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New coaches could have quick impact

TUSCALOOSA _ The University of Alabama made two coaching moves official Wednesday afternoon, announcing the hiring of Doug Nussmeier as offensive coordinator, and Lance Thompson as linebackers coach.

Lance Thompson is back for a third time at Alabama, and a third stint on Nick Saban's staff.

As usual, terms of their contracts were not released, but the moves give Nick Saban a full staff to make a final push before National Signing Day on Feb. 1 and completing the Class of 2012.

Consequently, both could make an immediate impact.

Although he’s had experience with numerous kinds of offensive schemes, Nussmeier is thought to be very similar to his predecessor Jim McElwain, whom he was on the same staff with at Michigan State (2003-05). He also followed him as the offensive coordinator at Fresno State (2008).

While head coach Steve Sarkisian called the plays at Washington, where Nussmeier has been the offensive coordinator the past three years, he was involved in the game-planning and development of quarterback Jake Locker.

“It’s always a little bit difficult to tell what he brought to the table because Sarkasian dominated the play-calling, the quarterbacks, the offense as a whole,” Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times said. “When we needed to ask questions about those things he wasn’t the one we went to talk to.

“He did work real specifically with the quarterbacks. Probably the specific thing he got a lot of credit for was Jake Locker and refining his passing, his mechanics.”

Locker credited Nussmeier, who spent two years in the NFL as the St. Louis Rams’ quarterbacks coach (and Saban considers pro experience all but essential for his coordinator positions), with his improvement during pre-draft workouts that helped him be the No. 8 selection by the Tennessee Titans.

Despite having a first-year starter at quarterback this past season, sophomore Keith Price still set numerous school passing records including touchdown passes, completion percentage and passing efficiency.

Overall, the Huskies were ranked 25th in the nation in scoring offense (33.38), 35th in passing offense (255.54 yards), 38th in total offense (409.85), and 63rd in rushing offense (154.31). They were most effective in the red zone, scoring on 46 of 52 trips, of which just four were field goals.

“When Price got here he had a real over-the-top motion,” Condotta said, later adding about Nussimeier’s recruiting efforts: “He had the closing role on quarterbacks, and they’ve done a pretty good job of recruiting quarterbacks.”

A big part of Nussmeier’s pitch was about winning championships, which will obviously carry more weight at Alabama.

Meanwhile, Thompson’s addition helps ease the loss of linebackers coach Sal Sunseri, another of the Southeastern Conference’s primo pitchmen.

“From a recruiting standpoint, there aren't too many people you can replace a guy like Sal Sunseri with, Lance Thompson is one of them, though,” said J.C. Shurburtt, National College Football Recruiting Director for 247Sports. “He did exceptionally well on the Gulf Coast when he was previously at Alabama and as we all know that's a critical area, not only for Alabama, but for several other programs."

This will be Thompson’s third stint on a Saban staff, having been with him at both LSU (2002-03) and Alabama (2007-08), and was the Crimson Tide’s defensive line coach in 1999-2000.

He had a hand in landing some of Alabama’s key players on both the 2009 and 2011 national title teams.

"I think Thompson's is best remembered for helping Alabama establish itself in Mobile again with the 2008 group,” BamaOnline.com recruiting editor Tim Watts said. “Julio Jones, Mark Barron, Robert Lester were just three of the Mobile kids he signed that year. In fact, Alabama got the bulk of highly regarded kids from South Alabama that season. That was the first time that happened in a while. In previous years Mobile was tough territory for the former UA coaches that recruited it.

"Thompson ended up committing 10 players in the 2008 class which was considered the number-one class in the nation. Two of those players were 5-stars and six were 4-stars. For that he earned national recruiter of the year honors."

"He was off to a great start in 2009 before he left for Tennessee. Thompson was instrumental in Trent Richardson's recruitment. He laid the groundwork that eventually led Richardson to Tuscaloosa. Also among his commitments were Nico Johnson, A.J. McCarron and D.J. Fluker. All of whom were instrumental to the 2011 BSC Championship."

Ironically, Sunseri left for Tennessee to fill the void left by Justin Wilcox who took the defensive coordinator position at Washington.

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