Watching multiple quarterbacks compete for the starting position throughout a season opener has become a new norm for Alabama, but the task facing offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is a little different this season.
The Crimson Tide has almost always found its identity in its ground game, especially in recent years, but this year, Alabama doesn’t have the experience it had when running backs TJ Yeldon, Derrick Henry, Kenyan Drake or any of their predecessors were in line to start for Alabama.
“I think every running back, every scholarship running back on the roster is a freshman or a sophomore – which is a very extreme situation because of the three great backs we’ve had the last two years,” Kiffin said on Aug. 7’s fan day. “… I would think it would be more of a shared role [this season]. Last year was very unique, having a guy [Henry] carry the ball 90 times in a seven-day span. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard of that before. That was a very special player.”
Now, Alabama will have to hope one of the younger running backs, likely Bo Scarbrough or Damien Harris, is up to the task this season.
In Kiffin’s two years with the Crimson Tide, there has been a clear skill position player who the offense ran through. In 2014, Kiffin was able to lean on former Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper heavily to the tune of 1,727 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns. Then, last season, the eventual Heisman winner, Henry, finished with 2,219 rushing yards and 28 touchdowns.
With the lack of experience at running back, and the return of playmakers such as wide receiver Calvin Ridley and tight end O.J. Howard, it would seem likely the Crimson Tide’s offense might resemble 2014 more than last year’s version, but the results of the quarterback competition could be the deciding factor.
“Our offense has been pretty much pro-style, but when we’ve had an athletic quarterback we’ve sort of integrated a little bit of the spread-type stuff,” Saban said. “… We were a good play-action team [last year] and we controlled the football … I don’t know that we’re going to be that kind of team this year. We’ll have to see where this takes us with the quarterback before we can fully decide that.”
Alabama fans will get their first chance to see the offense in action when the Crimson Tide travels to Arlington, Texas, to take on a team Kiffin is very familiar with — the USC Trojans.
Kiffin served as the Trojans’ head coach for three plus seasons (2010-2013) and finished with an overall record of 28-15. USC athletic director Pat Haden ultimately decided to fire Kiffin before the team even completed its return home after a 62-41 loss to Arizona State in 2013.
Despite the way things ended, Kiffin and his players insist he is approaching the upcoming season opener as if it’s any other game.
“It won’t be about me, just like it wasn’t about me when we were at Tennessee,” Kiffin said. “It’s not about coach when we go to LSU. It’s about our players playing really well. All we can do is put our players in the best position to win.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports