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Early And Honest Thoughts On Alabama’s Hiring Of Kalen DeBoer

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship Head Coaches News Conference Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It appears that the Crimson Tide have their man.

Kalen DeBoer just led Washington to a national title game appearance in only his second season in Seattle. He has posted an impressive 104-12 record as a head coach at Sioux Falls State, Fresno State and Washington. He’s put up a very impressive 12-2 record against teams ranked in the AP top 25. The rep on DeBoer is that “he’s been a winner everywhere he’s coached.” That seems like an accurate assessment. DeBoer has been a guy who has turned around football teams, and done so in a hurry. He’s won the games he is supposed to and more than his share of the ones he isn’t supposed to.

It is also worth noting that 6 of DeBoer’s 12 career losses came during his brief stint as the head man at Fresno State in 2020 and 2021. But 67 of the wins came at NAIA Sioux Falls State. Not to be too regionally chauvinist, but that ain’t the SEC. Jim Donnan was 47-12 in his final four seasons at Marshall before taking the UGA job. Being a winner in one place and at one level doesn’t always translate to other locales.

If there’s a red flag on DeBoer it’s recruiting. It’s common to hear that a new SEC coach coming from outside the conference’s geographic footprint needs some assistants who can make up for that. Recruiting is more digital and national than it was even 10 years ago. So I think that truism is a bit outdated.

But it’s not totally irrelevant. And the new guy is going to have a hard time living up to what Saban did, essentially revolutionizing the recruiting game. He’ll at least need to up his personal game. DeBoer’s 2024 recruiting class was ranked 29th nationally and 4th in the PAC-12 by 247Sports. 2023’s group was 29th nationally and 6th in the PAC-12. If DeBoer habitually recruits the 4th best class in the SEC his first recruiting class won’t have graduated before we see his last. DeBoer’s going to be tempted to stick with the assistants who have in some cases been with him since his days coaching NAIA ball in South Dakota. I think that would be a major error unless he also finds some solid SEC recruiters.

DeBoer did well at finding impact transfer players at Washington, and that will probably serve him well in Tuscaloosa. But it’s worth noting that some players took less NIL money over the past couple of seasons to play for the legendary Nick Saban. Alabama boosters may not be able to count on that kind of discount moving forward.

To be clear, Kalen DeBoer is a demonstrably fantastic football coach. But he’s replacing the best to ever do the job, and that’s an impossible act to follow. Two things can be true at the same time. Kalen DeBoer can be both the best realistic option Alabama had and also unlikely to live up to the expectations that will be thrust upon him. My official forecast is that he will win a lot of football games, but not as many as Nick Saban. We’ll see if he wins enough to placate the always understanding and patient Alabama fanbase. Until later….

Go ‘Dawgs!!!