In assembling the defensive staff, new Head Coach Mike Price and Defensive Coordinator Joe Kines made the decision to split the linemen up. At certain times they share duties, but for individual drills Buddy Wyatt handles tackles while Paul Randolph coaches defensive ends.
Junior tackle Ahmad Childress likes the arrangement. "I think this year is a lot better," Childress said. "We've got a D-Line coach that's strictly for the defensive tackles, and we've got a D-End coach that's strictly for the defensive ends. There's less confusion.
"There's a lot of one-on-one teaching that helps our goal, which is getting the job done."
Randolph came to Alabama from West Virginia where he handled defensive linemen and special teams. "My official title here is Defensive Ends Coach," Randolph explained. "But to me it's coaching defensive line. You really still coach everyone. We learn the entire scheme, which gives us multiple sets of eyes out there."
The Tide's new defensive ends coach quickly made an impression on his players. "Coach Randolph can get pretty intense. Definitely," Bates said. "He looks like he's sacked a couple of quarterbacks in his time."
That's a good guess by Bates. Randolph was a two-time all-conference linebacker at Tennessee-Martin, before playing 10 seasons in the Canadian Football League. After graduating from Texas Christian, Wyatt also played professional football, bringing a high "been there and done that" quotient to his job.
"Instead of being in charge of 15 guys, I'll probably only have 10 or so this year," Wyatt said. "It changes a bit that way, but the technique doesn't change much. Getting your guys to execute and play hard is the key. That's all the same."
Wyatt was a standout defensive lineman in college and the pros, and his charges appreciate his practical experience. "Coach Wyatt knows what it takes to get there," Childress said. "He's going to teach you what you need to know, because he's been in the game."
Todd Bates agrees. "It's good to have a coach that's been there and done that," he said. "Coach Randolph has been through what we go through every day, day in and day out, from field to the classroom and from classroom to practice. Both coaches know what it's like, and they still expect the best out of us.
"It's good to have somebody that's already been there, that's pushed himself through college and made it to professional ball."
Different head coaches divide responsibilities different way. The previous staff had separate coaches for cornerbacks and safeties, while this year Chris Ball will handle Bama's entire secondary. During the DuBose years linebackers were split up between an inside and outside coach.
"There's a huge difference between playing inside (at defensive tackle) and outside," Childress said. "You've got to be physical at end, but you've got more leeway. On the inside you have to be physical--just go get it on every play.
"You've got to be a true man to play on the inside. It's the trenches in there. It's all about who's going to be a man and who's going to be a boy on the inside."
Wyatt talked about the toughness needed to play tackle. "You're going to be hit in the mouth on every snap. There's no room for finesse on the inside. The majority of the time there are going to be two guys coming at you. Mentally you have to be tough to be able to do it down after down after down."
While there is no definitive right or wrong way to divide things up, it's worth noting that Coach Bryant favored a separate assistant coach for tackles and ends.
Bates gave his opinion. "Last year we had all the tackles and ends together, and we were learning the same moves. We learned outside moves, but not enough of them, because we were also learning inside moves. You had to mix and match and take it and run with it.
"With two coaches, now we work on defensive end stuff 24/7 in all of our drills. We don't spend as much time on inside drills. We're working on our speed and a little bit of power. I think it's definitely better."
Next year's defensive line may or may not be better on the field, but one thing is certain. It'll be a well-coached unit. "I'm loving it right now," Childress said. "I don't have any complaints."