The Kiffin effect: What new offensive coordinator will mean to Alabama
by Marq Burnett
mburnett@annistonstar.com
Jan 11, 2014 | 3151 views |  0 comments | 21 21 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Nick Saban, left, and Lane Kiffin after Saban's Alabama team beat Kiffin's Tennessee squad in 2009. (Associated Press)
Nick Saban, left, and Lane Kiffin after Saban's Alabama team beat Kiffin's Tennessee squad in 2009. (Associated Press)
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TUSCALOOSA -- When looking for ways to judge Alabama’s hiring of Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, throw out much of his work as a head coach.

His exploits and win-loss record as a head coach won’t matter much at Alabama. Kiffin won’t have to be the face of the program or the CEO of the business. The Crimson Tide already has one of those in Nick Saban, and he is paid about $7 million a year to handle his job.

Kiffin, 38, won’t be required to talk to reporters on a regular basis, which sometimes landed him in trouble when he was a head coach. In fact, Doug Nussmeier, Kiffin’s predecessor, was allowed by the school to address reporters four times in two years.

So don’t expect Kiffin to be giving quotes after games. Nick Saban’s “one voice” mantra won’t allow it. Kiffin won’t speak to reporters until August and after that, he won’t speak again until the bowl game.

In the university’s official release announcing the hiring, Kiffin said he feels “humbled and honored to be a part of the Crimson Tide family.” Having been fired from two of his three previous jobs, humbled is definitely the right word to use.

After some initial resistance on social media from fans, the Kiffin hire seems to be garnering support. According to an AL.com poll with 12,184 votes, close to 75 percent are OK with the Lane Kiffin hire.

But the players who have spoken out have been mostly positive through social media.

“Excited already to see what this next year has in store!” Tide right tackle Austin Shepherd said in Twitter post.

Alabama backup quarterback Blake Sims, who Kiffin recruited while at Tennessee, said, “Want to welcome coach lane to the Tide. Will do very well for us this up (year).”

Coordinator/play-caller

In 2004, Kiffin served as USC’s passing game coordinator. That season, Matt Leinart won the Heisman Trophy, passing for 3,322 yards and 33 touchdowns.

But it was the next year, when Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian were named co-offensive coordinators to replace Norm Chow, when the Trojans’ offense took off.

The Trojans field the top offense in the country in 2005, averaging 49 points a game.

In 2005, USC became the first program to have a 3,000-yard passer (Matt Leinart), two 1,000-yard rushers (LenDale White and Heisman winner Reggie Bush) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Dwayne Jarrett).

Leinart threw for 3,815 yards, Bush rushed for 1,740, while Steve Smith and Dwayne Jarrett combined for 2,000 receiving yards.

As for the co-offensive coordinator arrangement, Kiffin called the plays from the press box with Sarkisian on the field as the quarterbacks coach. The two worked in unison, as head coach Pete Carroll having the final say in any disagreement.

In Kiffin’s only season at Tennessee, he improved the Vols’ offense by 34 spots in the national statistics in rushing, 61 in passing and 55 in total offense from the previous season.

Also, no team put up more yards against Alabama’s 2009 championship defense than Tennessee (339).

But since the 2005 season, no Kiffin-led offense has ranked in the top 20 statistically in college football. That includes the 2006 season at USC and 2009-2013 as the head coach at Tennessee and USC.

The recruiter

In the past five seasons, Kiffin hauled in a top 10 recruiting class four times, according to 247Sports, with the other class ranked in the top 15 (2013). During that same stretch, he has landed 11 five-star prospects, per 247Sports rankings.

The first class of this run came in 2009, his first at Tennessee. Kiffin wasn’t introduced as the coach until December 2008, making his first class a “half class,” but he still managed to pull in the No. 7 class nationally, according to 247Sports.

At USC, Kiffin battled scholarship restrictions and still brought in highly rated classes and top prospects from across the country.

JC Shurburtt, national recruiting director for 247Sports, called Kiffin an “upgrade” from Nussmeier from a recruiting standpoint. While Nussmeier is a good coordinator and play caller, Shurburtt said Kiffin is one of the best recruiters in the country with his ability to pull kids from and makes the Tide’s staff that much more dangerous.

With the 2014 National Signing Day fewer than four weeks away, Kiffin’s impact likely won’t be felt until the 2015 cycle.

At Alabama

Kiffin will have only four major responsibilities: manage the offense, call plays, recruit and develop a quarterback.

Kiffin should provide some creativity to the offense, but ultimately will call plays within the confines of Saban’s system. He has a track record as a successful recruiter and with Alabama’s resources, he should ease into that aspect of the position.

With three-year starting quarterback AJ McCarron gone, identifying and nurturing the Tide’s next starter is paramount.

Going back to his stint at Tennessee, his biggest improvement on the program was that of senior quarterback Jonathan Crompton. Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney developed Crompton into a fifth-round NFL draft pick after he struggled his junior year. In his other situations at the college level, Kiffin inherited a starter from the previous regime.

While there are multiple options at Alabama, no quarterback on the roster has much experience.

In a university news release, Saban said Kiffin “does an excellent job as a teacher.” If Alabama hopes to contend for another national championship in 2014, Kiffin’s best teaching job will be needed for the next quarterback.
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