Saban and Begging

From Cecil Hurt:

If you’ve listened closely during Saban’s tenure, you know this is the truth.  During Saban’s early years at Bama, the team struggled to maintain intensity, especially on offense for entire games.  During the last couple of years, there’s been a struggle to keep the gas pedal down to keep up with certain teams.

The Jim McElwain offensive era sparkled primarily because the team won three national championships.  Don’t forget the 9-6 loss to LSU in 2011 came on his watch.  Last year’s team, in particular, seemed to under perform based on the offensive talent that it had.  That’s why, in my humble opinion, why last year’s offensive coordinator isn’t this year’s offensive coordinator.

This year, it appears, many of the problems have been solved with the addition of Lane Kiffin.  Many think he earned the job during bowl practice last season when he diagnosed several of the offense’s problems.  Then the Tide went out and stunk it up in New Orleans.  Then there was a spot to fill on the staff, and he filled it.

For the most part, I’m sold on Kiffin as a coordinator.  The offensive success so far – especially against Florida, leads one to believe that the guy can coach.  I don’t care who you are playing, when you can rack up points and yards as the team has done this year, that’s definitely a good sign.  When you can use the vast talent on the team in a plethora of ways, that’s definitely a good sign.  And when you can take what the defense gives you and beat them over the head with it, that’s a good sign.

There are more tests to come, though.  The season is only a third over and bigger, more important games to come.  There are still challenges.  But for now, Saban has what he’s wanted: an offensive coordinator that will open it up.



Enter Lane

There are several different story lines that will follow Alabama football throughout the 2014 season.  Hopefully, we’ll take a look at those as the off-season turns into the pre-season.

Two of the most talked about and most anticipated, though, are replacing AJ McCarron and replacing Doug Nussmeier.  McCarron’s replacement hasn’t quited been decided yet, but Nussmeier’s has:  Lane Kiffin.

The questions surrounding Kiffin abound.  How will he co-exist with Nick Saban?  How will he fit into the staff?  Is he a jerk?  Can he keep his mouth shut?  How long will he last?

Those are all good questions and we’ll hear them a bunch.

The consensus from outsiders is that he is petulant, protected and has lived his life with a golden spoon in his mouth.  Some of that may be true, but I don’t buy the whole story.  Kiffin may have been given the benefit of the doubt at certain times – perhaps because of his father, but he’s still been the head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Volunteers and USC Trojans.  Whatever his role, he also played a significant role on Pete Carroll’s dynasty at Southern Cal.

Like his personality or not, that adds up to significant experience and when you have a chance to add a coach with a resume like Kiffin’s to you staff, you have to take a look.  Saban did and apparently he like what he saw.

As noted here, I think Saban brought Kiffin on board for three reasons:

1) I agree with Rick above. Recruiting is king.

2) I think Saban was looking for a more aggressive play caller than Nuss. Part of that, IMO, is being able to maintain execution of a game plan when Saban is scalding you during a game. Many believe Kiffin has the personality to handle that. We will see, I guess.

3) Nuss took some heat last year for under utilizing a couple of talented players (e.g. Henry and OJ Howard). I’m sure Saban expects better use of a talented roster.

Yes, we had a rebuilding offensive line last year, but, overall, the offense under performed, especially during key stretches.  In my opinion, that’s ultimately why Nuss is at Michigan this year.   I believe Saban wanted to add some swagger and aggressiveness to an already talented offensive team and he thinks Kiffin can get this done.

I hope he’s right.

I’m sure we’ll be talking about this quite a few more times as the season nears.

Kiffin Visits the Tide

This right here is rich:

Former USC coach Lane Kiffin is visiting Alabama this week to evaluate the Crimson Tide’s offense, a source told ESPN on Monday.

Kiffin is a guest of Alabama coach Nick Saban, the source said, and will be in Tuscaloosa “to share ideas and exchange ideas and [for] professional development,” the source said.

At first glance, this doesn’t make a lot sense and is good for a chuckle.  If there’s a pariah in college football, his name starts with Lane and ends with Kiffin.

On the other hand, though, this makes a lot of sense.  (And, no, I don’t think Kiffin is about to join the Tide staff.)  This is all about rehab and if you want a fresh start and a boost to your career, spending some time around Nick Saban and Alabama is about the best thing you can do.

Will it work?  I dunno.  But there are for sure worse things Kiffin could do than spending some time in Tuscaloosa talking football.

USC’s Ex-Coach

By now you’ve heard that Lane Kiffin is now Southern Cal’s ex-coach.  ESPN has a write-up here.

Apparently during the third quarter of the Trojans’ game with Arizona State, athletics director Pat Haden decided he had seen enough:

According to the Los Angeles Daily News, Haden met with advisers Saturday during a 28-0 Arizona State run in the third quarter, and that’s when it was decided to dismiss Kiffin.

Ouch.  If Haden wasn’t such a class guy he would have probably fired him on the field between quarters (or drives).

Stepping Over the Line

It’s always fashionable for the college football world to bash Nick Saban for “roster management” and all that falls within that concept, namely oversigning, greyshirting, medical redshirts and pulling scholarships.

I generally defend these practices, especially when coach Saban is mentioned, by saying a couple of things: 1) these things aren’t necessarily illegal, immoral or unethical; 2) we don’t usually know all of the story.

Regarding #1, most of the complaints seem to come from one particular side of the political spectrum and I’ll leave it at that.

Regarding #2, most of us never know the details of coach and player (prospect or current) conversations.  My belief is that if a coach is caught lying to his players, word gets out and that will eventually hurt recruiting.  In the case of Nick Saban, that would even more so seem to be the case.  I call that the free market of college football.

There must be a reason players are flocking to Alabama to play for Saban.  The type of player being recruited by Alabama could play anywhere in the country and would certainly flee if what Saban was selling didn’t turn out as he said.

Which brings us to one Lane Kiffin who seems to be having a run-in with the free market:

Fitts spoke to several of Kiffin’s assistants at the Under Armour All-America game, and across the board all were excited to have the player with the rest of the team as soon as possible. That was on January 5. Two days later, and thus three days before Fitts’ life was supposed to change forever as he entered college, he received a phone call saying his scholarship was no longer available for the spring semester.

That’s right.  Ole Laner got caught a scholarship short and had to renege on his word with a highly touted recruit.  What did the recruit do?  He’s going somewhere else:

Fitts will not be heading to Los Angeles in the fall. Instead, the young man is looking for an entirely new place to play. His coach told the Riverside Press-Enterprise that Notre Dame, Washington and UCLA were all back in the mix for the player’s services.

(Actually, if Fitts goes to UCLA he will be in Los Angeles.)

When we start to routinely hear stories about coach Saban, then we can start worrying.  My guess, though, is that we won’t.