The Tennessee Vols‘ top SEC rival is in a position to make a huge addition that could be bad news for UT.

On Tuesday, the New England Patriots hired Bill O’Brien away from the Alabama Crimson Tide to serve as the franchise’s offensive coordinator.

O’Brien, who previously served as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator before becoming the head coach at Penn State in 2012, worked as Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator for the last two seasons.

With O’Brien on his way back to New England, it means that Saban needs to hire a new offensive coordinator for the sixth time in eight seasons.

Saban hasn’t been afraid to make bold hires when he needs an offensive coordinator. His decision to hire Lane Kiffin after the 2013 season was a surprise, but it worked out well for Alabama’s offense as Saban was committed to evolving.

Losing O’Brien to the Patriots gives Saban another chance to evolve.

And Alabama fans have their eyes on an offensive coordinator that would certainly bring a lot of change to Tuscaloosa.

A lot of Crimson Tide fans seem to want Oklahoma offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby to run Saban’s offense.

Lebby, who played for the Sooners, was Josh Heupel’s offensive coordinator at UCF in 2019 (he was Heupel’s passing game coordinator in 2018). He then worked for Kiffin at Ole Miss before returning to Oklahoma ahead of the 2022 season.

If Saban hires Lebby, it might mean that Alabama moves to an offense similar to Tennessee’s. Lebby’s offense doesn’t move quite as fast as the Vols’ offense, but his offense has its roots in the Heupel/Art Briles Baylor system.

That would mark a sharp shift in Saban’s philosophy, but as we noted, he’s never been afraid to evolve.

We know how prolific these offenses can be. And with Alabama’s talent, that could be a problem for the Vols and the rest of the SEC.

Of course, installing that system is easier said than done. And just because someone wants to run it, doesn’t mean it’ll run efficiently. Heupel is a master at coaching this system and it’s something that he’s been perfecting for years. Lebby wouldn’t be guaranteed to have instant success at Alabama with that system, but it could still be problematic for Tennessee.

One big question is whether or not Lebby would leave Oklahoma for Alabama.

A reporter from Sooners Wire doesn’t think he would leave the Sooners. He pointed out that Lebby is paid well and likely doesn’t want to uproot his family again.

Lebby, though, obviously wants to be a head coach. That could be one draw to Alabama. Lebby, however, has complete control of the offense right now at Oklahoma. I’m not sure that would be the case at Alabama (I’m not totally convinced Saban would go full veer n shoot on offense).

I’m sure Saban will make a splash hire, but ultimately, I have a hard time believing it will be Lebby.

But it’s still something that Tennessee fans should keep an eye on. You can never count anything out with Saban. And after losing to the Vols for the first time in 16 years, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see Saban try to mimic Tennessee’s system in some manner.

Featured image via Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

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