It took a while, but we're finally getting a taste of the old Lane Kiffin we all know and love.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban generally doesn't let his assistants speak to the press very often, with the exception of once during fall camp and required press events leading up to bowl games.
But Saban lets his assistants speak at select offseason events that, while they are public, technically aren't press events.
New offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin was a guest speaker at the DEX Imaging 20th Annual L'Arche Football Preview late last week in Mobile, Ala. According to Mike Herndon of AL.com, the former USC, Tennessee and Oakland Raiders head coach had high praise for his running backs.
"As you guys know extremely well, I think the offense is led by the tailbacks," Kiffin said according to Herndon. "There probably aren't three more talented tailbacks in the NFL on a roster than we're fortunate to be able to work with at Alabama."
Well hello, Mr. Kiffin. The college football world—and live microphones in general—missed you.
|Alabama's Top Three RBs - 2013 Stats|
|Player||Year||Rush Yds||Rush TDs||YPC|
He's referring to his trio of running backs—T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake—all of whom are talented and excel in different areas. That gives him the luxury of keeping any one of the three in as a feature back, but mixing and matching based on the scheme, strengths and weaknesses of the opposing defenses.
But better than NFL running backs?
There's nothing wrong with Kiffin talking up his guys, but let's tone down the hype meter just a bit.
Henry is going to be a superstar, and he will likely vault in front of Yeldon on the depth chart this fall—especially if Yeldon's fumbling woes continue. Drake has been solid as a backup and certainly has the burst to be a big-time weapon—especially when put in positions to succeed.
But better than NFL running back corps?
The Houston Texans had Arian Foster and Ben Tate in 2013, and the San Francisco 49ers currently boast Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore and Carlos Hyde. They're just two of several teams who would vehemently disagree.
This is the same conversation that popped up last October, when the question of "Can Alabama beat the Jacksonville Jaguars?" first arose. John Ewing of Prediction Machine (via USA Today) shot that down in a hurry.
No, of course not.
Now, are Alabama's running backs the best group in the SEC?
With apologies to Georgia's Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, as well as the small village Texas A&M boasts and Arkansas' trio of Alex Collins, Jonathan Williams and Korliss Marshall, yes, Alabama's running backs are the best.
With a new quarterback who's coming in during the summer in Jacob Coker, Alabama's running backs will be counted on to ease that transition. All of the eggs are in Coker's basket at quarterback, and if he struggles, the running back corps will be even more of an offensive focal point than it already will be.
Now they have some insurmountable hype to live up to on top of the razor-thin margin of error that exists at a place like Alabama, where championships are expected.
No pressure, kids.
* Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com.