TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — On the day he was announced as the Broyles Award winner as the nation’s top assistant coach, Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley reportedly accepted the head coaching job at Maryland.
Locksley, a native of Washington, D.C., was the interim coach at Maryland in 2015 before joining Alabama as an offensive analyst. He worked his way up to offensive coordinator and has Alabama averaging 47.9 points per game, which is No. 2 in the nation.
Locksley reportedly will stay in his role with the Tide through their Playoff run. Former defensive coordinators Kirby Smart and Jeremy Pruitt did the same thing after they were hired at Georgia and Tennessee, respectively.
Sources told me tonight that @CoachLocks will stay on as @AlabamaFTBL's offensive coordinator throughout the @CFBPlayoff. Locksley will be introduced as @TerpsFootball's head coach during a Thursday press conference.
— Chris Low (@ClowESPN) December 5, 2018
This will be the third consecutive year the Tide open a season with a new offensive coordinator. Brian Daboll replaced Lane Kiffin/Steve Sarkisian in 2017, and Locksley replaced Daboll this season.
When looking for a replacement, Alabama coach Nick Saban could choose to promote in-house, like he did with Locksley.
Quarterbacks coach Dan Enos seems like the most likely choice. Enos was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Arkansas before joining Alabama’s staff before this season.
Enos is credited with the improved passing game of junior Jalen Hurts as well as what we’ve seen from this version of Heisman Trophy finalist Tua Tagovailoa.
“I think Dan has done a really good job with our guys,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said of Enos in October. “I think the biggest thing is the preparation and preparation that whatever the play is, whatever the call is, that the quarterbacks have a very clearly defined read of what their expectation is on that play and that they don’t pre-determine things before the snap and they develop confidence in going through that read progression. So you’re getting the ball in the right place at the right time.
“Our guys have done a pretty good job of that, but I think Dan has really helped them understand exactly what the expectation is on every play. And that comes through really good teaching and preparation through the course of the week.”
Arkansas’ offense was No. 2 in the SEC in 2015 with an average of 35.9 points per game under Enos. Enos was praised for his use of the tight end, and often helped Arkansas’ offense give Alabama fits during his time in Fayetteville.
Enos was a standout quarterback at Michigan State (1987-1990). His freshman season, 1987, was Saban’s last season as the Spartans’ defensive coordinator. In October, Saban talked about their relationship and said he also watched closely when Enos was the head coach at Central Michigan (2010-14).
“I’ve always had a high opinion of him, but having to play against someone, you develop even a greater respect for how they’re doing what they do,” Saban said.
Enos isn’t the only possible candidate on the staff.
Josh Gattis could also be a candidate. Gattis is Alabama’s wide receivers coach and co-offensive coordinator. In November, Saban said Gattis is a “bright guy” how has a good understanding of offenses from a big picture view.
“He’s very technical in terms of how he coaches and teaches his players and they have a good understanding,” Saban said in November. “He has a really good personality. But he’s also demanding. He can confront and demand guys when they’re not doing things the way they’re supposed to do them and I think that’s created a lot of consistency in our receivers and it’s also improved their toughness and their mental toughness to sustain. We’ve got some good players and he’s got them really playing well.”
If Saban really wants to get wild, there’s former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze. Saban wanted to hire Freeze before this season, but wasn’t able to. Freeze’s offenses gave Saban plenty of fits at Ole Miss.
Freeze reportedly is drawing interest from several schools, including Auburn, Tennessee and Florida State for OC openings, and Liberty, which has a head coach opening.