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What Lane Kiffin Brings to Alabama’s Offense

Lane Kiffin
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

There’s no denying the reason for Nick Saban bringing in Lane Kiffin: to improve offensively. So what, exactly, did Saban see in Kiffin that convinced him to be his next offensive coordinator?

We all know Kiffin’s track record as a head coach and it isn’t the most impressive resumé in the world. However, his success as a coordinator and assistant is indisputable. His offenses have always been known to put up a lot of yards and plenty of points.

Many people will say things such as, “Well, if I had Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart, I could be a good offensive coordinator, too!” But, contrary to popular belief, he’s had a lot more success than just at USC (although, admittedly, the bulk of his production was at USC).

The only thing we, as outside observers, can gather is the offensive numbers that he has been able to produce (in the college game only, since college football and NFL have so many differences it makes comparisons between the two almost impossible). From 1997-1998 Fresno State was his first job as an assistant soon after his playing days were through for the Bulldogs. Then after brief stints with Colorado State and the Jacksonville Jaguars, he was hired as the tight ends coach at USC in 2001.

In 2001, USC did not produce any special numbers, mustering up a lousy 6-6 record with a loss to Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl.

However, from that point on, his numbers only get better. In the 2002 season, he was promoted to wide receivers coach, a unit that caught passes from a decent quarterback by the name of Carson Palmer (Heisman Trophy winner, Carson Palmer).

He kept the same title through the 2004 season, a season that consisted of an offense that ranked 6th nationally in points per game and, yet again, coached the unit that caught passes from a Heisman Trophy winner in Matt Leinart.

In 2005, Kiffin saw another promotion as he was given the title of “Offensive Coordinator,” and his offenses showed no signs of slowing down. USC led the nation in yards per game and was 2nd nationally in points per game. Also, for a third time, a Heisman Trophy winner was produced by USC in Reggie Bush (although it was later taken away from him). And even though they lost the national championship game to Vince Young and the Texas Longhorns, Kiffin’s offense put up 38 points against a Texas defense that was loaded with NFL talent.

Kiffin’s offense seemingly took a step back in 2006, “only” ranking 19th in the country in yards per game and points per game. John David Booty or Chauncey Washington may not have been Heisman Trophy contenders, but this offense was definitely a force on the football field.

After his tenure as coordinator at USC, Kiffin ventured into the realm of head coaching in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders for two seasons and the NCAA with the Tennessee Volunteers in 2009 and back to his old stomping grounds at USC from 2010-2013.

Offensive output seems to follow Kiffin everywhere he goes (in the collegiate ranks anyway), and Nick Saban is hoping it follows him down here in Tuscaloosa.

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