ATLANTA- During the offseason Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin didn’t know he’d begin the new year as Florida Atlantic’s head coach, but he suspected he might not return to Tuscaloosa for a fourth spring.
So he said he encouraged coach Nick Saban to bring in former USC coach and his friend Steve Sarkisian to work with the Crimson Tide as an offensive analyst.
“I thought it was important he could help me for a year, and then if there was something where I wasn’t here, be an easy transition for Coach [Saban] to have somebody versus hiring Sark, not really knowing him and him not being around the system,” Kiffin said. “That would have been a harder transition.”
Most expect Alabama’s offense to continue without missing a beat under Sarkisian since he worked closely with Kiffin not only this year, but for five season at Southern Cal. Kiffin’s expectations of his replacement might be even higher.
He said Sarkisian’s personality will match up better with Saban’s than his own. Kiffin and Saban seem to have had their fair share of disagreements both in the meeting rooms and on the sidelines, but the head coach refused to scold his coordinator publicly on Friday after the offensive coordinator reportedly suggested he did not have fun during his time in Tuscaloosa.
“After running your own sort of program for one year and then having to go back and do it the way somebody else wants to do it is very difficult,” Saban said. “I mean, it’s difficult. And I have no problem with the way Lane has managed it and, you know, what he’s tried to do and the contribution that he’s made.”
Saban was once in a similar position to his soon to be former offensive coordinator. He coached Toledo to a 9-2 finish in 1990 then left to serve as the Cleveland Brown’s defensive coordinator under Bill Belichick.
“I’m happy for him [Kiffin] that he got an opportunity to be a head coach again, and we’ll help him every way that we can,” Saban said.
That support is critical to Kiffin when it comes to juggling both jobs. Saban excuses Kiffin from nonessential bowl activities which gives him time at night to interview prospective coaches in person if they fly into the city or over the phone if they do not.
When he’s with the rest of the Alabama coaching staff, however his focus is on the No. 4 Washington Huskies which play defense as well as any of the SEC defenses Kiffin has prepared for this year.
“I think it [Washington’s defense] would be most like probably Florida when Florida was healthy,” Kiffin said. “I think that Florida, when they were healthy, they got beat up at the end of the year and missed some guys. Without injuries, I think Florida would have been maybe one of the top couple defenses in the whole country. I think these guys are similar to that, fast, really good secondary.”
When he watches the Huskies on film, he sees future NFL players lining up at the corner position and a quick defense overall that resembles the Seattle Seahawks.
“A lot of people think we’re going to walk in and win by three touchdowns and all that,” Kiffin said. “That’s not going to happen unless we play great. So we’re going to have to play really good just to win the game.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports