Three-point stance: Saban's coaching tree

January, 19, 2010
1/19/10
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1. Bad enough that Urban Meyer, if he returns to Florida next fall, would have to move the team past the loss of Tim Tebow's playmaking ability and leadership. But with five juniors leaving early, how much does the size of the rebuilding job weigh on Meyer and his decision to return? In nine years as a head coach, he’s never had to retool like this. For the first time, Meyer is learning what happens when you stay at a school long enough to see the freshmen leave. It’s daunting.

2. Beside Tennessee, other winners in last week’s coaching melee: UCLA would have taken a big hit in perception if offensive coordinator Norm Chow had gone to USC. Duke coach David Cutcliffe, for the second time in his career, chose loyalty to staff over personal gain. Skip Holtz is in a great spot at South Florida. Talent abounds nearby and the Big East has the shortest route (seven conference games, no championship game) to the BCS.

3. Four FBS head coaches -- Mark Dantonio of Michigan State, Derek Dooley of Tennessee, Jimbo Fisher of Florida State and Mike Haywood of Miami (Ohio) -- are former Nick Saban assistants. Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, a Saban protégé, is an official head coach-in-waiting. Crimson Tide coordinators Kirby Smart and Jim McElwain are unofficial HCIWs. Linebackers coach James Willis just became Texas Tech's defensive coordinator. That’s pretty strong.

Ivan Maisel | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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