Alabama Crimson Tide offensive line coach Jeff Stoutland is heading north to join the Philadelphia Eagles, and now the search begins for a replacement. This could actually be the best time for it, with the Tide replacing Chance Warmack, D.J. Fluker and Barrett Jones and breaking in new talent like 2013 signees Leon Brown and Grant Hill. The new players will be adjusting to Nick Saban’s system already, so learning the blocking scheme of a new coach will be part of that.
Names will begin to float in the coming days, from both the college ranks and the NFL. Alabama has the resources, talent level and the facilities to compete with any program – college or pro – in the country for coaching talent, so Nick Saban will be able to pick from among the best.
Who has the resume to take on the task of teaching these guys to block for AJ McCarron and the thunderous Alabama backfield? Here are a few suggestions:
The Stanford offensive line coach has been on the job with the Cardinal for two years, having spent four seasons with the New York Jets. Bloomgren’s offensive line protected quarterback Andrew Luck as he threw for a school-record 37 touchdowns with a 70 percent completion rate.
Bloomgren has Alabama ties, earning his master’s at the Capstone. While at Alabama he worked as a graduate assistant for former coaches Mike Dubose and Dennis Franchione, and helped the Tide on their run to the 1999 SEC Championship.
The offensive line coach for the defending NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers ran one of the league’s best lines in 2012. Legendary announcer John Madden named the Niners’ line as his 2012 Most Valuable Protectors, and head coach John Harbaugh singled the line out for praise.
“That’s been a phenomenal group for us,” said Harbaugh, “and I’d call them offensive weapons as well.”
Drevno also has ties to Stanford, having worked under Harbaugh there. Over his final two years, the Cardinal allowed just 13 sacks and ranking 2nd in the nation.
Hill was hired last season to coach offensive line for the Atlanta Falcons, having spent 15 seasons as head coach of Fresno State. During that time the Bulldogs went 112-80, and had the highest win total of any non-BCS school.
Hill, like Saban, is a member of the Bill Belichick coaching tree, having coached tight ends and offensive line for the Cleveland Browns, as well as working in the personnel department evaluating players.
Under Hill’s guidance, the Falcon’s offensive line improved dramatically in their pass protection of quarterback Matt Ryan, allowing him time to find former Crimson Tide wide receiver Julio Jones for 12 touchdowns on the season.
A desire to keep things in the family could put Joe Pendry back on the sidelines. Pendry retired in 2011 after 17 years in the game, spending four years as the offensive coordinator for the Crimson Tide before being replaced by the departing Stoutland.
With an outstanding knowledge of the game, Pendry’s o-lines blocked for Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, and were consistently among the top offensive lines in the college game. His players at Alabama earned All-American honors and have been known for their toughness and preparation.
Pendry would be a solid fit due to his experience with the Tide, but having retired once, he likely would be a short-term coach. Still, his experience and ability to work within Nick Saban’s system could be invaluable.