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Alabama Football Sunday Morning Hangover: Lane Kiffin - Are You Buying In?

Alabama 52 Southern Miss 12

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Kiffin and Coker.
Kiffin and Coker.
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Most Alabama fans are having a difficult time wrapping their heads around the fact that Lane Kiffin is in charge of their beloved Crimson Tide offense. Kiffin has been a polarizing figure ever since he was chosen by the Oakland Raiders to be their head coach at the young age of 31, making him the youngest head coach in the NFL's "modern era" (since 1946).

Being the son of a long-time NFL defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, many wondered if nepotism was was putting the younger Kiffin ahead of other worthy candidates in the coaching world. The Raiders hired him based on his perceived "offensive genius" work as offensive coordinator under Pete Carroll at Southern Cal. The Trojans put up dizzying numbers behind Matt Leinart and Heisman winner Reggie Bush as they marched to the 2005-06 National Championship. However, it became apparent that Kiffin was less than smooth around a microphone.

The marriage in Oakland was a rocky one and ended in a bitter split after five wins in two seasons. Raiders owner Al Davis famously called Kiffin "a flat-out liar" and said he was guilty of "bringing disgrace to the organization".

The next step was the University of Tennessee where he was named head coach to replace Fat Phil Fulmer. But his stay there was brief. In the span of roughly 14 months, he went from hero to Vols fans to a derided riot-enduing pariah in Knoxville. During his time at UT, he again found that the microphone was not his friend. The low point was when he publicly and mistakenly accused then Florida Gators head coach Urban Meyer of a recruiting violation. Ironically, many accused Kiffin of dirty recruiting tactics himself. He also had some player disciplinary problems including an incident when two of his most prized signees from his first recruiting class were arrested on charges of attempted armed robbery. After a 7-6 season and a Chick-Fil-A Bowl loss, he slinked out of town for the west coast - much to the chagrin of the student body.

Kiffin returned to Southern Cal to become the Trojans head coach - his "dream job". After 3 and a half seasons, he was fired with a 28–15 (17–12 PAC) record. To his credit, he was saddled with the probation woes left behind by Pete Carroll. The lowlight was the near team rebellion in a humiliating Sun Bowl loss to Georgia Tech.

It seemed like he was washed up at age 39 when along came Nick Saban to bring him in as the offensive coordinator of the Crimson Tide with the promise of keeping Kiffin and the microphones under strict supervised visits.


After three games against one decent opponent and two lesser foes, let's take a look at the numbers:

Scoring: Points/Game 42.0
Points Scored 126
First Downs: Total 88
First Downs: Rushing - Passing - By Penalty 39 - 45 - 4
Rushing: Yards / Attempt 6.24
Rushing: Attempts - Yards - TD 130 - 811 - 10
Passing: Rating 165.89
Passing: Yards 894
Passing: Attempts - Completions - Interceptions - TD 95 - 68 - 1 - 5
Total Offense: Yards / Play 7.58
Total Offense: Plays - Yards 225 - 1705
Time of Possession Comparisons / Game 33:39.00 to 23:43.33
3rd Down Conversions: Conversion % 56.41%
3rd Down Conversions: Attempts - Conversions 39 - 22
4th Down Conversions: Conversion % 50.00%
4th Down Conversions: Attempts - Conversions 02/01/14
Red Zone: Success % 84.21%
Red Zone: Attempts - Scores 19 - 16
Field Goals: Success % 100.00%
Field Goals: Attempts - Made 7-7



The short answer is: it looks pretty good. Most notable are the 29 first downs (ROLL TIDE!) per game, 6.24 per carry, and 7.58 yards per play. If a team is getting 7.58 yards per play, that equates to moving the ball down the field. The Tide is twelfth in the nation in total offense, eleventh in 3rd down conversions, and eighth in first downs. Detractors could point to the opponents but after three weeks, practically every Power 5 team has played a cupcake or two... or three.


Kiffin's playing calling was more on display for Saturday's game against Southern Miss. Two distinct sets of plays were used as Blake Sims (12 of 16 for 178 yards, 2 passing TDs and 0 interceptions) started the game and relented to Jake Coker (5-7, 46-0-0) in the 3rd quarter.

The Sims-run game plan was again a lot of T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry hammering the line and Sims passes to Amari Cooper. It was effective and moved the ball but a bit uncreative. One encouraging play was Sims' five yard touchdown pass to Brian Vogler which is the first time Sims has passed to a tight end this season.

Things got more interesting when Coker entered the game. A Coker-led offense is more democratic spreading the ball around to more receivers including a nice slant pass to Kenyan Drake and a 9 yard catch by reserve H-back Michael Nysewander. We also saw an interesting set where Drake, Vogler and H-back Jalston Fowler split out like wide receivers.

Aside from taking a sack in the red zone (second week in a row), Coker was pretty prolific. His two incompletions included a drop by Cam Sims that would've been a big gainer and a bomb that Raheem Falkins couldn't quite catch up to.

Clearly, Saban and Kiffin have catered the offenses to who is under center, playing to each quarterback's strong suits.


With stronger opponents on the horizon, it would seem that Saban and Kiffin may have a few more tricks up their sleeves from the vanilla plays they have run so far this season. A balanced run-pass strategy is the Saban way and has been working so far. I see no signs that Bama will go deeper into the playbook until they feel they need it.

So far, it appears that Lane Kiffin has done all that is asked of him. What's your verdict on Kiffin?

The Alabama-Southern Miss replay can be seen Monday at 9am CT / 10am ET and again (DVR & insomniacs alert) Wednesday at 3am CT / 4am ET on the SEC Network