New staff, same goal

Only hired himself last winter, Tide Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines has spent subsequent months working with and getting to know his defensive staff. And he definitely likes what he's seen. <br><br>"It's the oldest rule in coaching," Kines said. "Surround yourself with good folks."

Kines came on board from Florida State. In addition to his duties as a coordinator, Kines will handle linebackers. Chris Ball, who will coach the Bama secondary, arrived from Washington State. Tide Defensive Tackles Coach Buddy Wyatt spent last season at Texas A&M. And Paul Randolph, who came on board a week or so after the others, coached last season at West Virginia and will handle the Alabama defensive ends.

"They're all good people," Kines said. "That's the one thing that was quickly obvious. This group is good folks. I think Alabama has done an excellent job (assembling) this defensive staff."

A former pro lineman himself, Buddy Wyatt brings a high been-there-done-that quotient to his job as defensive tackles coach.

A veteran of more than 35 years in coaching, this is Kines' second stint as coordinator at The Capstone. But prior to this year he hadn't worked with any of his assistants before. Does that make the task tougher?

"I don't think ‘tougher' is the right word," Kines replied. "I'll tell you what it's been. It's kind of like your wife's cooking. You're really used to it, because you eat it all the time. Then all of a sudden you start with someone else's cooking, and it gets you out of your comfort zone.

"A lot of people like to stay in that comfort zone forever. But it's been challenging to me to get a new group together."

Ball came with Bama's previous head coach from the Washington State Cougars, where he also coached defensive backs. He is one of two former WSU coaches retained by Mike Shula on the Tide staff.

"Chris Ball is really a good secondary coach," Kines said. "I've really been impressed with Coach Ball. He's very fundamentally sound, very enthusiastic. He's young and has got some great ideas.

"His secondary at Washington State was a strongsuit for their team. I've been very impressed with him and feel sure that we'll get the job done."

Sometimes life presents interesting coincidences. Last season Buddy Wyatt was coaching at Texas A&M, working for then-Aggie coach R.C. Slocum. But when Bama's 2003 coach bolted for College Station, the highly regarded Wyatt was left looking for a job.

Alabama and Joe Kines quickly snatched him up.

Chris Ball will coach both safeties and cornerbacks this fall.

"Buddy Wyatt has been in the big games before," Kines said. "The ‘Wrecking Crew' defense at Texas A&M has been a pretty formidable unit through the years."

A graduate of Texas Tech, Wyatt played two seasons of professional football before starting his coaching career in 1991. "Buddy has a good background and is sound fundamentally," Kines said. "When he gets at the blackboard, you can tell his roots run deep into basic football."

Randolph didn't want to leave West Virginia in the lurch, so he didn't join the Tide staff until after National Signing Day. But he's quickly become one of the most popular assistants on the staff. "Paul may be the smartest guy in the room," Kines said. "He has an Engineering degree. He's a brilliant young guy. He's very eager and like a sponge when it comes to learning new ideas. He soaks up everything that is going on. Coach Randolph has really got a good feel for the game."

Known as an outstanding recruiter, Randolph should help Alabama establish a presence in the Atlanta area. "You watch his future," Kines said. "He'll go a long way. He is really bright."

Paul Randolph jumped at the chance to join the Tide staff and coach defensive ends.

Among them, the Alabama defensive assistants have coached at more than 25 different schools. According to Kines, that varied experience makes for some interesting staff meetings.

He explained, "You take four guys that have played and coached, and there are some ideas that you might have missed. If you're on the same staff and you see the same thing over and over, then you get the same ideas over and over. But when you put four new guys together, all of a sudden each guy is coming up with ideas."

The Tide finished third in the nation last year (first in the SEC) in terms of Total Defense. So obviously the potential is there for another good year. It's Kines' job to mesh the returning talent with his bright, young staff to put together another dominating Bama defense.

"The secret is don't chase ideas as systems," Kines explained. "Rather try to mesh them into the system that you've got. Frankly, the whole process has been exciting to me."

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