UCLA offensive coordinator Tom Cable became the third assistant to leave Coach Karl Dorrell's staff for the NFL in less than a month when he accepted a job to coach the Atlanta Falcons' offensive line Thursday.
Cable's departure, one-day after national letter of intent signing day, is a blow for the Bruins, who are coming off a 10-2 season and have already lost running backs coach Eric Bieniemy to Minnesota and tight ends coach Jon Embree to Kansas City.
It also came as a surprise to at least one of the seven offensive linemen who accepted scholarship offers from UCLA a day earlier.
"We didn't know anything about any NFL considerations at all," said Andy Keane, a two-way lineman from Palm Springs who said he learned about Cable's decision from another recruit, Sean Sheller. "It was a shock to us.... I don't know what to think about it yet. I guess it happens, and a better opportunity shows up.
"I'm sure we'd all like to be in the know. I'm not so mad about it, but I question why is he doing it the day after signing day."
Dorrell said the Bruins were not trying to hide things from incoming players.
"They were able to woo [Cable] right away and I think that it's a great opportunity for him," Dorrell said. "This is a huge year for the NFL with nine [coaching vacancies], which meant for a lot of movement.... And this was an opportunity Tom wanted.
"I'm not worried about [what people say about the timing of Cable's move]. That was the furthest thing from my mind in recruiting. Recruiting is recruiting."
If anything, Dorrell said he feels fortunate.
"When things happen, it's hard to deal with," Dorrell said. "I'm at least excited that when we did [learn of Cable's move], it happened in a period where it didn't affect our recruiting."
Since defeating Northwestern in the Sun Bowl on Dec. 30, the Bruins have had their leading rusher, Maurice Drew, opt for the NFL instead of returning for his senior season; fired defensive coordinator Larry Kerr, who had worked under Dorrell for three years; and lost top assistants Bieniemy, Embree and Cable to the pros.
"This happens in coaching quite a bit," Dorrell said. "When you are an assistant coach at the college level and you get a chance to move up, it's an exciting opportunity.
"I guess I'm starting to earn my stripes by putting out coaches that are NFL caliber."
Cable will replace Jeff Jagodzinski, who was named offensive coordinator for the Green Bay Packers last month.
At UCLA, Cable replaced Steve Axman in 2004 and has worked as offensive coordinator and line coach under Dorrell, making his presence felt.
In 2003, UCLA had one of the worst offenses in the Pacific 10 Conference, but under Cable, the Bruins ranked among the best in the country over the last two seasons.
"Coaching in the NFL has been a career dream," Cable said in a statement. "I am grateful to Karl for giving me the opportunity at UCLA. I have had a great time during my two years here. I know Karl will continue to have great success with the program.
"The Falcons called last night and it all happened very quickly. It's a great opportunity, but I will really miss being at UCLA."
Bieniemy said all the changes on the Bruin staff are part of the game.
"I know some people may try and look at this as a knock on the program, but I do not agree with that," he said in Minnesota on Thursday.
"Coaches are always looking to lift up their lifestyle and improve in what they do. For the NFL to want you, you have to be highly thought of in the first place. That's a good thing."
In another coaching move Thursday, Dorrell hired Chuck Bullough, who coached linebackers for the Chicago Bears from 1999 to 2003, to coach linebackers. Bullough, 37, coached linebackers at Western Michigan in 2005. The previous season, he served as linebackers coach and special teams coordinator for Lake Forest College.
With the start of spring drills on Feb. 23, Dorrell said he is not worried about having too many changes too fast. His first job is to find an offensive line coach and shore up UCLA's defensive staff, which will work under new coordinator DeWayne Walker, who was hired to replace Kerr last month.
\o7Staff writer Eric Sondheimer contributed to this report.