Zac Alley among ESPN’s coaches that could define next decade

The Oklahoma Sooners are hoping for their defense to take another step in 2024. Moving to the SEC, Brent Venables turned to Zac Alley to run the defense, and by all accounts, he’s already had a positive impact.

Depending on how successful he is, Alley could be on the move in the next few years as one of the hot young coaches in college football. The Sooners helped Jeff Lebby get a head coaching gig and the same could be on the way for Alley.

ESPN’s Bill Connelly (ESPN+) believes Alley is one of the 30 coaches from FBS to the NAIA that could define college football over the next decade.

A graduate assistant with Brent Venables at Clemson, Alley went off on his own, becoming the youngest FBS coordinator at 27 with Louisiana-Monroe. In Monroe, he linked up with Rich Rodriguez and followed him to Jacksonville State, where he fielded a shockingly effective defense in 2023: The Gamecocks were 57th in defensive SP+ in their first FBS season. Now, at 30, he’s back with Venables in Norman, and he inherits an experienced unit that has underachieved. Turn the Sooners’ D around, and he’ll have his pick of big jobs. – Connelly, ESPN

With an experienced defense at his disposal, Alley certainly has an opportunity to help Oklahoma’s defense reach an elite level. The Sooners have playmakers at all three levels of the defense. If they can take that step and the Sooners are SEC and College Football Playoff contenders, Alley’s name might begin to pop up in coaching circles.

But here’s hoping he follows the same path as his mentor, Brent Venables, who took his time and waited for the right job—not just any job.

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