current head coach at California is a member of the Petersen coaching tree, serving as his defensive coordinator at Boise State from 2006 through 2009, and at Washington from 2012 to 2013. He then became Steve Sarkisian’s defensive coordinator at USC for a few seasons after Sarkisian left Washington. A defensive-minded head coach didn’t work out the last time on Montlake, but Wilcox has built a solid program at Cal. He took the Golden Bears to three bowl games in seven years at a place where it’s very difficult to win. 

Bryan Harsin

Yet another member of the Petersen coaching tree, Bryan Harsin. He’s currently unemployed after being fired by Auburn back in 2022. His short stint in the SEC did not go well, and Harsin seems to be a better fit on the West Coast. Harsin spent 16 years of his coaching career at Boise State. Both under Petersen coaching offense and as the head coach from 2014 to 2020. His offense-minded coaching nature would be a solid fit with the pieces in place currently on this Washington roster.

Chris Petersen

It might be a long shot, but a reunion with Petersen can’t be wiped off the table. Petersen is enjoying his spot on the Fox College Football panel. But his recent tenure at Washington and relationship with the program at least make it worth a phone call. He is 147-38 as a head coach at Boise State and Washington. Petersen led the Huskies to the College Football Playoff in 2016.

DeBoer Alabama
Photo courtesy: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports



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