There had been some rumors of potential coaching turnover on the Crimson Tide staff over the past month or two, but the first actual move was both sudden and unexpected.
After weeks of speculation surrounding Kirby Smart and the defensive coordinator position at Florida (going nowhere, by the way), it was Bama defensive line coach Bo Davis who quietly boarded a plane bound for Austin, Texas, Monday morning. Initial word was that it was for an "interview," but it quickly became apparent that any interview was nothing more than a formality. Though no official announcement has been made, most credible news sources are in agreement today that Davis has accepted a job as the Longhorns' new "Defensive Tackles Coach."
And yet, almost as suddenly as news of Davis' departure for Texas began to make the rounds, one name immediately sprang up as his replacement: Clemson defensive ends coach Chris Rumph. And now, reports are that Rumph has notified Clemson that he's coming to Tuscaloosa.
So, time to answer a few questions on the change:
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First, what exactly happened here?
This is just my opinion with nothing to support it except my understanding of how these things work, but this all happened a bit too quickly and bit too tidily to not have been pre-orchestrated by Nick Saban. It's actually a fairly common practice for a head coach who's not happy with the job an assistant has done, but also personally likes the assistant, to facilitate a move elsewhere instead of straight-up firing him. Saban did the same thing for Major Applewhite after the disasterous 2007 season. I mean, this is a lateral move for Davis at best (it could even be looked at as somewhat of a demotion considering he's going from being "defensive line" coach to "defensive tackles" coach), and I highly doubt he's getting a significant pay raise for it, as he was already well paid for his role at Alabama. And he has no real ties to Texas that I'm aware of. The move doesn't make a lot of sense for Davis.
On the other hand, Saban openly expressed his disappointment and frustration with the defense's lack of success in generating sacks and tackles for a loss in the lead up to the bowl game (as have I, all season long here), and that obviously starts with the defensive line. It was evident in his statements that the injuries to key players like Marcell Dareus were not an adequate excuse for the lack of production. The motivation was clearly there for Saban to make a move. The fact that Rumph was seemingly waiting in the wings the moment Davis to Texas was a done deal definitely leads creedance to the theory of intelligent design at play in this situation.
Next, what does this mean for Bama going forward? Is this an upgrade or a downgrade?
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I'll start by giving Davis his due. He's a solid recruiter, and he did a very nice job of molding some lesser talents into a solid DL unit in his first few seasons at Alabama. And, yes, he has to get credit for helping refine Dareus into the quarterback killdozer he is when healthy (though MD really stepped onto campus a full-grown man ready to play). However, if we're being honest, his 2010 DL unit was a bit of a mess, despite having more talent than nearly any other line in the nation. On paper, they were a strong unit (#9 rush defense), but when you actually watched the games, their play was maddening. Endless big plays were left on the field. Numerous tackles for a loss (#65 nationally) and sacks (#54) were missed due to poor tackling, and opposing offense were frequently bailed out with timely offsides penalties. To put it bluntly...In a season of disappointments, the defensive line was perhaps the biggest.
Conversely, Clemson's defensive line enjoyed an incredibly productive season under the guidance of Rumph (and defensive tackle coach Dan Brooks), highlighted by the emergence of stud DE Da'Quan Bowers, who lead the nation in sacks, finished #2 in tackles for a loss, and collected numerous awards and honors. As a unit, his line finished 5th in rushing TDs allowed, always a stat of great importance to Saban. Rumph also has a very strong reputation as a recruiter. In fact, the consensus #1 recruit in the nation, Jadeveon Clowney, has gone on the record saying his relationship with Rumph was the only reason he was going to take an official visit to Clemson.
Oh, by the way, his recruitment is currently seen as a two team race between South Carolina and...Alabama. Think this might help?
So, yeah, I think this looks like a very positive move right now.
Finally, is this the end or just the beginning of Bama's staff changes?
The beginning. I don't think we'll see too many more changes this offseason, but there will be at least one more. I really think offensive coordinator Jim McElwain will be on the move before too long. I think McElwain to Texas rumors have a lot of substance to them.