Alabama coach Nick Saban playing it safe, smart with new OC Mike Locksley

Alabama coach Nick Saban has reportedly settled on the replacement for former offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, and all he had to do was walk down the hall.

Chris Low of ESPN reported Friday morning what had been speculated for the better part of a week, co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach Mike Locksley will take over play-calling duties for the Crimson Tide. 

Locksley spent last season on the field as a coach with the Tide and the 2016 season as an offensive analyst on Saban's staff. He previously served as the offensive coordinator at Maryland from 2012-2015, the coach of New Mexico from 2009-11 and the offensive coordinator at Illinois from 2005-08, and helped lead the Illini to the Rose Bowl following the 2007 season.

Promoting from within is the safe and smart pick for Saban, considering the landscape of the roster heading into the 2018 season.

Sure, he could have brought back former coordinator and Florida coach Jim McElwain, or hired former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze -- who was in town Monday talking to the Crimson Tide about multiple opportunities on the staff. But Locksley knows the personnel on the offensive side of the ball well, and can help build off what was a tremendous foundation that the youngsters laid during Alabama's 26-23 win over Georgia in the College Football Playoff National Championship.

Rising junior Jalen Hurts led the Crimson Tide to consecutive national title games over the last two seasons, and rising sophomore Tua Tagovailoa finished off the national title win over Georgia earlier this month with three second half/overtime touchdown passes, including the game-winner to fellow rising sophomore DeVonta Smith. Alex Leatherwood stepped in at left tackle for an injured Jonah Williams against the Bulldogs, Henry Ruggs caught a touchdown pass from Tagovailoa and Najee Harris led the Tide with 64 rushing yards

All of them are rising sophomores. 

Locksley saw them develop, was part of the staff who trusted them on the biggest stage and deserves the chance to continue to build off that foundation. 

Nothing needs to change with Alabama's offense. It just needs to grow.

What Lane Kiffin did from 2014-16 and Daboll continued last season was blend a new-look Crimson Tide offense that maintains the pro-style principles and power running style that Saban likes with the flexibility to adapt to the strengths of any style of quarterback. Sometimes that quarterback is more of a runner, like Blake Sims was in 2014 and Hurts is. Jake Coker was the polar opposite in 2015 when the Tide won the national title, and Tagovailoa is the happy medium.

Locksley can make everybody happy because of his familiarity of what Alabama's offense and needs to be.

Plus, as CBS Sports reported Monday, Freeze's interest wasn't exclusive to the offensive coordinator position anyway. If this move doesn't impact the possibility of adding Freeze and the former Rebel boss ends up in Tuscaloosa, then the Crimson Tide offense is set up to be incredibly dangerous in 2018.

College Football Writer

Barrett Sallee has been a member of the sports media in various aspects since 2001. He is currently a college football writer for CBS Sports, analyst for CBS Sports HQ and host for the SiriusXM college... Full Bio

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