If I were Mal Moore…
Justin Schuver, Sports Editor
Sorry, Mal. Looks like you were jilted at the altar. But keep your head up, buddy. There’s still plenty of great coaching candidates out there who would love to have the chance to coach the Crimson Tide. Alabama is still a premier program and with the right coach it can experience a rebirth similar to Bob Stoops at Oklahoma, Pete Carroll at USC and Charlie Weis at Notre Dame.
Here then, in no particular order, are the five coaches who I think should be at the top of Alabama athletic director Mal Moore’s list.
1. Paul Johnson – Navy head coach
Okay, I lied. This list is in a particular order because I think Johnson should be the very first name on Moore’s list. The man has taken a Navy team to a bowl the past three years and will make it a fourth straight year this season. In games against other service academies, Johnson is an astounding 9-1 including five straight over rival Army. (I would think Alabama might like a coach who can win rivalry games.) Navy was 1-20 in its previous two seasons before hiring Johnson. He is familiar with the south, after winning two Division I-AA championships at Georgia Southern.
The only caveat about Johnson is people who say that his option-based offense is gimmicky and would not work against BCS caliber teams. But look at several of the best teams recently — West Virginia and previous candidate Rich Rodriguez use a spread option attack and Urban Meyer’s Florida team also uses some option schemes in its offense. Imagine what SEC-caliber athletes could do in Johnson’s offensive scheme. It would be a risk to go after Johnson, but when you’re an A.D. who doesn’t take risks, you end up with coaches like Mike Shula.
Plus, the last Paul to coach in Tuscaloosa ended up doing pretty well, I think.
2. Chris Petersen – Boise State head coach
Petersen’s Broncos are currently undefeated and became only the second non-BCS conference school to crash the BCS Championship Series party. He utilizes a potent offensive attack that features a premier running back in Ian Johnson and a talented passing game led by senior quarterback and future NFL draft pick Jared Zabransky. Only Hawaii has a better offense than Boise State’s 39.4 points per game average and the defense isn’t shabby either, giving up just 15.6 points per game. Earlier this season, Petersen’s Broncos defeated Oregon State 42-14. Yes, the same Oregon State team that beat USC.
There are a few question marks about Petersen, however. Boise State’s WAC competition doesn’t even remotely compare to the talent of SEC teams. There is also the question of just how much of Boise State’s success this year can be attributed to Petersen, and how much of it is the work of former coach Dan Hawkins, who is currently finishing his first season at Colorado.
3. Jim Leavitt – South Florida head coach
Leavitt was originally approached to fill the opening left behind after DennisFranchione and turned down the offer from Alabama. It’s not terribly likely that Alabama will go after him again, but if they did they’d have a coach who has taken a program with no history (Literally. South Florida’s football program didn’t even exist until 1997.) and has turned it into a nice competitive team. This season, the Bulls gave West Virginia its first loss of the year and last season they did the same thing to Louisville’s undefeated dreams. Leavitt has said he wants to remain at USF, but money talks…
4. DeWayne Walker – UCLA defensive coordinator
Who is this guy? Only the best defensive coordinator that nobody’s ever heard of. In the Pac-10, a conference where defense almost seems like an afterthought, it has only taken Walker one season to turn UCLA from one of the worst defensive teams in the nation to one of the best. The Bruins’ defensive turnaround was made perfectly clear in UCLA’s 13-9 nationally-televised win over No. 2 USC. I would be excited to see what a guy like Walker could do with the SEC-caliber defensive athletes on Alabama’s roster.
5. Steve Kragthorpe – Tulsa head coach
If Alabama wants to really think outside the box and try to find the next “Urban Meyer,” then Steve Kragthorpe is probably the guy. Kragthorpe turned around a team that had won just two games total in the two seasons before he was hired, taking Tulsa to a bowl three of the last four years. Hiring an up-and-coming coach can be a risky move, however, because it’s difficult to tell how he will adjust in a move to a bigger conference.
6. Dennis Franchione – Texas A&M head coach