Not many days ago it was looking as though Bill O’Brien would return as Alabama Football’s Offensive Coordinator in 2022. Over the last few days, a return to the NFL has appeared more likely. Many names are being thrown out as Nick Saban’s choice as the next Tide OC. It is impossible to predict what Saban is thinking and who is on his shortlist.
What we can be sure about is some guys with either Saban or Alabama football connections will not get the job. They can be added to a long list, that if including non-connected coaches, could begin with Urban Meyer. Urban is in need of a rehab and the best place to get one over the last several years has been Tuscaloosa. Meyer’s pride would never accept not being in command and there may also be distaste shared by the two men.
On the ‘connected’ guys list, the names of those who will not be chosen can begin with Dan Enos. Reportedly, Enos high-tailed it out of Tuscaloosa without a face-to-face with Saban to explain why. He is now on his third assistant gig in four seasons, working for Mike Locksley at Maryland.
Two more names it can be certain will not be re-joining the Alabama Crimson Tide are Major Applewhite and Josh Gattis. In fairness to Applewhite, he was not adequately prepared for the opportunity Nick Saban gave him to be OC in 2007. His return as an offensive analyst in 2019 and 2020 helped boost him back to the field in 2021 with South Alabama.
Josh Gattis may no longer be looking for work with a Jim Harbaugh return to Michigan. But if he were, Alabama football insiders say Saban was not pleased when Gattis decided to leave the Tide staff after the 2018 season. Not that Nick Saban has time to carry a grudge. There is just no good reason to give Gattis a plum opportunity.
There are three other ‘connected’ guys that might be good choices for the Tide. One, Holman Wiggings is already on the staff and is well respected for his coaching and recruiting. But Wiggins is not a quarterback coach and he has never been a play-caller. The Tide’s duo of Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson need development by a true QB coach. Plus, Saban is not likely to have a ‘learn on the job’ play-caller.
Less experienced but intriguing Alabama Football options
The other two names are Alex Mortensen and AJ Milwee. The futures are bright for both. Milwee left his offensive analyst position at Alabama to be the QB coach at Texas. He was well-liked by Crimson Tide players and respected by the on-field staff. He has play-calling experience from his stint working for Terry Bowden at Akron. His resume is just not developed enough yet to be Saban’s OC.
Alex Mortensen has been in Tuscaloosa since 2014, first as a graduate assistant and since 2019 as an offensive analyst. Briefly, in 2018, he was the wide receiver coach for the Birmingham Iron. Mortenson (and others) stepped up when Bill O’Brien had to quarantine because of COVID. He knows the Crimson Tide offense as well as anyone. He might be a sudden success as the Tide’s OC, but his path to such an opportunity will require proving himself somewhere else first.
All the conjecture may be unnecessary. Unless Bill O’Brien returns to the Patriots, he could be in Tuscaloosa for another season.