What happens when you add one of the most successful offensive coaches of the last decade to the most dominant program in the last decade?
We'll find out next year at Alabama.
After falling short of winning their third straight national title, Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide made the biggest assistant coaching hire of the offseason by signing former USC head coach Lane Kiffin.
Kiffin had his share of detractors while leading the Trojans, but as he'll show in Tuscaloosa this year, he's still one of college football's best offensive minds. Kiffin to 'Bama looks to be a near-perfect match.
Also, the former Tennessee Volunteers and Oakland Raiders head coach spent some time as an offensive consultant for the Tide before their Sugar Bowl date. As he told Sports Illustrated's Thayer Evans and Pete Thamel, the trip had him drooling from start to finish:
In early January, before he got hired at Alabama, Kiffin went into detail with SI.com about what he learned from being ensconced in Saban's world. When asked what impressed him, Kiffin asked, "How long you got?"
Alabama is as close as it comes to a professional program at the collegiate level. Meanwhile, Kiffin is one of a few college coaches with NFL head coaching experience. He's also known for having a strict demeanor, which should fit perfectly with what he calls an "absolute machine" of a program in Tuscaloosa:
Kiffin said the Crimson Tide had an NFL vibe. "It's an absolute machine from when you step into that building until you walk out at the end of the night," he said. "Everything from recruiting to offense to defense. Everyone in there is just working."
Now, it's Kiffin's job to make his own tweaks to that machine.
The 'Bama offense was relatively pedestrian last year, finishing sixth in the SEC with an average of 454.1 total yards per game.
While that eclipses what USC's offense did last year, it doesn't match what Kiffin's offenses did while he was offensive coordinator in Troy.
The change of titles should fit Kiffin well. Now he can do what he does best and focus on the offense rather than trying to juggle the many roles of a head coach.
Kiffin first became USC's offensive coordinator in 2005, and he saw instant success, guiding the Trojans to become one of the best offenses in college football history. USC amassed a silly 579.8 yards per game, which sits as the No. 8 offense in the NCAA record book.
|2005-06 USC Offense|
|QB Matt Leinart||3,815 (pass)||28 (pass)|
|RB Reggie Bush||1,740 (rush)||16 (rush)|
|RB LenDale White||1,302 (rush)||24 (rush)|
|WR Dwayne Jarrett||1,274 (rec)||16 (rec)|
|WR Steve Smith||957 (rec)||5 (rec)|
|Totals:||579.8 YPG||49.1 PPG|
As recent seasons have shown, Kiffin's Tide offense won't even have to come close to that kind of production for the team to add to its national title collection.
However, even though 'Bama won't need to be at that level of elite output, Kiffin will have the talent across the board to do so.
Alabama's roster is laden with 5-star talent, which will provide Kiffin with the tools to succeed. Outside of the impending quarterback battle, one of the biggest questions for 'Bama is what it will do with its crowd of running backs—specifically star junior T.J. Yeldon and budding sophomore Derrick Henry.
With that said, Tide fans can look at Kiffin's background with delight. In 2005, Reggie Bush tallied 1,740 yards on the ground, while his backup, LenDale White, amassed 1,302. The two combined for 40 rushing scores.
Even if Yeldon and Henry don't produce the jaw-dropping numbers that Bush and White did, they'll surely do enough to complement Alabama's always suffocating defense.
That 2005 USC defense finished just No. 48 nationally, yielding 360.9 yards per game. And although it succumbed to Texas' Vince Young in the end, it was still enough to earn a national title berth.
Meanwhile, Alabama has finished among the top five defenses in the nation in each of the last six seasons, allowing fewer than 300 yards per game each year.
With Kiffin, Alabama could become the total package, which is bad news for the SEC, Florida State and any other team thinking it will have the upper hand in the College Football Playoff.