Shelby County players, coaches excited for Kalen DeBoer succeeding Nick Saban at Alabama

Published 7:53 pm Tuesday, January 16, 2024

By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

The landscape of Alabama football shifted seismically with Nick Saban announcing his retirement on Wednesday, Jan. 10 and the Alabama Crimson Tide naming former Washington coach Kalen DeBoer as his successor two days later.

The move has impacted all levels of football across the state all the way down to high school football, including locally in Shelby County.

Five players from Shelby County received offers from Saban’s coaching staff, including scholarship offers for Thompson defensive back Anquon Fegans, defensive lineman Jared Smith, wide receiver Colben Landrew and quarterback Trent Seaborn as well as a preferred walk-on offer for Chelsea wide receiver and tight end Jaxon Shuttlesworth.

Seaborn was among multiple players who were excited to see DeBoer at Alabama based on his success at Washington, where he led the Huskies to a 14-1 record in 2023 capped by a Pac-12 Championship, Sugar Bowl win and national championship appearance.

“From what I’ve seen, he’s done a great job at Washington in a short period of time,” Seaborn said. “I’m really looking forward to learning more about him and his coaching style and philosophy, seeing who’s on his staff and how he shapes Alabama’s program.”

While the freshman quarterback has time to make his college decision, he is confident that DeBoer will continue cultivating the culture that Saban created with the Crimson Tide.

“The biggest appeal to me to Alabama, and really any program, is the culture,” DeBoer said. “Do the coaches have a process to develop, do they hold players accountable, do they hold up the values of sacrifice, commitment and team? I am sure coach DeBoer and his staff will share those values and continue the legacy coach Saban built there around those principles.”

Like many players, Shuttlesworth was excited to receive a preferred walk-on offer from Saban on Jan. 3 to his “dream school” after years of hard work.

While he didn’t know Saban would retire just one week after offering him, he is still excited for the offensive potential that DeBoer showed at Washington with Heisman Trophy finalist Michael Penix Jr. in the last two seasons, especially since Huskies offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb is reportedly set to join Alabama in the same position.

“Obviously, coach Saban is the GOAT, but having a new head coach opens up a lot of new possibilities, and I’m just ready to work and get to it,” Shuttlesworth said. “I know his offense is more of an Air Raid so that is going to be beneficial for all the wide receivers and tight ends.”

Chelsea coach Todd Cassity, who coached Shuttlesworth on the Hornets, felt like it was a very good hire given the time frame and candidates available.

Cassity was impressed at DeBoer’s success from NAIA to the College Football Playoff with a 104-12 record as a head coach and his skills as an offensive-minded head coach.

“Obviously, he’s a winner,” Cassity said. “So, that’s number one and a big deal there. He knows the game and has a great offensive scheme. I really liked watching some of the stuff they did on offense.”

While some observers are skeptical about how DeBoer can adapt to recruiting and coaching in the cutthroat environment of the SEC, Cassity rejected that narrative and pointed to how coaches like Texas’ Steve Sarkesian and Ole Miss’ Lane Kiffin have thrived in the South.

“Today’s landscape is so much different than it was 20, 30 years ago,” Cassity said. “A coach from Washington or wherever can come down to the South and I think can be very successful. We saw that with Steve Sarkisian, we saw it with Lane Kiffin and some other guys, just how they’ve been able to come into this kind of a situation and be successful. So, I feel like his staff will do just fine once they get their feet settled.”