Alabama junior safety Vinnie Sunseri has decided to skip his final collegiate season and enter May’s NFL Draft.
As we mentioned first on Tuesday, Alabama’s Nick Saban had a backup plan when Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier bolted for Michigan, and now he’s made it official.
Saban has hired former USC head coach Lane Kiffin to replace Nussmeier, according to an ESPN report.
Last month, Saban made headlines when he brought Kiffin in to share ideas with the Tide offensive staff.
“Lane is a really good offensive coach, and I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for him,” Saban said at the time. “Just to come in and brainstorm a little bit to get some professional ideas with our guys is a really positive thing.”
ESPN reports that Kiffin agreed to a 3-year deal, and the contract is being completed.
Kiffin, who was fired as coach at USC in September after a 62-41 loss at Arizona State, was 28-15 record in three-plus seasons with the Trojans. He went 7-6 in his only season at Tennessee and 5-15 in two seasons with the Oakland Raiders.
Prior to becoming the Raiders’ coach, Kifffin spent six seasons as an assistant at USC, the last two as the Trojans’ offensive coordinator.
Photo: Danny Moloshok, AP
Alabama has suspended linebacker Xzavier Dickson and running back Alvin Kamara for the Sugar Bowl game against Oklahoma.
No reason was given for the suspensions.
Dickson, the Tide’s alternate “jack” linebacker, has appeared in 10 games this season with 2.0 tackles for a loss.
Kamara, a true freshman, has not seen this year and was expected to redshirt. He was sidelined for multiple weeks near the end of preseason camp after undergoing a knee scope.
Kamara was not with the team during practice leading up to the Tide’s game against LSU game on Nov. 9 for “behavioral reasons,” but Nick Saban said at that time he was optimistic that Kamara would return and could see action this season.
Things don’t look as good now, and the Tuscaloosa News’ Cecil Hurt said Thursday that Kamara may not be back with the Tide.
The Norcross, Ga. native was a four-star prospect and the nation’s No. 2 running back recruit according to Rivals. He chose the Tide over Georgia following a heated recruiting battle.
Friday evening Nick Saban agreed to a long-term extension and raise at Alabama.
The timing of the two events led to speculation that Saban’s decision had something to do with the decision to keep Brown in place, but Saban says that becoming coach of the Longhorns is something he “never considered.”
“The way this sort of got spun, it was a little bit more like, ‘OK, he got a new contract at Alabama, so he’s going to stay at Alabama instead of going to Texas,'” Saban told ESPN.com’s Chris Low on Saturday. “I never considered going to Texas. That wasn’t even a conversation.
“I knew that if Mack stepped down, there would probably be an opportunity, but it wasn’t something I was interested in doing, not at this stage in my career.”
Details of the new deal have not yet been released, but the contract is expected to pay Saban upwards of $7 million per season.
According to Saban, his agent Jimmy Sexton has been working on the extension with Alabama “all the way back into the season,” and the timing of the deal being completed just after the end of the regular season made for a sticky situation.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Mack Brown,” he said. “Mack Brown is the coach at Texas. He deserves the right, based on his body of work, to be able to leave the program the way he wants to leave the program. It wasn’t fair to him or to me to be speculating about this job, which I haven’t talked to anybody there about.
“Really, the whole thing from my perspective stunk, but there wasn’t a hell of a lot I could do about it.”
Saban hopes this will be the last time he has to deal with speculation of him considering other jobs.
“Maybe this will be what the Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay thing was to the NFL the last couple of years. That kind of ended the pro speculation,” Saban said.
“Maybe this will end the college speculation. This is where I’m going to finish my coaching career.”
Photo: Vasha Hunt, AL.com
It looks like the rumors of the end of Mack Brown’s era as Texas coach were greatly exaggerated.
Brown’s Friday evening meeting with school president Bill Powers and athletic director Steve Patterson came and went and, according to all reports, Brown will coach the Longhorns in 2014.
The news came roughly an hour after Alabama officials announced that Nick Saban has agreed to terms for a long-term extension.
Regardless, even if Brown’s status changes in coming days or weeks, it looks like Texas’ top choice as his replacement is off the board.
This probably isn’t the end to the Texas soap opera, but it looks like the status quo will hold … at least for now.
[dropcap]A[/dropcap]labama wide receivers coach Mike Groh is leaving for a job on the Chicago Bears’ staff and will be replaced by FSU tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Billy Napier.
The turn of events is ironic for Florida State, as Groh is being hired for the same position that FSU assistant Lawrence Dawsey turned down earlier this week.
Groh had one of the biggest recruiting hauls of the 2013 class and was named Recruiter of the Year by Rivals.com and 247Sports.com.
Napier just joined Jimbo Fisher’s staff in January. He was assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach under former Bama offensive coordinator at Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain last season. He was an offensive quality control assistant under McElwain at Alabama in 2011.
Before that, Napier spent five seasons at Clemson. Originally hired as tight ends coach in 2006, he added the recruiting coordinator title in 2007 and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2009. He held that role for two seasons.
Napier, who is considered an excellent recruiter in his own right, was set to make $275,000 at Florida State.
Groh was part of Nick Saban’s staff the past two seasons, and it was his second stint in Tuscaloosa. He was an offensive graduate assistant at Alabama in 2009.
He coached quarterbacks at Louisville in 2010, and spent eight years at Virginia (2001-08), his alma mater.
[dropcap]N[/dropcap]ick Saban and Alabama will hire Miami assistant Mario Cristobal as its new offensive line coach.
Cristobal is in Tuscaloosa finalizing the deal, according to Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com.
Cristobal spent six seasons as Florida International’s head coach, inheriting an incredibly difficult situation and a frustrating administration. After leading the Panthers to two bowl games, he turned down an opportunity to replace Greg Schiano at Rutgers last January, only to be fired following a 3-9 season in 2012.
On Jan. 10, Cristobal was named associate head coach and tight ends coach on Al Golden’s staff at Miami. However, a source tells us that Cristobal was not excited about returning to his alma mater and was likely to accept a position on Saban’s staff if offered.
Cristobal was a four-year letterman at Miami Hurricanes from 1989-92. He was a member of the Hurricanes 1989 and 1991 national championship teams and was an all-conference offensive tackle in 1992. Cristobal spent a year with the Denver Broncos and two years in NFL Europe before moving into coaching.
Cristobal returned to Miami as a graduate assistant from 1998-2000 before being hired by Sciano as Rutgers’ tight ends and offensive line coach. He coached at Rutgers from 2001-2003, and then went back to Miami in the same capacity from 2004-06.
Alabama is looking to replace Jeff Stoutland, who left the program to become the offensive line coach with the Philadelphia Eagles. Stoutland spent two seasons with the Crimson Tide and collected a $395,000 salary.
On Friday, South Carolina’s Shawn Elliott pulled his name out of the running. UCF’s Brent Key also interviewed for the position.