Nick Saban adds new, old faces to staff

January, 17, 2012
1/17/12
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One thing's for sure about Alabama coach Nick Saban when it comes to hiring assistant coaches: He's flexible.

Look at his last two hires.

New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier comes to Alabama after spending the last three seasons as Washington's offensive coordinator. Nussmeier has never previously worked under Saban, although Nussmeier has worked with people Saban has worked with, including former Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, the man Nussmeier is replacing.

[+] EnlargeNick Saban
AP Photo/Dave MartinAlabama coach Nick Saban has had a busy offseason already, hiring a new offensive coordinator and a new outslide linebackers coach.
Nussmeier and McElwain also previously worked as offensive coordinators at Fresno State under former Fresno State coach Pat Hill, who told The Birmingham News that Nussmeier had a lot of the same qualities as McElwain. Hill and Saban worked together as assistants with the Cleveland Browns in the early 1990s.

Then there's new outside linebackers coach Lance Thompson, who's embarking on his third different stint under Saban. Not only that, but Thompson left Alabama following the 2008 season for a job on Tennessee's staff when Lane Kiffin assembled the highest-paid collection of assistant coaches in the country.

Thompson worked for Saban at LSU in 2002 and 2003 before rejoining him at Alabama in 2007. Thompson spent the last three seasons on the Vols' staff, but wasn't considered by Derek Dooley for the defensive coordinator's job and was looking to get out. It just so happened that Alabama had an opening after Sal Sunseri was hired as the Vols' new defensive coordinator.

So, in essence, the Crimson Tide and Vols swapped.

There's also a back story here that will no doubt be downplayed at Alabama now that Thompson is back with the Crimson Tide.

But remember Kiffin's loudmouthed tour around the state of Tennessee following national signing day in 2009?

It's when he made his infamous comments about Urban Meyer allegedly cheating in an attempt to get Nu'Keese Richardson. Of course, Kiffin was dead wrong in his understanding of the NCAA rules (imagine that) and wound up being reprimanded by the SEC.

During that same "signing day celebration" tour, Thompson also reportedly popped off about Saban and referred to Saban as the "other guy."

And according to the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Thompson boasted to a crowd in Knoxville of Saban: "He ain't getting any more of my (recruits)."

Kiffin added: "Nick Saban should have started his (signing day) press conference by saying, 'Our great class that we signed ... I'd really like to thank Lance (Thompson) because Lance signed eight of those guys.' "

It's merely a guess, but something says Saban and Thompson won't be doing any signing day tours around the state of Alabama this February.

But Thompson's return to the Capstone is proof that Saban can forgive and forget, and it's also worth noting that Thompson's reasons for leaving Alabama the first time weren't all football-related.

Either way, he's back and has a clean slate, and if he recruits the way he did the last time he was at Alabama, nobody in that state will even remember his time in orange.

Chris Low | email

College Football

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