Alabama Football Takes a Hit with Loss Of Linebacker Coach Lance Thompson

Larry BurtonSenior Writer IJanuary 15, 2009

Today it was formerly announced that Lance Thompson, linebacker coach at Alabama, was leaving to take a job with Lane Kiffin at the University of Tennessee.  It was a surprise to the fans.  It was likewise a shock to the Alabama staff.

This is Thompson's second tour of duty with the Tide.  He was originally on staff here under Mike Dubose.  Following that first tour, Thompson spoke highly of Alabama even while coaching at rival LSU and even while in the pros with the Miami Dolphins.

It seemed that Thompson was not only loyal to the Tide, but to Saban as well.  Making a lateral move to Tennessee made no apparent sense other than the raise he's sure to get.

He's not getting a raise because he's a great linebacker coach.  Quite the contrary.  As a position coach, he is not known for being a good teacher, game day coach, or strategist.  He's actually quite mediocre at best.

So why would Kiffin, Tennessee's new coach, dangle whatever carrot he did to entice Thompson to leave?  It's because Kiffin apparently has a new hobby.  He collects coaches with extreme recruiting ability.

Kiffin's belief is that if he assembles his "dream team" of recruiting geniuses, he can win with talent alone and his lack of coaching ability will be overridden by great athletes.  He's got Daddy, Monte Kiffin, to bail him out on defense, and maybe raw talent can carry the offense.

The real question is why did Thompson leave?  Though, as said earlier, money has something to do with it, that can not be the answer.  I'm sure Mal Moore would have ponied up a few more dollars for him if he were asked.  Rumors from Knoxville say Lance may have doubled his salary.  I doubt that.

It can't be that Lance wanted to escape standing in Saban's shadow.  Sure Saban really runs the defense, but Monte Kiffin will rule the Vol defense with an iron fist and the shadow will be just as black for Thompson standing there.

In time, we will learn what carrot was dangled, but for now, Bama fans must pick up their jaws and move ahead.  The bright side was we didn't lose a good coach, just a great recruiter.

Thompson brought in many big names and was our man in Mobile, where the grounds have been especially ripe lately for great talent.  He is well liked by many present commits and by several future ones.

It will not hurt this year's class as all seem solidly in Alabama's corner.  But having Thompson take to Tennessee the whole recruiting board of present and future picks could cause Alabama some problems.

Let's see how Saban handles this one and who he brings in to take not just Thompson's place, but Steele's.  Kevin Steele's departure was neither a surprise or a loss of recruiting power.  Steele however, was a great position coach.

Most knew Steels's time at Bama would be short.  He left Florida State to come to Alabama for two reasons.  The first and most important was to be nearer his ailing father who lived just minutes from the campus.

The second was to spend a couple of years with Nick and soak up as much of that knowledge as possible and get that head coach on his resume.  Once his father passed away, it was only a matter of time before Steele left.

Unlike Steele, Thompson's intentions were never clear and his honor was tainted by his "sneak off" in leaving without clear reasons or notice.

Karma may follow Thompson with the Tide faithful, as it did when Dennis Franchione left almost as unceremoniously.