Clemson Football: There is a leading candidate to replace Nick Saban at Alabama and it is not Dabo Swinney

Sources indicate that Oregon's Dan Lanning, and not Dabo Swinney, is the leading candidate to become the head coach at Alabama following Nick Saban's retirement
Jan 7, 2019; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney and Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban
Jan 7, 2019; Santa Clara, CA, USA; Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney and Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

For years, there has been speculation that Clemson Football head coach Dabo Swinney would be the number one candidate to replace Nick Saban should he decide to retire as the head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Swinney was a walk-on at Alabama when Gene Stallings was the head coach. As an alum who has twice defeated Saban in national championship games, he was a logical successor.

It was confirmed by Chris Low of ESPN that this is the end of Saban's career. He reportedly will officially retire from coaching.

Saban will be remembered as one of the greatest coaches of all time, if not the greatest.

Now that the job at Alabama is open, there is a candidate who is the leader to take the job.

It isn't Dabo Swinney.

Sources indicate that Oregon Ducks head coach Dan Lanning is the leading candidate to replace Saban at Alabama.

Lanning was a graduate assistant at Alabama in 2015 during Kirby Smart's final season as the defensive coordinator. Lanning joined Smart at Georgia in 2018 as a linebackers coach before taking over as the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator in 2019.

Lanning has been the head coach at Oregon for the past two seasons.

While things could change and Swinney could emerge as a candidate, it doesn't seem like that is likely. Saban probably knew that this day was coming, and the athletic department probably had a plan in place for a while.

It also doesn't seem likely that Lanning's name would get floated out there so quickly if there wasn't something already cooking in the background.

Why would Lanning be the frontrunner instead of Swinney? I think there are two reasons.

First, Lanning is a hot name in coaching right now. His tenure in Eugene started with a thrashing by Georgia in 2022, but with Bo Nix at quarterback, the Ducks steadied the ship and were contenders in the PAC-12.

They took another step forward in 2023 by only losing two games, both to eventual national runner-up Washington.

Second, Lanning doesn't just have ties to Alabama, but he has ties to Smart, who is probably the most successful defensive coordinator the Crimson Tide have had during Saban's tenure.

Considering how successful Smart has transitioned from defensive coordinator to national championship-winning head coach, one can see why Alabama might think Lanning is the next guy to pull it off.

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