Nick Saban Hires Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees As Alabama’s Offensive Coordinator

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Alabama football coach Nick Saban is going young at 71.

Saban has hired 30-year-old Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees to be his new OC, Alabama sources confirmed Friday afternoon.

Rees is Saban’s youngest OC hire since he tapped then-28-year-old Major Applewhite before Saban’s first season at Alabama in 2007. Applewhite lasted one season as he became running backs coach at Texas in 2008.


Rees will replace Bill O’Brien, who was hired at age 51 before the 2020 season. O’Brien left Alabama after the 2022 season for the same post with the New England Patriots. Saban at first tried to hire University of Washington offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb early this week, but Grubb turned the job down.

Notre Dame Tommy Rees Drew Pyne Yell Scream
Tommy Rees. (Getty Images)

Saban still must hire a defensive coordinator to replace Pete Golding, who left recently for the same position at Ole Miss.

Alabama defensive analyst Todd Grantham, a former SEC defensive coordinator at Georgia, Mississippi State and Florida, interviewed for the job recently. It is unclear if Saban offered it to him, though. And Grantham took an assistant coaching job with the New Orleans Saints on Friday, according to ESPN’s Chris Low.


Rees has been Notre Dame’s offensive coordinator since the 2020 season. A starting quarterback at Notre Dame from 2010-13 under coach Brian Kelly, Rees coached quarterbacks under Kelly from 2017-19 before a promotion to OC.

Kelly tried to bring Rees with him as OC to LSU when Kelly left Notre Dame following the 2021 season, but Rees decided to stay with the Fighting Irish and new head coach Marcus Freeman. Notre Dame promoted Freeman from defensive coordinator to replace Kelly.

Tommy Rees’ Numbers At Notre Dame Not Great

Rees’ offense did not fare well statistically at Notre Dame in 2022. In a 9-4 season, the Irish finished No. 98 in the nation in pass offense with 207.1 yards a game, No. 60 in total offense with 396 and No. 42 in scoring with 31.8. Senior quarterback Drew Pyne finished No. 20 in the nation in passing efficiency at 155.3 on 164-of-254 passing for 2,021 yards and 22 touchdowns with six interceptions. Pyne became the starter after Tyler Buchner was lost to injury in the second game of the season.

In addition, Rees had a different starting quarterback in each of his three seasons with the Irish. Ian Book started in 2020 and finished No. 33 in efficiency at 144.3 on 228-of-353 passing for 15 touchdowns and 2,830 yards with three interceptions. The Saints selected Book in the fourth round of the 2021 draft and waived him shortly before the 2022 season before Philadelphia claimed him.

In 2021, Jack Coan finished No. 32 in the nation in efficiency at 151.8 on 253-of-386 passing for 3,150 yards and 25 touchdowns with seven interceptions.

The Irish tended to focus on the run game under Rees, and that was not exactly dominant either. Last season, Notre Dame finished 35th in the nation in rushing with 189 yards a game. In 2021, it was 83rd with 144 yards a game. In 2020, Notre Dame rushed for 211 yards a game for 24th in the country, but grew steadily worse.

Alabama Will Have Better Skill Players For Tommy Rees

Rees will find much better talent at quarterback and wide receiver at Alabama.

Alabama is losing junior quarterback Bryce Young to the 2023 NFL Draft, where he is expected to be one of the first players taken. But the Tide returns versatile sophomore Jalen Milroe, who played in eight games last season as the backup. He completed 31 of 53 passes for 297 yards and five touchdowns. There is also 2022 signee Ty Simpson, the No. 3 quarterback in the nation from Westview High in Martin, Tennessee, by Sports 247.

And there are incoming freshmen from the No. 1 class of 2023. Those are No. 8 quarterback Eli Holstein of Zachary High in Zachary, Louisiana, and No. 13 quarterback Dylan Lonergan of Brookwood High in Snellville, Georgia.

Tommy Rees Coached Notre Dame QBs Before OC Promotion

Rees is young, but known for his confidence, if not cockiness.

A native of Los Angeles who grew up in Lake Bluff, Illinois, Rees started 30 games at Notre Dame under Kelly from 2010-13. After serving as a graduate assistant in 2015 at Northwestern, Rees coached as an offensive assistant with the San Diego Chargers.

Should Rees’ offense succeed at Alabama as most have in recent years, he will be on the fast track to a major college head coaching job, considering the success of so many former Saban assistants. And who knows? Rees could get consideration to replace Saban, who will be 72 next Halloween.

Rees will be Saban’s ninth offensive coordinator at Alabama. The first eight and their seasons with the Crimson Tide follow along with their present job:

-Major Applewhite … 2007 … South Alabama offensive coordinator.

-Jim McElwain … 2008-11 … Central Michigan head coach.

-Doug Nussmeieir … 2012-13 … Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks coach until recently.

-Lane Kiffin … 2014-16 … Ole Miss head coach.

-Brian Daboll … 2017 … New York Giants head coach.

-Michael Locksley … 2018 … Maryland head coach.

-Steve Sarkisian … 2019-20 … Texas head coach.

-Bill O’Brien … 2021-22 … New England offensive coordinator.

-Tommy Rees … 2023-? … Alabama’s offensive coordinator.

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

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