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CBS Sports analysts diverge on Alabama’s post-Kirby Smart future

Jeremy Pruitt
Marvin Gentry/USA TODAY Sports

Rick Neuheisel believes Alabama’s plethora of talented assistant coaches should help the Crimson Tide continue business as usual in the post-Kirby Smart era.

His CBS Sports colleague Gary Danielson isn't so sure.

The analysts' views on Alabama's defensive transition diverged during Thursday's CBS Sports media conference call, which also included CBS play-by-play commentator Verne Lundquist.

Neuheisel said the defending national champions should be able to weather the loss of former defensive coordinator Smart, who takes over this season as head coach at Georgia. Jeremy Pruitt, who previously served as defensive coordinator at Georgia and won a national title as Jimbo Fisher's coordinator at Florida State, takes Smart's place with the Tide.

"Transition and turnover in the coaching staff is always a hurdle to clear, but I don't know if there's anybody more prepared for that hurdle than (Alabama coach) Nick Saban," Neuheisel said.

The key, for Neuheisel, is the extensive brain trust built up by Saban with the Crimson Tide. He cited the example of former Maryland offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, who was hired as an offensive analyst in the spring.

"He's got almost like a bullpen of coaches," Neuheisel said.

Neuheisel also stressed Saban's hands-on role in working with the defense.

"Nick Saban is all about that defense,” Neuheisel said. “He's out there watching practice, he's out there with the DBs, coaching drills. It isn't as though he's an overseer. He's got his hands in all of that."

But Danielson is less bullish on the short-term prospects for the Tide's transition.

"I think that Kirby will not be as easily replaced as people think," he said.

Danielson cited a lack of depth in the secondary as a potential stumbling block for the Crimson Tide. If the initial transition hits a speed bump early, he said, the problems could begin to snowball.

"The first thing players do when things go bad, they find an excuse and it's never them," he said.

"And if things don't go well at Ole Miss, the first thing they're going to say is, 'Well, Kirby wouldn't have called it that way.'"

Danielson said this year the defending champions' margin for error is especially slim.

"If you look at Alabama's schedule this year, where they play their toughest games, they've got a humiliated LSU team that cannot wait to play them," he said. "They've got a Tennessee team that came two back-shoulder fade passes from winning a game last year, and they've got them at home this year. And they play Ole Miss early with probably the best quarterback (Chad Kelly) in the league."

Alabama opens its 2016 campaign against USC in Arlington, Texas on Sept. 3.

RELATED: Gary Danielson: Steve Spurrier as important as Bear Bryant in SEC history
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RELATED: Just one more season of Verne Lundquist? That’s not enough

RELATED: Rick Neuheisel: Fast start crucial for Will Muschamp, Gamecocks

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