James Willis heading to Lubbock, who replaces him?

The worst kept secret around has finally been made official, as James Willis has accepted the defensive coordinator at Texas Tech. From Gentry Estes:

Not that this news is much of a surprise by this point, but multiple sources have confirmed this afternoon that Alabama inside linebackers coach James Willis has indeed accepted the defensive coordinator job on Tommy Tuberville's staff at Texas Tech.

An official announcement could be made later this evening. The move has been expected since earlier this week.

We certainly hate to see Willis go, but on the other hand this sort of thing can be good for a program. Rising assistants like to join programs with track records of helping assistants move up the coaching ladder, and moves like this by Willis show just that. If nothing else, situations like this make it easier to recruit rising assistant coaches to join your staff in the coming years.

One way or the other, though, best of luck to him in Lubbock, and a sincere thanks for all that he has done for us in the past year as both a position coach and a recruiter. Job well done on both counts, and he is certainly deserving of a promotion. Besides, with him being a lifelong Auburn man, he gave up a lot to come here, so I'm glad to see it paying off.

The real issue for 'Bama now becomes who will be hired to replace Willis. The early money is going in the direction of Jeremy Pruitt, a man we hired in an off-field position out of Hoover a couple of years ago, but as Gentry Estes points out on Twitter, anything can happen with Saban:

Some on UA's staff want to promote Jeremy Pruitt, but that was also the case last year. Very difficult to predict Saban's hiring plans.

And per the original link, apparently Lance Thompson may be a possibility as well:

A source says former Alabama assistant Lance Thompson -- a linebackers coach who recruited Mobile for the Crimson Tide before leaving the program this time last year for Tennessee -- would also have an interest in returning to Tuscaloosa if he is not retained by the next head coach in Knoxville.

Of course, though, that is not to say that Saban would be interested in bringing him back. Bridges have been burned there, but in all fairness that does not necessarily eliminate Thompson from consideration (at least I would not imagine), and in his defense Thompson's ability to recruit southern Alabama, specifically the Mobile area, is a highly valuable asset.

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