Alabama Football: 5 Questions Everybody Wants to Ask Lane Kiffin
This weekend, we’ll see something on par with a sighting of Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.
It’s the only time of the year that Alabama coach Nick Saban makes assistant coaches available to the media. The only other opportunity comes during the bowl games, when bowls traditionally mandate press conferences with coordinators.
But the start of fall camp marks Alabama’s annual media day, where in addition to a bevy of players and Saban himself, each coordinator takes questions for about 15 minutes or so at the podium at the Naylor Stone Media Suite inside the Mal Moore Athletic Facility.
Defensive coordinator Kirby Smart will make his seventh appearance in the pre-fall camp press conference, but there’s no doubt that the attention will be squarely on new offensive coordinator and lightning rod Lane Kiffin.
Kiffin has already had a few months in Tuscaloosa to get acclimated and put players through spring practice. But outside of a fundraiser in Mobile over the summer, Kiffin hasn’t made any public comments since being hired.
Here are five questions that everybody will want to ask Kiffin.
How Much Input Did You Have on the Offensive Game Plan for the Sugar Bowl?
Specifically, was it your idea to start giving the ball to Derrick Henry?
Kiffin had been around the program before he was hired. After his unceremonious departure from USC, he spent some time in Tuscaloosa in December to evaluate the offense ahead of Alabama’s Sugar Bowl matchup with Oklahoma.
In that game, Henry, the highly-touted, 6’3”, 238-pound running back, had a breakout performance, rushing for 100 yards and a touchdown and catching a 61-yard screen pass for another score.
Following that game, then-offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier left for Michigan, and Kiffin was hired shortly after. Saban said Kiffin impressed him in that consulting period.
But the extent of Kiffin’s role and how much he influenced the game plan hasn’t been disclosed.
What Have You Seen from the Quarterbacks so Far?
And how long do you expect this competition to last?
Perhaps no one has had a better seat for Alabama’s quarterback battle than Kiffin, who was seen during the spring working almost exclusively with the quarterbacks during media viewing periods of practices.
While he might not want to disclose every detail, he can likely provide more specific insight into each guy’s strengths and weaknesses while speaking to their teammates’ trust in them.
And as Alabama’s quarterbacks coach, in addition to offensive coordinator, Kiffin will continue to work the closest with Florida State transfer Jacob Coker, redshirt senior Blake Sims, redshirt freshman Cooper Bateman and the others vying for a starting role.
Saban will have the final say, as he does with everything, on who the starter will be and when he will be named, but Kiffin’s opinion will play a key role in the evaluation process.
Are We Going to See Some Tempo or Hurry-Up from Alabama This Year?
After getting toasted by two hurry-up offenses to end the 2013 season, a popular theory was that Kiffin was going to come in and introduce some tempo to Alabama’s offense.
Players say they have already noticed a faster pace in practice, but it’s unclear whether that will translate onto the field or not.
With the weapons Alabama has, the Crimson Tide offense could be even more dangerous running some hurry-up. It could also simplify things for a new quarterback, who typically only has two or three options in that kind of system as opposed to a more pro-style attack.
Kiffin probably wouldn’t come right out and say it for game-planning purposes, but he could give some hints as to how fast or slow Alabama will operate in 2014.
How Is Recruiting at Alabama Different Than at Tennessee or USC?
Shortly after Kiffin was hired, he hit the recruiting trail in what was a whirlwind month before signing day. Alabama ended up getting commitments from several top prospects in that time, sealing another No. 1 recruiting class, per 247Sports.
At Tennessee, he landed a few top recruits, including Bryce Brown and Nu’Keese Richardson, in a short period of time and was putting together a highly-touted class before bolting for USC.
While facing scholarship reductions at USC, he signed the No. 12 recruiting class, according to the 247Sports composite rankings, but the 12-member class had the highest average player rating in the country.
So what is it like combining that recruiting prowess with the Alabama and Saban brand?
What Kind of Reaction Do You Anticipate in Your Return to Tennessee?
Tennessee fans have had Oct. 25 circled on their calendars since Kiffin’s hire, and not because there will be a halftime tribute.
Kiffin left Tennessee in the dead of night to take his dream job at USC, causing an uproar on the Knoxville campus that included a mattress burning. The Volunteers have been in the SEC cellar since.
Now, with Kiffin at Tennessee’s most hated rival, a rivalry that had gotten stale with seven straight Alabama victories suddenly has been reinvigorated.
We all know how Tennessee fans will feel when they see Kiffin jog onto the field. And given the vitriol they showed when Kiffin left, he may need extra security detail.