Any anyone who attended Alabama's media day on August 9, 2015, and they'll tell you that one thing stuck out more than anything else: The red shoes.
Lane Kiffin's red shoes, to be specific.
When the coaching staff posed for the annual picture along Nick Saban, Kiffin apparently missed the memo (or ignored it) that he was supposed to wear the official team garb.
There he was, standing on Saban's right, with the other offensive coaches, with his feet sticking due to everyone else wearing white shoes.
Upon reflection, the second thing that stands out about that photo is just how good that coaching staff was.
We'll start on the offensive side. Keep in mind, that Saban is the nation's highest paid coach this season at $9.75 million.
Kiffin is now the head coach at Ole Miss, where he's making $4.5 million this season plus will get a retention bonus of $500,000 if he stays through the end of the year. Nevertheless, his name is being mentioned as a possibility in Miami (Note: Remember, Kiffin complained during the offseason that due to transfers Alabama was essentially benefitting from free agency. He could really draw some recruits to the Hurricanes).
Line coach Mario Cristobal is now the head coach at Oregon. He has a six year, $27 million deal that is paying him an average of $4.55 million annually.
Wide receivers coach Billy Napier is the head coach at Louisiana. He's making $2 million annually, and he might figure prominently in numerous upcoming coaching searches.
Burton Burns is the running backs coach of the New York Giants. Derrick Henry's mentor when he won the Heisman Trophy is making $475,000 a year and coaching Saquon Barkley. Special teams coach Bobby Williams is with Cristobal at Oregon, and is making $415,000 annually.
On the defensive side, Kirby Smart left Alabama for his alma mater, Georgia, after the national championship. He's making $7.13 million this season.
Defensive line coach Bo Davis is making $875,000 this year working for Steve Sarkisian at Texas. Linebackers coach Tosh Lupoi is Urban Meyer's defensive line/run game coordinator for the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Finally, there's defensive backs coach Mel Tucker, who followed Smart to Georgia to be his defensive coordinator, and is now the head coach at Michigan State. He's reportedly getting a new 10-year deal for $95 million, which at $9.5 million annually will put his salary second only to Saban.
"I came here and I made it clear in my initial press conference that I thought Michigan State was a destination job and not a stepping stone," Tucker said on the inaugural The Draymond Green Show. "Obviously I have Big Ten roots, I played at Wisconsin, I'm from Cleveland, Ohio. . . I know the Big Ten landscape.
"This is where I started my career in 1997 as a graduate assistant under Nick Saban. Michigan State's a special place for me, so it was never my intention to come here and just pass through," he added. "I believe we're building something special here, and I've had tremendous support to do that, and we're on the right track."
Alabama went on to win the national championship in 2015, and this coaching staff is already remembered as being one of the most interesting in college football history. It'll likely also go down as being one of the most successful.
SEC Coaching Carousel
There's a lot of speculation flying around about what kind of opening could appeal to Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien, especially since he used to be the head coach at Penn State and with the Houston Texans. Saban could potentially have an easy replacement if Texas gives up on Sarkisian (the Longhorns have to beat West Virginia and Kansas State to be bowl eligible).
Plus, one has to think that if O'Brien left he'd probably talk offensive line coach Doug Marrone with him, but that's already three levels of speculation while the Crimson Tide is still trying to win the national championship.
Saban pretty knows he'll have to make some hires every year, the question is always how many?
The early signing period is making the coaching carousel spin earlier and earlier, with Southern California, Washington, TCU, Virginia Tech and Texas Tech among those already looking to hire proven names to run their programs.
So is LSU.
Jimbo Fisher appears to be the first choice, and LSU athletic director Scott Woodward hired him at Texas A&M. But Fisher, the only former Saban assistant to beat him, doesn't appear to be eager to leave College Station and start over.
ESPN announcer Rece Davis likes O'Brien for the job. Kiffin and Napier have both been mentioned as possibilities, along with Baylor's Dave Aranda and Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley.
Although he's scheduled to make $8.05 million this year, LSU paid Ed Orgeron $9.01 million and is reportedly willing to up the stakes.
Jake Crain, who hosts “The J Boy Show” podcast and YouTube channel, cited an unnamed source that said Riley “has been offered” an eight-year contract worth $96 million to coach the Tigers (yes, $12 million per year). He said the source told him it was “not likely that Oklahoma would match” the offer.
That might be would it would take to pry him out of Norman, although Riley's name has also been heard in NFL circles.
Here's what AllSooners publisher John Hoover had to say about the reports during a Q&A with LSU Country.
"He’s extremely comfortable. One of Lincoln’s best traits is loyalty, and he feels an intense loyalty to Oklahoma and athletic director Joe Castiglione for giving him his first shot to be a head coach.
"He really does love this place, and I think he takes that cue from Bob Stoops, who’s still on the athletic department payroll and remains around the program — and thus is still an influential figure in Lincoln’s life. Bob sold him a long time ago on the merits of raising a family and setting down roots in Norman.
"Like most coaches, Lincoln views OU as a destination job, and I’d think it’s easy to want to be a part of that legacy — and be able to carve your own."
However, Hoover added that if Riley did get that kind of offer he thought unlikely Oklahoma would match.
May the odds be ever in your favor
• Even though Alabama is ranked second in the latest CFP rankings, the Crimson Tide is the third-best bet to win the national championship according to BetOnline. Georgia is listed as 10/13, followed by Ohio State 4/1, and then Alabama at 17/4. Oregon is fourth at 20/1.
• Although sophomore Bryce Young had almost a perfect passing game last week, he's no again no longer considered the Heisman Trophy favorite. CJ Stroud is 9/5, while Young is 2/1. Michigan State running back Kenneth Walker II is 3/1. Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral is the only player within striking distance at 9/1. Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. is listed for the first time among the favorites, seventh at 40/1.
• The statistical analysis website FiveThirtyEight lists Alabama as having a 41 percent chance of winning the conference, 59 percent chance of making the College Football Playoff, and 21 percent chance of winning the national title.
• Justyn Ross: In 2018, the wide receiver was considered the top prospect in the state, but opted to play for Clemson. Dabo Swinney announced on Thursday that Ross will have surgery to fix the stress fracture in his foot then get ready for the NFL draft. “He doesn’t need another season here,” Swinney said. “He’s going pro.” As a freshman, Ross had three catches for 153 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown reception in Clemson’s 44-16 national championship victory over Alabama. However, his numbers declined each year, from 1,000 receiving yards as as freshman to just 514 yards on 46 catches and just three touchdowns this season.
• Eyabi Anoma: The headline player in Alabama's Class of 2018 who was named to the SEC All-Freshman team, is finally in the process of playing another full season after transferring out of Houston. Through nine games at UT-Martin he's been credited with 25 tackles, including 9.6 for a loss and six sacks.
• Jerome Ford: Cincinnati's leading rusher has 888 yards on 142 carries (6.3 average) and 15 touchdowns. He's averaging 98.7 rushing yards per game. He joined the Bearcats early in 2020 after two years at Alabama.
• Class of 2018: The Crimson Tide has five active starters out of signing group that was originally just 21: cornerbacks Josh Jobe and Jalyn Armour-Davis, guard Emil Ekiyor Jr., tight end Cameron Latu, and wide receiver Slade Bolden. Those still around include defensive lineman Stephon Wynn Jr., offensive lineman Tommy Brown, and linebacker Jaylen Moody. The class already has three players in the NFL with Patrick Surtain II, Jaylen Waddle and Christian Barmore, but they're outnumbered by those who transferred out: Anoma, Ale Kaho (UCLA), Xavier Williams, Ford, Eddie Smith, Michael Parker, Skyler DeLong and Layne Hatcher (Arkansas State).
Did You Notice?
Christopher Walsh's notes column All Things CW appears weekly on BamaCentral.