NGSC Sports

With a Lane, Nick is glistening: What Kiffin at ‘Bama means

THE HIRING OF Lane Kiffin as offensive coordinator at Alabama already has paid off if you are a “News of the Weird” afficianado.

As first reported by this week, Kiffin “was a hit at a gathering for Crimson Tide recruits and their parents when he sang Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ with the mother of highly touted prospect Bo Scarbrough.”

This odd occurrence takes on an added shade of goofy when one learns it took place at the home of Alabama head coach Nick Saban, who reportedly did the “Electric Slide” during the evening’s festivities.

Sorry for that mental image, sports fans. If that’s not enough for you, the video is here. It’s like watching a Sasquatch video.

Kiffin’s impact on the recruiting trail should be noticeable, even for a powerhouse like Alabama, where coaches typically only have to walk into a recruit’s living room and say, “Hello, I am from Alabama. We will see you this summer.”

After getting canned at the airport on USC’s trip home from a 62-41 loss at Arizona State this past fall, Kiffin has been contrite and stoic about his often-chaotic turns at the helms of the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee and USC.

Since his reputation has been bloodied by those three stops, Kiffin’s only real choice for rehabilitation was latching on as an offensive coordinator at a big-name school or going the Bobby Petrino route and slumming at a Western Kentucky or the like.

For his particular skill set, offensive coordinator is the best fit. Kiffin was the offensive coordinator at USC during the team’s most prolific years in the mid-2000s, including that breathtaking 2005 offense. With Kiffin as the team’s OC from 2005-2006, the Trojans averaged 49 points and 579 total yards of offense.

While at Tennessee, Kiffin took an ordinary quarterback in Johnathan Crompton and transformed him into a fifth-round draft pick (prior to Kiffin, the best thing one could say about Crompton’s quarterback skills is that, if he worked hard, he had potential as a backup holder on extra-point attempts).

Kiffin also worked something of a Jedi Mind Trick on the NFL by creating the appearance that Matt Barkley could play QB. So with a resume like that, he seems to be a good fit at Alabama, where the Crimson Tide will need to replace the ruthlessly efficient A.J. McCarron.

Despite the multiple national championship runs, Alabama’s offense has never been exceptional. Rather, it has been above average at times and capable of rising to any challenge by limiting turnovers and waiting for its massive offensive line to wear down an opponent in order to turn loose one of many elite running backs.

With a heavy turnover following this past (down) season, Alabama needs to work some magic on offense in order to keep up with Auburn, LSU and Texas A&M while staying ahead of the rising Mississippi programs.

Kiffin’s time at Alabama will be brief. Common sense infers this situation is one meant to be mutually beneficial to the careers of Kiffin and Saban. Alabama needs a shot in the arm offensively while Kiffin needs to lay low and lick his wounds before testing the head coach waters again.

At Alabama, assistants only very rarely are allowed to speak with the media, meaning Kiffin’s tendency to spout off will be curtailed. After his apprenticeship with the laid-back and media-savvy Pete Carroll, it will do Kiffin some good to experience the other end of that spectrum with Saban, who is college football’s equivalent of Bill Belichick.

As for the upcoming season, expecting Kiffin’s presence to have a significant impact. With potent weapons at running back and receiver, Alabama’s next quarterback should be able to ease into the position, then benefit greatly from Kiffin’s superior skills as a play-caller.

Looking at Kiffin’s long-term prospects, it would not be surprising to see him back at the helm of a Big 5 program by 2015 or 2016. Given his offensive-minded skills and the smoldering bridges he left behind in the Pac-12 and the SEC, it would make sense if he landed in the prolific Big 12, where West Virginia’s Dana Holgorsen and Kansas’ Charlie Weis enter 2014 on very hot seats.

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