Nick Saban

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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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Signing Day Winner: Everett Withers, Ohio State

Head coaches may get the glory at the press conferences, but its the assistant coaches whose year-round grind that builds the relationships that ultimately make National Signing Day either a success or failure. Today, we’re recognizing some assistants whose hard work paid off with huge Signing Day hauls.-CoachScoop (Note: These profiles are focused on assistants who had particular success on National Signing Day. We’ll release our ranking of the naton’s top recruiters later this week.)

Everett Withers helped Ohio State land five-star safety Vonn Bell on Signing Day. (Photo:  Allison Russell / Daily Tar Heel)

Everett Withers helped Ohio State land five-star safety Vonn Bell on Signing Day. (Photo: Allison Russell / Daily Tar Heel)

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]hio State pulled off one of the biggest Signing Day coups when the Buckeyes landed five-star safety Vonn Bell of Ridgeland High in Rossville, Ga.

Bell (6-1, 190), who chose the OSU over Tennessee and Alabama, is a “statement” recruit for Urban Meyer and staff. He’s a highly-coveted prospect from the heart of SEC country and a lifelong Tennessee fan. (Rossville is a suburb of Chattanooga, Tenn.) He’s the kind of recruit that Nick Saban has made a living – and won three out of the last four National Championships – by landing.

Ace recruiter Everett Winters is the biggest reason that Bell is a Buckeye.

“Start to finish, what Everett Withers did with a guy like Vonn Bell, that’s a good of a recruiting effort I’ve ever seen,” Meyer said.

“I used to call it the octopus technique. Just tentacles around every person, everything involved in this kid’s life. And that’s what Everett Withers did.”

Ridgeland High head coach Mark Mariakis told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that in his 28 years as a high school coach, Withers was the “most proficient and professional recruiter we’ve ever dealt with.”

Withers also served as lead recruiter for another top Georgia recruit – four-star linebacker Trey Johnson (6-1, 222) of Central Gwinnett High in Lawrenceville. He originally committed to Auburn last summer, but was stung when former Tiger defensive coordinator Ted Roof resigned.

Johnson finally de-committed in November two days after Gene Chizik was fired. Nervous from the coaching merry go round, Withers and Ohio State were there offering stability, and it stuck.

A North Carolina native and former assistant and interim head coach for the Tar Heels, Withers went into that state to land four-star defensive end Tyquan Lewis (6-4, 227) of Tarboro.

But it was his Signing Day snagging of Bell that put the cherry on top of Ohio State’s recruiting class.

Withers helped Ohio State land’s No. 2 recruiting class, one spot behind Alabama, and helped deliver the message that Ohio State can challenge for any prospect anywhere in the process.

[colored_box color="grey"]Talk about it in The Inside Scoop.[/colored_box]

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Alabama's jaw-dropping new weight room

Alabama's new weight room.

Alabama’s new weight room. Photo courtesy @mtinney43

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]s if Nick Saban needed any more recruiting advantages, Alabama has just completed construction on a new weight room and it is, to say the least, impressive.

The photo above, which was tweeted by Crimson Tide walk-on linebacker Matt Tinney, has caused quite a stir around the internet.

Funding for the project was just approved in August and construction was fast-tracked to be completed in January – just in time for Signing Day.

The new two-story facility is 34,495-square foot and cost $9.1 million.

“When people come to Alabama, they expect to see the best,” Saban said in June. “We should always strive to have the best. As long as we have the resources and we can provide the best for our student-athletes, that’s what we should do in all sports.”

The new facility replaces Alabama’s current, 22,000 square-foot weight room, which is less than 10 years old. For comparison sake, a photo of the old weight room is below.

(Photo: Alabama Athletics)

(Photo: Alabama Athletics)

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Report: James Willis will be defensive coordinator at Louisiana-Lafayette

James Willis will be named defensive coordinator at Louisiana-Lafayette. (Photo: Zach Long/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

James Willis will be named DC at Louisiana-Lafayette. (Photo: Zach Long/Lubbock Avalanche-Journal)

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ormer Texas Tech defensive coordinator James Willis will be hired at the same position for Louisiana-Lafayette, according to media reports.

Willis, who replaces Greg Stewart at ULL, was defensive coordinator on Tommy Tuberville’s Texas Tech staff during the 2011 season. However, he resigned before the Red Raider’s bowl game following a domestic violence incident.

Willis has served as defensive coordinator for the UFL’s Virginia Destroyers since his resignation at Texas Tech.

Ragin’ Cajun head coach Mark Hudspeth announced last week that Stewart would not return for the 2013 season. In a release, Hudspeth gave no reason for Stewart’s departure, but thanked him for his contributions that led to the team’s 18 wins and two New Orleans Bowl titles over the past two years.

Stewart, who had been at ULL since Hudspeth was hired in 2011, said in a prepared statement, “I have decided to go a different direction (professionally), and I am looking forward to the future opportunities for both me and my family.”

A standout linebacker at Auburn, Willis was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the fifth round of the 1993 NFL Draft. During an eight-year professional career, Willis also played Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, and the Birmingham Thunderbolts of the now defunct XFL.

When his professional playing career ended, Willis returned to Auburn to complete his degree and served as a student assistant in 2001-02. He became a defensive graduate assistant in 2003 under then-defensive coordinator Gene Chizik.

Willis was hired as linebackers coach at Rhode Island in 2004 and moved to Temple in the same capacity in 2005.

Willis returned to his alma mater when Tommy Tuberville hired him as linebackers coach in 2006. He remained at Auburn until Tuberville resigned in 2008, and Chizik, who was named the Tigers’ head coach, released all of Tuberville’s former staff.

Chizik changed his mind two weeks later, however, and re-hired Willis on December 26, 2008. Hard feelings from his initial release remained, though, and Willis caused a stir among Auburn fans when he left to join Nick Saban’s staff at arch-rival Alabama just a month later.

During his time at Auburn, Willis became known for his recruiting prowess, and was particularly successful recruiting the talent-rich Mobile, Ala. area. It was bad enough that a former Tiger legend was moving to their cross-state rival, but the fact that it happened just two weeks for 2009’s National Signing Day made it an even harder for Auburn fans to swallow.

Willis coached at Alabama for two seasons, including the 2010 BCS National Championship team, before being named Tuberville’s defensive coordinator at Texas Tech.

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Vandy's Franklin calls Saban to apologize

Franklin: Saban "good" with the situation after apology. (Photo: Dave Martin/AP)

Franklin: Nick Saban is “good” with the situation after apology. (Photo: Dave Martin/AP)

Vanderbilt coach James Franklin says that he called Nick Saban on Wednesday to apologize for the ‘Nicky Satan’ reference he made at a football banquet in Macon, Ga. Tuesday evening.

Franklin told The Tennessean that Saban was “good” with the situation.

“We spoke briefly,” Franklin said. “He said, ‘Coach, I have a lot of respect for what you guys are doing up there at Vanderbilt.’ I said, ‘Coach, I’ve got tremendous respect for what you’re doing.’ And that was it. Got off the phone and that was it.”

Franklin said that he made the comment as a joke, and that he has tremendous respect for the four-time National Champion coach.

“(I was) really talking about the work ethic that he has a reputation for, and that we’re going to outwork them,” Franklin said. “I made a joke. And in today’s society with all the media and social media and people with tape recorders and things like that, that doesn’t come off that way. I know people have tremendous pride in Alabama and their fans are fanatical, so I understand.

“But it was a joke, and I didn’t mean to offend anybody.”

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Video: Franklin takes jab at "Nicky Satan"

Franklin: "“There’s this guy at Alabama, I think his name is Nicky Satan..." (Photo: Vanderbilt Athletics)

Franklin: ““There’s this guy at Alabama, I think his name is Nicky Satan…” (Photo: Vanderbilt Athletics)

[dropcap]N[/dropcap]o one will ever question Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin’s audacity.

Since taking over the Commodores in December 2010, Franklin has never been one to pull punches. It’s worked, for the most part, elevating the program’s visibility and recruiting, and his team’s’ level of play.

So it’s not a total shock that Franklin would take a jab at the king of the college football world, Alabama’s Nick Saban.

Speaking at the football banquet for Central High in Macon, Ga., Franklin referred to Saban as “Nicky Satan.” (Nigel Bowen, a four-star linebacker that is committed to play for the Commodores next fall, attends Macon Central.)

“There’s this guy at Alabama, I think his name is Nicky Satan. You guys have probably heard of him before,” Franklin told the crowd. “I’m gonna outwork him, I’m gonna outwork him. And that’s kind of our plan every single day.”

WMAZ-TV in Macon posted video of Franklin’s comment on their website and, not surprisingly, it created quite a buzz across social media.

You can view the clip below, and you won’t have to wait long to hear Franklin’s dig.

Fortunately for Franklin, Alabama isn’t on the Commodore’s schedule next season, so for now, Saban will have to settle for extracting his revenge on the recruiting trail.

Vanderbilt’s current No. 20 class ranking by has to be considering a smashing success for the long-time SEC cellar dweller, but Bama’s class is currently No. 3 and poised to potentially move up with a few open slots left.

Saban’s probably not losing a lot of sleep over the comments, but with the story now going viral, you have to wonder if Franklin is a little bit concerned that “Nicky” will decide take a long look at the Vanderbilt commit list during this last week before Signing Day.

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