Assistant coaches, notebook

As Crimson Tide fans wait for word on Alabama's next head coach, several questions regarding current and former assistant coaches remain unanswered.

Can Torbush be persuaded to stay?

Carl Torbush has made plain that he'd like to be Alabama's next head coach. Having built the SEC's top defense in 2002 (third ranked in the nation), Torbush once again proved he's one of the best D-Coordinators in the nation. But at this point it appears likely the search is headed in another direction, which raises a worrisome question.

Despite the obvious benefits, it will not be easy to keep Carl Torbush in Tuscaloosa.

Can Torbush be somehow persuaded to stay on as defensive coordinator?

Torbush obviously realizes the talent Bama returns next season on defense--and as an honorable man, the players mean a lot to him. There is no question that all things being equal, he'd like to finish the job he's begun. But the realities of a coaching change would frankly require a delicate balancing act to get him back next season.

Torbush has a standing offer from Texas A&M, which may or may not interest him. He was treated well by Franchione, essentially allowed complete latitude to develop and coach the Tide defense. But character-wise, Torbush is not Franchione. So it'll be interesting to see how vigorously he pursues other opportunities. And of course it's possible that Alabama's new head coach could have a strong defensive coordinator already on staff.

Plus, don't forget that despite a bitter experience at North Carolina, Torbush would like another chance at being head coach. There are reports that he is a top candidate for the head coaching job at East Carolina.

Poetic justice?

Interestingly, it now appears Ken Rucker will lose his job at College Station. Bama fans will remember Rucker's brief tenure as running backs coach on Franchione's staff in 2001. He left just before National Signing Day, taking the same job at A&M. Derek Farmer, a blue-chip running back out of Texas and a key Tide recruit at the time ended up signing with the Aggies--despite not really having been recruited by them previous to Rucker's departure.

Media reports yesterday had Lee Fobbs joining Franchione at A&M, bumping Rucker from his job.

Unethical conduct?

Lee Fobbs

Speaking of Fobbs, there has been no denial of a story published by the Inside the Auburn Tigers website that Fobbs talked about Texas A&M to Opelika recruit Tez Doolittle on the Thursday that Franchione left. At the time Fobbs was acting as a representative of Alabama, and if true, the action would at least constitute an ethical violation. However, since Doolittle was never headed to Alabama in the first place, no real harm was done.

And to clear up another story along those lines, further checking with Alabama recruit LeRon McClain has exonerated former Coach Chris Thurmond from similar allegations.

What about Les?

Many assumed Les Koenning would automatically leave Bama for Texas A&M, but several factors weren't considered. Koenning played quarterback and receiver for the University of Texas. Koenning coached previously at A&M for the '95 and '96 seasons in charge of wide receivers but was fired. And while Koenning did come from TCU with Franchione, he only served one season on the Horned Frog staff. Before assuming the job of Offensive Coordinator at Alabama, Koenning had spent as much time in Tuscaloosa (1984 as a graduate assistant) as he had working with Franchione.

Les Koenning

With Franchione's love of the spotlight, Koenning frankly never got as much credit for the Tide's offensive performance as he may have deserved. For the second season in a row, Bama was improved on offense, finishing 2002 averaging 406 yards per game--good enough for first in the SEC.

Former quarterback Andrew Zow said yesterday in an interview that with better coaching the 1999 SEC championship team could have been undefeated and national champs. At the least Koenning deserves great credit for the job he did with Zow, Tyler Watts and Brodie Croyle.

For now, Koenning remains at Alabama handling much of the day-to-day administrative responsibilities involved with the team.

The players' coach

When fans and players speak of continuity, as much as anyone else they're talking about Ben Pollard.

Ben Pollard at the Night of Champions.

As Head Strength and Conditioning Coach the last two season, Pollard has presided over significant progress for the Tide squad. However, beyond the obvious gains in poundage, Pollard is an enthusiastic motivator that the players respond to very well.

Despite claiming Texas as home and serving on Franchione's TCU staff, Pollard would clearly prefer to stay at Alabama. Like Torbush, he is devoted to the players and wants to see the job through. His wife, Leslie, has family in the state and the Pollard children are very happy.

While a new coach almost always dictates who will serve on his coaching staff, there is not a hard and fast rule regarding the strength and conditioning position. At A&M Mike Clark holds the title of Assistant Athletic Director as well as the S&C responsibilities. Word is that the Aggies would "find a place" for Pollard on their staff, but it's not likely he would enjoy the same authority he does now with the players.

Again, Coach Moore will not dictate to the new coach on matters of staff. But Pollard should have a very good chance of being kept on, especially considering the job he's done with the squad.

Whence "The Bull"?

Last Friday the word from the Alabama football complex was that all former staff members were on the job and still working.

All but one.

Charley North, Alabama's former Director of Football Operations, apparently cleaned out his office first. Playing the role (and playing it well) of Franchione's hatchet man, North has been essentially joined at the hip with the the vagabond coach for several years now.

Certainly it was no surprise that North would pack the first cardboard box.

Graduate Assistants left hanging

Rick LaFavers

The status of Bama's graduate assistants remains unclear. Two will obviously want to stay. Paul Hogan (Offensive Video GA) and Woodrow Lowe (Offensive GA) have deep-rooted ties to the Capstone, making them likely carryovers with the new staff.

On the other hand, Rick LaFavers (Defensive GA) and David Bobo (Defensive Video Graduate Assistant) have strong ties to the present A&M coach. LaFavers served Franchione in the same position for two years at TCU, while Bobo played for the Horned Frogs and Bama's previous staff.

Having served as on-the-field Graduate Assistant for two years at Alabama, LaFavers would have been forced to move this year anyway. As yet there is no word on whether their former boss will find room for LaFavers and Bobo in College Station.

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