Posted by Jerry Hinnen
After Alabama followed up their national championship season with a disappointing -- by preseason No. 1 standards, anyway -- 10-3 campaign, it's no surprise that the Crimson Tide underwent some mild turnover on their coaching staff. Defensive line coach Bo Davis was hired away by Texas for the same position without what seemed like much resistance or counter-offering from Nick Saban and the Tide. And offensive line coach Joe Pendry retired, to be replaced -- immediately -- by former Miami assistant Jeff Stoutland.
If Davis and Pendry were fully committed to staying in Tuscaloosa, they probably still would be. But after the Tide arguably underachieved this season along both lines of scrimmage, and given how prepared he appeared to be for their departures, it's also doubtful Saban lost too much sleep over those changes.
But there's now fewer than two weeks remaining before Signing Day, and if losing two coaches might be useful to keep the staff fresh and motivated, replacing a third of your assistants in one offseason probably qualifies as a headache. And it's now a headache Saban will have to deal with as Tide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Curt Cignetti has taken the head coaching job at Division II Indiana University of Pennsylvania.
Unlike Davis and Pendry, Cignetti's motivations are perfectly transparent; IUP is the same school where his father Frank Cignetti coached for 19 seasons. But also unlike Davis's and Pendry's departures, Cignetti's decision leaves Saban scrambling (well, for a given definition of "scramble") to have the position filled before Signing Day. And though few coaches would say no to drawing a Crimson Tide salary and coaching Tide-grade talent, the lateness of the vacancy means the pool of candidates might be somewhat shallower than it would be otherwise.
Even those concerns would usually be trifling ones for Saban's well-oiled machine, but that machine is showgin some minor wear-and-tear on the recruiting trail for what might be the first time in Saban's Capstone tenure. Blue-chip in-state linebacker-slash-running back recruit Brent Calloway recently flipped his commitment from the Tide to Auburn. Major wide receiver recruit Malcolm Mitchell chose home-state Georgia over the Tide last night, despite speculation he had been an Alabama lean. And there are indications the Tide may be unable to pull the nation's consensus No. 1 recruit, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, away from hometown South Carolina.
Arguably no program in the country is better-equipped to withstand those kinds of setbacks, or whatever other setbacks might arise as a result of Cignetti's exit. The Tide will be fine. But when the expectations are nothing less than annual contention for a national title, even minor stumbles can prove to be major developments.