Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Three years ago, Alabama hired Sal Sunseri to replace linebackers coach Lance Thompson, hired away by Tennessee. So now that Sunseri has also been hired away by the Vols, as Derek Dooley's new defensive coordinator, who has Nick Saban tabbed to replace him? Why, he's hired Lance Thompson, of course.
That's according to multiple reports Sunday, which cited sources in claiming Thompson will return to the same Crimson Tide linebackers-coaching position he left in 2008 when Lane Kiffin lured him Tuscaloosa. Thompson coached the Vols' linebackers for two years before moving to defensive line duties this season.
Thompson becomes the sixth Tennessee assistant to depart the Volunteer program this off-season. Receivers coach Charlie Baggett retired; previous defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebackers coach Peter Sirmon left to join Steve Sarkisian at Washington; offensive line coach Harry Hiestand left to take the same position at Notre Dame; and special teams coach Eric Russell joined Mike Leach at Washington State.
With the hires of Sunseri at DC, former Vol star Jay Graham at running backs coach, and North Carolina's Sam Pittman as the new offensive line coach, Dooley is doing his best to stop the bleeding. But Thompson's departure will leave a substantial mark nonetheless, especially this close to Signing Day; he's long been recognized as one of the SEC's best recruiters, a major factor in his having been hired by Saban in the first place, by Kiffin in 2008, and -- no doubt -- now by Saban a second time. (That the Crimson Tide head coach is willing to bring Thompson aboard a second time despite his earlier decision to hitch his wagon to Kiffin -- whose antics in Knoxville Saban is widely believed to have loathed -- speaks to how highly Saban thinks of his coaching and recruiting acumen.)
There's little doubt that hiring an up-and-comer like Sunseri away from his archrivals was something of a coup for Dooley, and a major positive for his under-fire Knoxville tenure. But every step forward for Dooley and the Vols seems like it's matched by one backwards these days, and it's no real surprise that one that came at the expense of Saban and Alabama was so quickly returned in kind.
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