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Insider

Lance headed back to Bama

1/16/2012

Credit Nick Saban for being a true professional.

Alabama's head coach could have still been understandably miffed with Lance Thompson for leaving the Crimson Tide in 2009 for Tennessee. It wasn't thought to be a nice parting.

Instead, when Saban needed to fill a vacancy, he saw Thompson for what he is -- one of the best recruiters in the southeast and a versatile coach. So he hired him back this weekend.

Thompson is especially good in Alabama and Georgia, which are key areas for the Crimson Tide. Those areas alone, however, don't define Thompson

When the Vols needed him most, Thompson was the go-to guy. He took over the recruitment of several top prospects when former defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox and linebacker coach Peter Sirmon departed for Washington earlier this month. That was hardly a surprise considering he had often picked up the pieces during the most tumultuous time in Tennessee football history.

When Lane Kiffin left for Southern California, who volunteered to manage the recruiting transition? Thompson.

Thompson also proved he has a keen eye for talent. John Propst is a good example. The sophomore linebacker at Tennessee had little interest from BCS schools but Thompson saw something different and at his behest Tennessee offered him a scholarship. Now, Propst is a solid player with a bright future.

Thompson, however, shouldn't be cast solely as a recruiter. He had productive years working with two units at Tennessee. He was the Vols' linebackers coach in 2010 and its defensive line coach last season.

Clearly, Thompson is a solid hire for Alabama, which begs the question: Why didn't he get more consideration to be the Vols' next defensive coordinator?

One possibility is that the Vols needed to make a public relations splash after there was so much turmoil in Knoxville with coaches departing since the end of a 5-7 season in 2011. Perhaps Sal Sunseri, who was hired from Alabama last week, makes fans a little more optimistic.

Yet the underlying question is who is the better coach: Sunseri or Thompson. Both have experience as defensive coordinators at smaller schools but have spent most of their careers as position coaches. Both would cherish the opportunity to coordinate an SEC defense.

One day, Thompson may get the opportunity in Tuscaloosa. Until then, one thing is certain based on his resume.

He'll be a productive position coach and standout recruiter. Tennessee might well miss that.