Reaching ‘Lucky Seven' in Recruiting
Due to NCAA sanctions, Alabama is only allowed seven coaches on the road at any given time recruiting. In that regard, the earlier reassignment of Eric and Aaron Price to administrative duties within the department was a procedural move as much as anything else. The month of May is absolutely critical to the recruiting process, when coaches fan out across the state and region scouting prospects in person.
At the end of the week Paul Randolph (defensive ends), Buddy Wyatt (defensive tackles), Chris Ball (defensive backs), Bobby Connelly (offensive line) and Sparky Woods (tight ends) were the position coaches on the road. Add in Joe Kines (defensive coordinator) and Randy Ross (Director of Football Operations and On-Campus Recruiting), and Alabama reaches its maximum allowable number of seven.
Normally, coordinators spend very little time on the road recruiting. And of course the Director of Football Operations almost by definition stays close to home. But temporarily at least, these are not normal times at Alabama.
Both Mike Shula and Dave Rader (offensive coordinator) are obviously new to the job. For the time being both are expected to stay in Tuscaloosa, giving Alabama's new offense their complete attention. As of the end of this week, Running Backs Coach Kasey Dunn was not on the road recruiting.
Assessing the Assistants
No official announcement has been made yet, but it seems clear that Joe Kines will continue his duties as Defensive Coordinator and Linebackers Coach. Also, Randolph and Wyatt appear to be locks to continue coaching defensive ends and tackles respectively.
On offense, the only thing certain so far is that Dave Rader will coordinate the Tide attack and also coach quarterbacks. Tight Ends Coach Sparky Woods should definitely remain on the staff, but his specific assignment(s) have not been confirmed.
Former Washington State assistants Chris Ball and Bobby Connelly would both like to work for Coach Shula, and at this point they seem a good bet to stay on. On the road recruiting, Ball is telling high school coaches that he'll be on staff this season. BamaMag.com got word from a reliable source Thursday that Connelly's job was secure, but again, there has been no official announcement.
The Wide Receivers position is currently open, and it's also possible (even probable) that Mike Shula will need a Running Backs Coach as well. No one questions the talent or long-term promise of Kasey Dunn in the coaching ranks, but his close ties to former Head Coach Mike Price coupled with his presence during the now infamous golf weekend make his future at Alabama problematic.
As BamaMag.com reported Wednesday, former Tide All American Bobby Humphrey would like to join Shula's staff, handling running backs. Humphrey confirmed to the Birmingham News yesterday that he had interviewed for the job. Of course it's probable that Shula has other candidates in mind as well.
For the Wide Receivers position, Shula has several options. He could bring in a coaching acquaintence from the NFL; hire an assistant away from another college staff (difficult to do, given the timing); pick a coach from the high school ranks; or even reassign from within his current staff. For example, Sparky Woods' background would make him more than qualified for the position.
Returning ‘Special' to Special Teams
Despite assurances to the contrary, it's been awhile since Alabama's kicking game came anywhere close to being genuinely "special."
Mark Tommerdahl held the title of Special Teams Coordinator under the Franchione regime. With the previous staff Aaron Price coached the placekickers and punters, while Kasey Dunn was coordinator.
Shula has several options. He may or may not hire someone new to handle the duties. He could add that responsibility to a current coach or divide up the duties among all the staff.
However he decides, clearly finding a coach capable of doing an effective job coordinating the kicking game will be key to next year's success.