Sports Outside the Beltway

Alabama’s Slow Coach Search Costing Recruits, Assistants

Alabama athletic director Mal Moore’s dilly-dallying in finding a replacement for fired head coach Mike Shula is starting to have tangible negative consequences for the program: Lost recruits and assistant coaches.

Paul Gattis reports that the Tide has lost its first of perhaps many recruiting prospects.

Alabama has lost its first recruiting commitment since firing Mike Shula last month and that could be just the start of a negative impact on recruiting. As the Crimson Tide’s search for a new football coach closes in on three weeks, receiver Jermaine McKenzie of Bradenton, Fla., committed Wednesday to Miami. He had previously been committed to Alabama.


That’s not an unusual fallout of a coaching change. With the coaching staff they planned to play for is let go, prospects typically give other schools a look.

Ironically, Miami has also undergone a coaching change. Larry Coker was fired last month but the Hurricanes promoted defensive coordinator Randy Shannon to the top job.

And with Alabama one of only three BCS schools searching for a coach, there may be others follow in McKenzie’s footsteps toward another program. “There is speculation about several other kids,” said Jeremy Crabtree, the national recruiting analyst for Everybody is wondering about the quarterback commitment (Tampa’s Robert Marve) and if he’s going to stick around.” Indeed, Marve sounded this week as if he could be looking for another place to play.

McKenzie is rated the 13th-best receiver in the country by and Marve broke Tim Tebow’s state passing records for yards and touchdowns. Marve told The Miami Herald in Thursday’s editions that he planned to take an official visit with McKenzie to Miami next month. “Miami is a great school and they do good every year. I’m looking forward to it,” Marve said. “Location is a big thing for me.”

Alabama currently has 14 commitments. Teams can bring in as many as 25 players when practice begins in August but are not limited to how many they sign in February. Those 14 commitments were ranked highly by experts, giving the Tide a strong start to the recruiting season. Among those 14 are linebacker Rolando McClain of Decatur and defensive tackle Alfred McCullough of Athens. Both are four-star prospects and have said they remain committed to Alabama.

“Marve is pretty darn impressive,” Crabtree said. “(Alabama is) doing well on the offensive and defensive line. They had some good skill players committed. Now we have to wait and see what happens.” But some of the damage is irreversible, Crabtree said. He said that prospects average taking just three official visits to campuses before signing day.

If Alabama waits until after the college bowl and NFL season ends, the new coach will have only five weekends to bring recruits to campus. “Whoever does come in will have to work fast and work hard and put in a lot of hours to put a (recruiting) game plan in place,” Crabtree said.

Meanwhile, the Mobile Press-Register notes that the team has lost a quality assistant coach who didn’t want to wait around to see if he still has a job.

University of Alabama defensive line coach Buddy Wyatt has taken the same job at the University of Nebraska, Cornhuskers coach Bill Callahan announced Thursday. Wyatt will depart immediately and will assist the Nebraska staff in the Cotton Bowl against Auburn on Jan. 1.

It’s about time for Moore to do something. It’s bad enough he screwed up the last several hires and gave Shula a huge, costly extension a year before firing him. The path ahead of him is clear: There are half a dozen high caliber coaches out there who would be happy to take the Bama job, especially given the salary that is likely to come with it.

So: Pick one, already.

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