Coaching changes at Alabama?

With schools around the region changing coordinators, losing assistants and even hiring new head coaches, Alabama under Dennis Franchione has suddenly become one of the most stable programs in the conference. <br><br>And as the current Tide players can attest, stability on a coaching staff is very much a GOOD thing.

Notre Dame and Florida have received the most publicity recently, but every year retirements and losing records prompt a new turn of the coaching merry-go-round. And after the DuBose debacle (was that only a year ago?), Alabama fans can certainly sympathize.

Mark Tommerdahl, Special Teams Coordinator

Stability is always key to building a successful program, and Alabama Head Coach Dennis Franchione believes in his current staff. "I'm not making any changes," he said Saturday.

Several current Bama assistants are seen as potential head coaches, including Mark Tommerdahl (Special Teams Coordinator and Tight Ends), Kenith Pope (Assistant Head Coach and Wide Receivers) and Les Koenning (Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks). And of course Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush is a former Division 1A head coach at North Carolina.

Coach Koenning has been considered for head coaching jobs.

"When you have good coaches, you always have a problem where you could lose somebody," Franchione said. "But I hope not. And even if somebody gets a better job offer, I don't think we'll lose a lot."

Koenning was reportedly considered for a couple of head coaching jobs this year, though the schools wound up hiring someone else. The former Texas quarterback and wide receiver has an impressive offensive resume', including coordinator positions at Houston and Duke and a stint as an offensive assistant to Jimmy Johnson with the Miami Dolphins.

Ken Pope assumed additional duties this season.

A very intelligent young coach known for his organization, Tommerdahl has had opportunities to move into the administrative side of coaching as the Director of Football Operations elsewhere (Charley North holds that job at Alabama).

Franchione has said in the past that he believes Tommerdahl could have a future in the NFL. But for now the Minnesota native is sticking with Alabama and Franchione.

Of course Carl Torbush is recognized nationally for his coaching acumen. Those close to him relate that his experience at North Carolina soured him somewhat on the idea of being a head coach. So for now at least, Torbush seems happy as coordinator at Alabama, solidifying his reputation as a defensive guru.

Carl Torbush has multiple talents as a potential head coach.

But coaches with Torbush's combination of intelligence, experience and on-the-field coaching talent--not to mention his ability dealing with the press--are not easy to find. And assuming Alabama continues to improve, he'll almost certainly have other head coaching opportunities.

Beginning his 32nd year of coaching, Ron Case finds his name mentioned frequently when the subject of changes on the Tide staff is discussed. He was lured out of retirement by Franchione and Torbush to coach the Bama safeties, and it's certainly possible that Case could retire soon.

But perhaps surprisingly (given his age), the athletes really like Case, and get along with him very well. Plus, Case has remarked often that he enjoys working in Tuscaloosa--and further that he considers Alabama to be the pinnacle of his coaching career.

Case and Franchione confer.

So while it's certainly possible that Case could retire soon, the veteran coach will stick around as long as he (and his family) enjoy the job.

For now, Franchione does not expect any changes. But that doesn't necessarily include the graduate assistants. "When I talk about our staff staying the same, I'm talking about our full-time assistants and Charley (North)," Franchione said. "I think we'll be stable there."

In addition to the nine assistants, NCAA rules allow schools two on-the-field graduate assistant coaches. At Alabama Rick LaFavers (defense) and Mike Bloomgren (offense) held those positions last year. Joe Dan Rogers helped out in a variety of ways off the field, but his official title was Video Graduate Assistant.

Major Applewhite to Alabama?

As the name implies, graduate assistants must be enrolled in graduate school, and their part-time positions are intended as learning slots. "I tell my (graduate assistants) that any time you get a chance at an on-the-field job, then you need to go," Franchione explained. "If a GA gets a chance at a job, then he's going to take that job."

Frankly, all three current Bama GAs would jump at a chance to join the Alabama staff full-time. Given his playing career as a safety at TCU and his three-year service on Franchione's Horned Frog staff, some see LaFavers as the leading candidate to replace Case--when (and if) Case retires.

But that is speculation. And in fact in that event it's not even certain that Franchione would decide to hire another safeties coach. It's also possible that Chris Thurmond, currently Alabama's cornerbacks coach, could assume duties for the entire secondary--a role he has held on other coaching staffs in the past.

What is certain is that unfortunately Bloomgren will probably leave Alabama. "Mike Bloomgren is finishing his third year," Franchione said. "That's the maximum amount of time he can stay at one school, according to NCAA rules."

Rick LaFavers

Graduate assistants are only allowed to work with a given school for three years in a row. Both LaFavers and Rogers served with Franchione on the TCU staff, but 2002 would mark only their second year at Alabama. Bloomgren has worked on the Tide staff since May of 1999.

Bloomgren's departure obviously opens up one on-the-field graduate assistant slot. Talk-show hosts Scott Moore and Jay Barker created a stir among Tide fans recently, when the two reported on their radio show that Texas quarterback (and Crimson Tide fan) Major Applewhite had applied for a graduate assistant position at Alabama.

Joe Dan Rogers

Named for Major Ogilve by his football-fan-father, Applewhite had always hoped to play for Alabama. In fact the Louisiana native would have signed with the Tide out of high school--had he been offered a scholarship.

But Tide fans hoping for some poetic justice by adding Applewhite to their staff should be cautious. Nothing is ever set in stone with graduate assistant positions, but at this point Joe Dan Rogers would *appear* to have the inside track for the vacant on-the-field position.


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