Nick Saban

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The Rumor Mill :: College Football Coaching News and Rumors – Monday, Oct. 21

Sources indicate that even if the NFL comes calling, expect Charlie Strong to stay put in college.

Sources indicate that even if the NFL comes calling, expect Charlie Strong to stay put in college.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sunday that Louisville’s Charlie Strong and Stanford’s David Shaw have been tabbed by the NFL’s recently formed advisory panel to help to identify potential minority coaching candidates.

According to Schefter, the league “will be an upset if Strong is not a leading candidate for various NFL head coaching openings this winter.”

Not so fast.

Sources close to Strong indicate he’s inclined to stay in college — no matter what the NFL’s advisory panel suggests.

The 53-year old Strong is in his fourth season at Louisville and signed an eight-year extension worth $3.7 million per year in late January. The Cardinals are 31-15 during Strong’s tenure, including a 6-1 mark this season.

At Florida, sources in Gainesville indicate Will Muschamp is currenly not in danger of losing his job, regardless of how the Gators finish. Of course, things change quickly in college football. We do expect a staff shakeup on the offensive side.

Speaking of Florida, this was the week Ron Zook was fired in year three. Zook’s record was 20-13 overall and 14-7 in the SEC. Muschamp’s record is 22-11 overall and 13-8 in the SEC. Let that simmer for a minute…

Despite three wins in a row including a Red River Rivalry triumph over arch-rival Oklahoma, we’re told Mack Brown is still not out of the woods at Texas. An 8-4 record might not be enough, perhaps even 9-3 if that loss is a blowout to Baylor.

If the Longhorns do make a change, look for Nick Saban to get the first call. Jimbo Fisher, Art Briles and Charlie Strong are also likely to make the initial list of candidates.

Keep an eye on West Virginia, Virginia, Oklahoma State and Mississippi State. They could all open.

Eastern Michigan and UNLV are in serious jeopardy.

At USC, we’re told to keep an eye on coaches with an NFL background. Also, don’t rule out Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin.

Photo credit: Keith Srakocic, AP

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Don James passes away

Legendary former University of Washington head coach Don James has passed away.

Former Washington head coach Don James passed away Sunday.In a press release, the school announced that James, who spent 18 seasons as the Huskies head coach (1975-1992), died Sunday morning. James had been undergoing treatment for pancreatic cancer.

He was 81 years old.

“My family and I are extremely saddened to hear of Coach James’ passing,” current UW head coach Steve Sarkisian said in a statement. “His accomplishments as a football coach stand alone, but what made him truly special is the quality of man he was away from the game.

“The guidance and leadership he instilled into this program and community are still felt today, and will continue to be felt here for a long, long time.”

Born in Massillon, Ohio, James played college ball at Miami (Fla.). He was head coach at Kent State from 1971-74, leading the Golden Flashes to their only MAC championship and bowl game in 1972.

At Washington, he guided the Huskies to six conference titles and the 1991 national championship. James, a 1997 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, finished with a record of 153-58-2 at UW.

James’ influence goes beyond the immense impact he made at Washington. His coaching tree includes the likes of Dom Capers, Jim Mora, Sr. and Jr., Nick Saban, and Gary Pinkel, among others.

Saban played defensive back at Kent State from 1972-74 and has often given James credit for James sparking his interest in becoming a coach.

Photo credit: Bruce Kellman, Tacoma News Tribune

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Mike Groh leaving Bama for the NFL; FSU's Napier to the Tide

Mike Groh is leaving Nick Saban's staff for the Chicago Bears. (Photo: Matthew Emmons/USA Today)

Mike Groh (right) is headed to the Chicago Bears. (Photo: Matthew Emmons/USA Today)

[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.

Billy Napier (Photo: Bart Boatwright/Greenville News)

Billy Napier (Photo: Bart Boatwright/Greenville News)

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.

 

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Alabama hires Cristobal as OL coach

Mario Cristobal will be Alabama's new offensive line coach. (Photo: US Presswire)

Mario Cristobal will be Alabama’s new offensive line coach. (Photo: US Presswire)

[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.

 

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Add one name, remove another from Bama's offensive line target list

Former FIU head coach Mario Cristobal will interview for the offensive line job at Alabama today. (Photo: Ongo.com)

Former FIU head coach Mario Cristobal will interview for the offensive line job at Alabama today. (Photo: Ongo.com)

[dropcap]S[/dropcap]cratch one name from the list of potential offensive line candidates at Alabama and add another.

Nick Saban had a strong interest in South Carolina running game coordinator and offensive line coach Shawn Elliott, but Elliott has informed Steve Spurrier that he will remain with the Gamecocks.

“It was a great honor to be considered for a coaching position at the University of Alabama, but I feel it’s in the best interest of me and my family to remain at South Carolina,” Elliott told Andrew Gribble of al.com. “We’ve had a lot of success here over the past three years and I’m committed to being part of that continued success for many years. I’m proud to be a Gamecock.”

You can add the name of former Florida International head coach and current Miami tight ends coach Mario Cristobal to the list of candidates. Cristobal arrived in Tuscaloosa on Thursday and will interview with Saban today.

Cristobal, who inherited an incredibly difficult situation and a frustrating administration at FIU, was fired on Dec. 5 after six seasons as head coach.

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 would accept a position on Saban’s staff if offered.

Central Florida offensive line coach and Alabama native Brent Key interviewed for the position earlier this week and may be the leading candidate.

Former Alabama offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland, who left last month to join Chip Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles’ staff, made $395,000 last year.

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Two names emerge as candidates for Alabama offensive line job

Sources tell us that UCF's Brent Key is a candidate to replace Jeff Stoutland at Alabama. (Photo: Joshua C. Cruey/Orlando Sentinel)

Sources tell us that UCF’s Brent Key is a candidate to replace Jeff Stoutland at Alabama. (Photo: Joshua C. Cruey/Orlando Sentinel)

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]e talked about Pat Hill’s possible return to the college game in an article this morning, but there are at least two more names to watch out for to replace Jeff Stoutland as Alabama’s offensive line coach.

A source tells us that Nick Saban likes South Carolina’s Shawn Elliott and Central Florida’s Brent Key as potential candidates.

Elliott has been part of Steve Spurrier’s staff since 2010, beginning as offensive line coach and later adding the running game coordinator title. He is considered a potential successor to Spurrier as the Gamecocks’ head coach, but spending time under Saban is considered a pretty clear path to a head coaching job in its own right.

A four-year letterman at Appalachian State, Elliott reportedly turned down an opportunity to replace Jerry Moore as the Mountaineers’ head coach in December. Elliott makes $300,000 per year at Carolina, and Appalachian State was not going to be able to pay him enough to lure him away.

Following his playing career, Elliott began coaching at Appalachian State in 1997. He spent two years as a defensive assistant then two years as tight ends coach before taking over as offensive line coach in 2001. Over the next nine seasons, Elliott coached 12 All-Americans and three-consecutive SoCon Jacobs Blocking Trophy recipients.

A 2012 Broyles Award nominee, Key has spent the past eight seasons at UCF, the past four as offensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. Before the 2012 season, he was promoted to assistant head coach. Key was previously the Knights’ tight ends coach and special teams coordinator.

Key is a native of Trussville, Ala. and was a four-year starter at Georgia Tech under UCF head coach George O’Leary. He began his coaching career at Georgia Tech in 2001 as the offensive graduate assistant, and later coached tight ends and running backs at Western Carolina (2004) before being  reunited with O’Leary at Central Florida in 2005.

Saban reached out to newly-hired Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman, but Pittman chose to remain with the Razorbacks.

Other names mentioned with the job are former UAB head coach Neil Callaway and current Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend. Both Callaway and Friend played at Alabama and Saban’s staff is currently without a Bama alum, but sources indicate Calloway and Friend are not leading candidates at this point.

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Alabama or USC: Could Pat Hill be returning to the college game?

Pat Hill could be in line to return college coaching as offensive line coach at Alabama or USC. (Photo: Bryan Cole/The Collegian-Fresno State)

Pat Hill could be in line to return college coaching as offensive line coach at Alabama or USC. (Photo: Bryan Cole/The Collegian-Fresno State)

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]ould Pat Hill be returning to the college game?

It looks like a strong possibility.

Hill, the former Fresno State head coach, was fired in December 2011 after 15 seasons with the Bulldogs. He spent last season as the Atlanta Falcons’ offensive line coach.

The Falcons offensive line performed well and Hill admits he had fun coaching in the professional ranks, but sources indicate that he is itching to be a college head coach again and his best route may be a return through college.

Enter Nick Saban and Alabama, who just so happens to have a coaching history with Hill and is in need an offensive line coach following Jeff Stoutland’s departure to the Philadelphia Eagles.

Hill has tremendous respect for Saban, dating back to the early 90s when they both coached under Bill Belicheck on the Cleveland Browns’ staff. Saban and Hill were in Cleveland together from 1992-94 with Saban as defensive coordinator and Hill the offensive line and tight ends coach.

Just after Stoutland left for Philadelphia, Saban reached out to Arkansas offensive line coach Sam Pittman but was rebuffed. Sources indicate that he’s also spoken to Hill and that a deal could be currently in the works.

If nothing happens with Alabama, USC may also be a possibility. Speculation is rampant that USC is in the market for an offensive line coach, with current Trojan offensive line coach James Cregg being reassigned to tight ends coach or let go entirely.

Lane Kiffin recently tried to hire Oregon State offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh but was turned down.

Like Saban, Kiffin also has a history with Hill. Kiffin served as a GA on Hill’s staff at Fresno State in 1997-98, and hosted Hill during his first spring practice as the Trojans’ coach in 2010.

Hill recently told the Fresno Bee that he enjoyed his season in Atlanta and away from the limelight.

“I had a lot of fun, and I didn’t have to talk to the media once,” he said with a laugh.

“I’ll be here for another season, for sure.”

That was before the Alabama or USC job openings were known. Could a job the caliber of Alabama or USC be enough to change his mind?

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