After losing linebackers coach Joe Barry and firing two more coaches on the defensive side of the ball – defensive backs coach Greg Burns and defensive line coach Jethro Franklin – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lost an offensive coach on Friday when tight ends coach and special teams assistant Ron Middleton accepted a coaching position at the University of Alabama.
Middleton, a native of Atmore, Ala., has been hired by new Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, according to an Associated Press report, although his duties have not yet been revealed. The University of Alabama's Web site is also announcing the hiring of Middleton.
Middleton has been on Jon Gruden's staff for the past three seasons and has overseen the development of Alex Smith, a third-year tight end with the potential to become one of the NFL's best tight ends. Middleton has also been instrumental in helping special teams coachs Rich Bisaccia. The two previously coached together at the University of Mississippi before coming to Tampa Bay several years ago.
The Buccaneers have filled two coaching vacancies this offseason by hiring former Tampa Bay assistant defensive backs coach Raheem Morris away from his defensive coordinator post at Kansas State to become the team's secondary coach, and by promoting defensive quality control coach Casey "Gus" Bradley to the role of linebackers coach to replace Barry. However, Tampa Bay still has openings at defensive line and now tight end with the departure of Middleton, who was under contract with the Buccaneers and was allowed to leave.
Quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett is no longer under contract with the team and has been a candidate to become the offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers, according to Wisconsin newspaper reports. The Bucs would like to have Hackett return for another year, but the veteran coach has the desire to become an offensive coordinator elsewhere.
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