Every former Nick Saban assistant that is a currently CFB head coach

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Nick Saban has been able to generate buzz on the field and off the field since joining the Crimson Tide program as head coach in 2007. Both coaches and recruits alike come to Alabama with similar goals: to win and boost their respective careers.

Over the years, I think it is safe to say that Saban has fulfilled those wishes and more. Several of Coach Saban’s assistants have moved elsewhere to take on different roles as coaches. The Alabama football program has become accustomed to rebuilding its staff occasionally because of assistants being hired to larger roles for different collegiate programs across the country.

Today, Roll Tide Wire will look at some of Saban’s former assistant coaches that were on staff at Alabama and are currently head coaches for different collegiate programs across the country. Read along to find out how much success Saban has truly had developing his coaches from coordinators to head coaches of prestigious programs across the college football landscape.

Kirby Smart - Georgia

Kirby Smart, Nick Saban
Kirby Smart, Nick Saban

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Kirby Smart has always had ties to the University of Georgia. He played for the Bulldogs from 1995 to 1998 as a defensive back. However, his coaching success and recruiting prowess truly evolved in his assistant role under Coach Saban. Smart served as Alabama’s defensive coordinator from 2008 to 2015 and had plenty of success. He was then able to receive an offer to become the head football coach at Georgia, which he accepted. Since then, Smart holds a 66-15 record with one national championship from this past season.

Charles Huff - Marshall

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It took Huff fifteen years in total to become a head coach, but it finally happened. After serving in a variety of different roles at several different programs, Huff was added to the Tide’s coaching staff in 2019 as the team’s running backs coach. In one season, he was able to garner enough attention to become a head coach. Marshall signed Huff to a four-year contract to be the program’s next head coach. Since becoming the head coach for the Thundering Herd this past season, he has attained a 7-6 record.

Mario Cristobal - Miami

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Alabama fans remember Cristobal for his high level of recruiting and his ability to get the best out of his offensive line group. The Miami alumnus coached with the Tide from 2013 to 2016 as the team’s offensive line coach. Moreover, he served as Alabama’s recruiting coordinator. With his success came an opportunity to be the co-offensive coordinator at Oregon, and would soon become the Ducks’ head coach in 2018. In five seasons, he maintained a 55-13 record. With his abundant success in the PAC-12 came another opportunity and it was one that he couldn’t pass up. In December of 2021, Cristobal signed a 10-year deal to become the Hurricanes’ next head coach.

Billy Napier - Florida

[Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner]

Out of all of the Saban assistants that have taken head coaching opportunities, Napier could be considered one of the best recruiters. The Tennessee native spent four seasons in Tuscaloosa as the team’s wide receiver coach. In that time, he was able to land players like Calvin Ridley, Trevon Diggs and Daylon Charlot. After his time at Alabama, he was hired to be the offensive coordinator at Arizona State. Shortly after, Louisiana-Lafayette hired Napier as their head coach. After serving four years as the Cajuns’ head coach, the Gators signed Napier to a seven-year deal to become the program’s next head coach.

Mel Tucker - Michigan State

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Tucker has been around the game of football for quite some time now. Since 1997, Tucker has coached in some capacity at the college or professional level. In 2015, he was hired as Alabama’s defensive back(s) coach. After one season in Tuscaloosa, he accepted the defensive coordinator position at Georgia serving under Kirby Smart. Soon after, he was hired to be the head football coach at Colorado. He was quickly targeted to be the head coach at Michigan State after head coach Mark Dantonio decided to retire. Tucker would eventually sign a 10-year deal to become the Spartans’ next head coach. In his time in East Lansing, he has a 13-7 record.

Steve Sarkisian - Texas

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Many of the Alabama faithful have their own opinions as to who was the best offensive coordinator between Steve Sarkisian and Lane Kiffin. Either way, you can’t lose. The two of them were excellent coaches as well as recruiters in their time at Alabama. Sarkisian served two different stints with the Crimson Tide. In 2016, Alabama hired Sarkisian as an analyst. He would serve one season in that role, as well as serving one game as the team’s interim offensive coordinator. After being the offensive coordinator for the Falcons, he returned to Tuscaloosa to be the team’s offensive coordinator for the next two years. His hard work and improvements as a coach landed him a head coaching opportunity at Texas. Since joining the program, Sarkisian has a 5-7 record.

Mike Locksley - Maryland

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Many remember Mike Locksley for his ability to recruit and land wide receivers like Jaylen Waddle and Slade Bolden. At Alabama, Locksley served in several different capacities. In 2016, he was hired as an offensive analyst. The preceding year he would serve as the co-offensive coordinator as well as becoming the team’s wide receiver(s) coach. Then, in 2018, Locksley became the team’s lone offensive coordinator. He helped evolve the offense with Tua Tagovailoa as the starting quarterback. Soon after helping the Tide reach the College Football Playoff, he accepted the head coaching position at Maryland. In three years with the Terrapins, he holds a 13-23 record.

Lane Kiffin - Ole Miss

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Alabama fans have some pretty memorable moments of Lane Kiffin’s tenure in Tuscaloosa. Amari Cooper reeled in an 80-yard touchdown pass and before the ball was even thrown, Kiffin was signaling touchdown. On the other hand, many will remember when Kiffin departed for Florida Atlantic just a week before the Tide collided with Clemson in the National Championship game. Regardless of what many think about Kiffin, he was an excellent recruiter and coordinator in his time at Alabama. Since leaving Alabama in 2016, Kiffin spent four seasons at Florida Atlantic before heading to Ole Miss to be the Rebels’ head coach. In two seasons in Oxford, he has a 15-8 record.

Butch Jones - Arkansas State

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Many remember Butch Jones for his short tenure at Tennessee, but he did revitalize his coaching career with a pit stop in Tuscaloosa. In 2018, Jones was hired to be an offensive analyst at Alabama. After serving as an analyst, he transitioned to being the assistant to the head coach in 2020. After just three years in Tuscaloosa, he was hired as the next head coach at Arkansas State. Last season in Jonesboro, he had a 2-10 record.

Dan Lanning - Oregon

Ben Lonergan/The Register-Guard-USA TODAY NETWORK

Lanning didn’t stay very long at Alabama, but he is still a product of the system. The Missouri native served as a graduate assistant at Alabama in 2015. Then, he went on to coach at both Memphis and Georgia in several different roles. After being a part of a national championship at Georgia this past season, Lanning accepted the head coaching position at Oregon. He will open up the 2022 season against Georgia in the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jim McElwain - Central Michigan

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Alabama fans will remember Jim McElwain for his four-year run as offensive coordinator in Tuscaloosa from 2008 to 2011. Since coaching under Saban, McElwain has coached at several different places. He served as the head coach at Colorado State from 2012 to 2014. Then, he became the head coach at Florida from 2015 to 2017. After being fired from Florida, he would spend one season at Michigan as the wide receiver(s) coach. Central Michigan hired McElwain to be the team’s new head coach in 2019. In his time in Mount Pleasant, he holds a 20-13 record.

Curt Cignetti - James Madison

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Many Alabama fans may not remember Cignetti, but he did serve as Alabama’s wide receiver(s) coach from 2007 to 2010. Since then, he has been a head coach at three different programs. From 2011 to 2016, he was the head coach at IUP. Then, he agreed to become the head coach at Elon where he spent two years. Cignetti left the Elon program to join the two-time FCS National Champions — James Madison. Since becoming the head coach for the Dukes, he has a 33-5 record. As a head coach, Cignetti has yet to have a losing record.

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