Though the additions of Doug Nussmeier and Lance Thompson to the UA coaching staff have been expected for several days now, I've held off commenting at-length until the news was officially announced by the university, but that time has now come. Per the Tuscaloosa News:
"We are excited to have Doug as our new offensive coordinator at Alabama," Saban said. "Not only does he have a good deal of experience as a coach and a player both at the college and NFL level, but he also brings a great passion for the game and a lot of energy and enthusiasm. At Washington, they were very productive on offense, especially with their quarterbacks."
Added Nussmeier: "I'm looking forward to jumping right in with recruiting and then getting to know the players and everyone involved with the program. Coach Saban and his staff have obviously done a tremendous job here and I want to do my part to help continue that success. I've heard a lot about Alabama football in terms of the history, the tradition, the great fans, and I can already see why this is such a special place.
On the whole Nussmeier possesses the credentials that would be expected for someone to be tabbed with this kind of responsibility by someone like Nick Saban and in general his resume includes a diverse background. He was a small school quarterback who parlayed his time at Idaho into five seasons in the NFL, and upon the end of his playing career he broke into coaching in the CFL before ultimately spending time as the quarterbacks coach at Michigan State, Fresno State, and with the St. Louis Rams.
Coincidentally enough, he was tabbed as Jim McElwain's successor at offensive coordinator at Fresno State when McElwain came to Alabama, and it was after some success in Fresno that Steve Sarkisian handed him the reigns to the offense at Washington. In three years there, he helped build up the bottom-barrel program, helped mold Jake Locker, and this past season he helped produce effectively what Saban hopes to build upon in Tuscaloosa: a balanced attack powered by good quarterback play and a strong running game.
Is this the proverbial home run hire? It's not the massive big-name hire, admittedly, but by all accounts it is the addition of what appears to be a rising star in the coaching ranks, and adding someone like this with a few years of experience under his belt as a coordinator in a BCS conference is a major plus. Additionally, given his relative youth and energy Nussmeier should be an asset on the recruiting trails, even if he has no significant ties to the southeast and its fertile recruiting grounds. His background with quarterbacks could also be a key to the continued development of AJ McCarron and others.
To be clear this is largely a continuity hire, someone with experience who can come in and essentially work within the confines of the current system. The hiring of Nussmeier isn't intended to reinvent the wheel, it's to further hone and implement what has been so successful in Tuscaloosa in recent years. Some things will necessarily differ in the years ahead due to personnel changes and the progression of the game as a whole, but Bear Bryant's coach-in-crisis-conversion to the wishbone this is not.
The initial impression is that this seems to be a solid hire and it can be reasonably expected that Nussmeier should do relatively well in Tuscaloosa, but the caveat remains that he has big shoes to fill and he's jumping into the proverbial pressure cooker in terms of a competitive environment. He'll have more raw talent than he ever has before, but he will quickly find that defense is actually played in the SEC, and added emphasis will have to be placed on pass protection and running the football between the tackles, which is to say nothing of the scrutiny that will be placed on every single decision he makes. The pragmatic take is that, while there are clearly no guarantees, there is good reason to believe that Nussmeier can succeed, but until we take the field next September we'll just have to hope that Nussmeier can replicate the successes of Jim McElwain.
Meanwhile, former UA assistant Lance Thompson will be returning to the Alabama coaching staff in what will be his third tour of duty in Tuscaloosa. The quote from Nick Saban, per the above-referenced source:
"We are pleased and happy to have Lance join our staff," said Saban. "He has worked for us previously and has always done an outstanding job with all of the aspects that go into being an assistant coach. Lance knows our system on defense well, and he does a great job of communicating that information to the players. On a personal level, he relates well with the players and is a very good recruiter."
The return of Thompson is sure to raise some ire given the timing, handling, and ultimate destination of his departure for Lane Kiffin Tennessee three years ago, but Nick Saban has made it clear with this move that he does not consider this a burned bridge, and on short notice most Alabama followers will likely forget the dirty details of his second stint in Tuscaloosa. That previous lack of loyalty would likely be a consideration if Thompson tries to parlay his third stint at UA into a promotion at 'Bama under Saban, but it's far from a given that he would get such a promotion in any event so that's likely a very minor consideration at best.
In real terms, as I mentioned on Twitter a few days back, Thompson may in fact be a shameless whore in the coaching community, but even so Alabama needed to bring in a high energy coach with the recruiting prowess necessary to offset the loss of Sal Sunseri, and Thompson fits that bill perfectly. He knows the territory well, he can be a major asset on the recruiting trails (in fact, he is having an in-home visit with Jameis Winston in Hueytown tonight), and his previous position as outside linebackers coach at UA will allow him to seamlessly transition into the vacancy created by Sunseri's departure without any further changes necessary on the staff.
And if Thompson is a bit of an unloyal whore? So be it. Again, 'Bama is not trying to build some grand moral majority, it's trying to continue its winning ways and to maintain its successes of the past four years both on the field and on the recruiting trails, and for all of the legitimate criticisms that can be made of Thompson he should be an asset that helps further both causes.