The assistant coaching hire heard ‘round the college football world was Nick Saban hiring Lane Kiffin. Several didn’t understand it, and several still don’t understand it.
Kiffin has been a strong recruiter in the past, and he’s coordinated record-setting offenses with primo talent, like that which he inherits at Alabama. Sports Illustrated recently caught up with Kiffin, and he talked about consulting for Nick Saban and the Alabama program.
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.”
Kiffin told SI that he had a three-hour dinner with Saban the night he got into town, and the two spent 15 minutes every night going over their notes from the day’s practice. Kiffin also said Saban paid for his flight and his hotel rooms.
Kiffin also made some interesting remarks about the SEC itself and the offensive style of play. He was just in the SEC one season at Tennessee, and it was a totally different league in 2009. Kiffin said the SEC is changing as a league and going more towards a Pac-12 style of play with spread offenses, and he found that surprising.
“In watching a lot of film of their season, (the SEC is) starting to change a little bit toward the Pac-12, spread out with a running quarterback,” Kiffin said. “You’re seeing that with Texas A&M. The SEC is changing, which is surprising.”
Alabama is said to be going more up-tempo on offense, because Saban finds this style intriguing.
While the SEC offense was collectively different in 2013, the elite play of the quarterbacks is why defense took a back seat. Elite veteran quarterbacks saturated the league, but that should regulate next season, as the quarterback landscape changes dramatically.
But with coaches like Gus Malzahn, Kevin Sumlin and Hugh Freeze running high-flying offenses with elite athletes, it’s hard to argue against the league trending towards offense.
It speaks volumes to me that two elite defensive-minded coaches in Nick Saban and Will Muschamp are now going to up-tempo attacks. So, maybe the league will look more and more like the Pac-12 in the future after all.
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