The work environment wasn’t easy, but Missouri offensive coordinator Derek Dooley knew two things would happen while he was on Nick Saban’s coaching staff: The team was going to win, and Dooley was going to improve as a coach.
Dooley worked under Saban for five seasons at LSU, and they won a national title together in 2003. When Saban took the Miami Dolphins’ head coaching job in 2005, Dooley joined as the tight ends coach.
“I’ve had a lot of gratitude towards Nick because I wouldn’t be where I am without him,” Dooley said. “He really gave me as good of training as a young coach that any young coach could ask for. … I always believed in him. I believed in his philosophies on winning.”
The two coaches will share a field again Saturday when Saban and No. 1 Alabama play host to Missouri. Dooley’s unit will face a defense that has allowed just 34 first-half points all season.
“Put on (Alabama) film in 2012, put it on in ‘15, put it on in ‘17, put it on in ‘18,” Dooley said. “It’s one of the best (defenses) in the country.”
At LSU, Saban compiled a staff that included Dooley, Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher, Georgia coach Kirby Smart and South Carolina coach Will Muschamp.
Dooley ultimately earned an SEC head-coaching gig himself, spending three seasons at Tennessee before the school fired him in 2012. Saban’s Crimson Tide team beat the Volunteers each of Dooley’s years as head coach, winning each game by 31 points.
While working together at LSU, Dooley and Muschamp recommended Smart to Saban. The now-Georgia coach proceeded to work with Saban from 2006-15, and they won four national titles together at Alabama.
Saban complimented Dooley’s offense ahead of Saturday’s game, calling Drew Lock one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
“They also can run the ball effectively and have great balance on offense,” Saban said. “This is one of those games I think you’ve really got to do a great job of getting yourself ready and know you’re going to have to be your best as a player, because this team could very easily be 5-0.”
The Tigers (3-2) rank ninth nationally with 530 yards per game under Dooley, though they are 26th in points per game. Missouri let a late lead slip away against South Carolina last week, while Alabama won 65-31 over Arkansas — Saban’s second-closest game of the year.
Dooley called his old boss the best coach in college football, but he wouldn’t say if he’s the greatest ever.
“I’ll let you guys do all that,” Dooley told reporters. “I know nobody right now has a better record than him. That’s fact.”