College football's offseason is supposed to slow down following National Signing Day, but it ramped up in a big way Tuesday. Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian – who replaced Lane Kiffin just last month – is leaving the Tide to become the Atlanta Falcons' offensive coordinator.
The news is still fresh, but it's never too early to speculate about whom Nick Saban will tab as his next offensive coordinator. Six names he might consider:
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Chip Kelly (former Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers head coach)
When Kelly was let go by the 49ers, we speculated that he could land in an "analyst role" at Alabama, similar to the job Sarkisian had this year. However, with the offensive coordinator gig now open, this role makes sense. Kelly has stated publicly he wants to stay in football this year (as opposed to doing TV) and was reportedly was a candidate for the Jaguars' vacant offensive coordinator job. Remember, Kelly has a strong relationship with Saban.
However, Kelly was never a huge fan of the ancillary responsibilities – namely recruiting – that come with college coaching. Given that he's owed millions in buyout money, would he really consider returning to college in an assistant role?
Mike Locksley (Alabama co-offensive coordinator)
The most logical name on this list, Locksley was promoted to co-offensive coordinator in January after serving as an analyst last season.
He has previous head-coaching experience (at New Mexico and as an interim at Maryland) and was the offensive coordinator during Illinois' surprise Rose Bowl run during the 2007 season.
Derek Dooley (Dallas Cowboys WR coach)
Dooley is best remembered from his failed run as Tennessee's head coach from 2010-2012 (ironically, following Lane Kiffin), but his first big break in coaching came as an assistant with Saban at LSU.
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Mark Helfrich (former Oregon head coach)
The man who replaced Kelly as Oregon's head coach is also out of work and could be a candidate at Alabama after his name popped up in several other coordinator searches this winter.
Helfrich served as both offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Colorado before joining Kelly in the same roles in Eugene prior to the 2009 season.
Mario Cristobal (co-offensive coordinator Oregon)
Cristobal just recently left Alabama after four years as the team's offensive line coach. He landed at Oregon, where not only is in charge of the offensive line but also is co-offensive coordinator.
Would the coordinator job in Alabama be enough to bring him back, just weeks after leaving?
Burton Burns (Alabama associate head coach, RB coach)
Burns is a long-time Saban confidant, arriving at Alabama with the head coach in 2007 and sticking around ever since.
Burns has never called plays at any level. Could this be his shot?