TUSCALOOSA, Ala. _ It didn’t surprise the contingency on hand for the University of Alabama’s media day on Sunday that Nick Saban talked to Lane Kiffin before his turn at the podium.

It did surprise some people when Kiffin admitted it.

“He made sure I didn’t say anything that would be on the ticker,” Kiffin said with a grin.

Crimson Tide fans can hope that his play-calling, recruiting and coaching goes as smoothly this fall. In his only press conference of the 2014 season, as Saban otherwise doesn’t allow any assistant coaches to do interviews except at bowl games, Kiffin came across just as well as he had hoped, as relaxed and happy to be the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.

“Took a long time for the Knoxville question,” Kiffin said about returning to Tennessee (Oct. 25) for the first time after departing at the end of the 2009 season and responded by talking how much he enjoyed coaching there.

He praised Crimson Tide fans, was very complimentary of his players, and even mixed in a little humility.

“As you make mistakes, the No. 1 thing you better do from them is learn from them and not just make excuses for them,” Kiffin said. “I’ve made more than anybody probably. To be able to go through what I’ve gone through and still be fortunate before the age of 40 to be here … probably two of the most successful coaches maybe ever in football in Pete Carroll and Nick Saban, to have the opportunity to be coordinators for both of those guys at a young age.

“Both those programs are really at the top of the ladder. It’s great.”

About the only revelation Kiffin disclosed was that he and Saban had talked about being on the initial coaching staff with the Crimson Tide in 2007. Instead, Kiffin stayed at Southern California only to be hired by the Oakland Raiders on Jan. 23, 2007, making him the youngest head coach in the NFL’s modern era.

Of course, that was three jobs ago, all as a head coach. After going 4-7 in his last 11 games with the Trojans athletic director Pat Haden fired him following a 62-41 loss to Arizona State last September.

“You talk about toughness and discipline and commitment and pride about what this place is about and what he’s built over seven years,” Kiffin said regarding Saban. “To come in here and learn that, it’s been really exciting.

“It’s one thing to learn it, it’s another thing to see it. I was here for eight days during the bowl preparation. I got to hear about it, see a little bit. Then when you see the way the players in the entire building buy into it you can see why the success has been here over the last seven years.”

Specially, Kiffin was brought in as a consultant during practices for the Sugar Bowl, during which he picked apart and evaluated the Crimson Tide offense. It subsequently had one of its best statistical showings of the season, with 516 total yards, although four Alabama turnovers helped Oklahoma pull out a 43-31 victory.

Nevertheless, he obviously made a favorable impression because after Doug Nussmeier departed for Michigan his old office on the top floor didn’t stay empty for long.

“Lane has done a really good job since he’s been here providing good leadership for the whole offense,” Saban said. “The direction we want to go, the identity we want to have, and emphasizing some of the intangible thing, the fundamentals, we needed to improve on.

“I think he does a really good job in terms of … you know, it’s not just about knowledge. Some people have a tremendous amount of knowledge, but you have to be able to articulate it to the players in a way they can understand it and it’s simple for them to go out and execute it. Systematically, Lane does that with the players he coaches and with the entire offense, which I think is really, really important.”

As for Alabama’s pro-style offensive scheme, don’t expect it to change too much. Granted, junior wide receiver Amari Cooper admitted during the spring that the offensive players have looked at film of Southern California’s offense it was only to get a feel for Kiffin’s play-calling and how he wanted things executed.

“We look at it for concepts we need to learn for our offense here and we know what those guys did for him at USC at the wide receiver position,” Cooper said.

Saban has always coveted an explosive offense that finds ways to get it’s best players the ball in space, which goes back to his years as a head coach at LSU, Michigan and even Toledo. But this year the Crimson Tide may have more playmakers than ever before under the coach.
Consequently, look for Kiffin to tweak some things, exploit more matchups and perhaps make the offense a little more unpredictable.

“The last thing we’d want to do is come in and change a bunch of stuff,” said Kiffin, who could have easily gone back into the pros right away as an assistant coach, or perhaps waited until another head coaching job came around.

“I just wanted a job where I can be learning and growing,” he said. “I can’t imagine a better place in the NFL or college to go and learn from someone who has been so successful and someone that teaches his coaches.”

The numbers Kiffin will try and improve

Offensive category, 2013 national ranking
First downs: 32
Passing offense: 49
Rushing offense: 25
Third-down conversions: 17
Red zone offense: 85
Scoring: 17
Passing efficiency: 7
Total offense: 33