Morning Kickoff: Crimson Tide News 12/30


Get your day started with the Morning Kickoff. All your Crimson Tide news in one place.

Refreshed and successful, Alabama’s Lane Kiffin finally greets the press

"The cameras crowded around the door as the visiting dignitary emerged from a black SUV. The photographers clicked vociferously and a buzz rippled through the hotel lobby area. In the insulated world of Alabama football, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin meeting with the media gets similar coverage to a red carpet premiere or a visit from Barack Obama. His performance always receives more intricate reviews than a Broadway play.On Monday morning, Kiffin emerged in a dark suit and pinstriped pink tie to speak for the first time since August. He exhibited an enjoyable mix of humility and snark that makes him one of college football’s most fascinating and polarizing personalities. “Must not be a lot going on,” Kiffin cracked to a staffer, bemused by his boy band greeting.Kiffin’s next hour was quintessential Kiffin. He sounded alternately thoughtful and irreverent, insightful and guarded, grateful and defensive. He described his season at Alabama as offensive coordinator like he was a graduate assistant, so lucky to be there that he should be paying Nick Saban for the experience. “The phone wasn’t ringing, that’s the reality,” Kiffin said, reflecting on his firing from USC."

Yesterday, folks finally got to hear from Lane Kiffin again and it went off as well as you may expect. Not bad though. Kiffin sounded like a different person than he a year or so ago. You could tell a year working with Saban has helped and he sounded very professional.

Blake Sims: From unlikely QB to unquestioned leader for Alabama

"Blake Sims wasn’t supposed to be sitting at a Sugar Bowl podium this week. Jacob Coker, the transfer quarterback from Florida State, was pegged to lead Alabama into the first College Football Playoff.Sonny Sims, Blake’s father, and other family and friends worried for Blake due to Coker’s high-profile presence. Blake acknowledged the talk about Coker motivated him. To most pundits and fans, the writing was on the wall: Coker would win the starting job and Sims would morph into the life of a fifth-year player who never seized his opportunity or ever got a real shot.When Coker arrived in Tuscaloosa, Sonny peppered Blake with questions about the challenger. Could he throw? Is he better than you? Who’s winning the competition? Blake wouldn’t answer, telling his dad those issues stay internal at Alabama, just as Nick Saban’s “process” demands.“I don’t think it rattled Blake, it rattled me and his family,” Sonny said of Coker’s transfer to Alabama. “I was upset. But Blake said, ‘Dad, don’t worry about it. That’s what goes on. I’ve got to compete, I’ve got to be ready.’ I used to kid him and say, ‘Well, Coach Saban is your dad now?’ Blake was right, I was wrong. Coach did a good job with Blake. Blake got processed.”"

I’ve been a fan of everyone that puts on a Crimson Tide jersey but I think Sims has them all beat. One of the best stories of the season

How the state of Alabama became the center of the college football universe

"In three days touring the state, it became clear that the emotional investment in the sport extends far beyond passion, trespassing into urgency.“I heard someone say, ‘College football is what we do instead of dueling,’ ” said Alabama native, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Alabama writing professor Rick Bragg. “But I don’t think that’s right. It’s not that refined. I think it’s what we do instead of rioting. … The devotion and preoccupation has grown. It has not lessened. For good or bad, I think it’s grown. It’s swelling. … And over time comes the expectation. Anything less than being the best is insufferable.”The historic essence of it all was distilled for me on a blustery Tuesday afternoon in the northeast corner of the state – where the foothills of the Smokies begin rolling toward Lookout Mountain in Tennessee, site of a momentous Confederate defeat in a war that in some ways still echoes through the South’s football culture of today. Longtime coach and Alabama native Dale Pruitt, whose son Jeremy played at Alabama and today is the defensive coordinator at Georgia, sat in an empty football film room at Plainview High School in Rainsville and explained: “It just means more. And that might be because we have less.”"

Great article from Pat Forde on the state of Alabama and it’s love for great college football.

Nick Saban and Alabama football players visit New Orleans’ Children’s Hospital, spread holiday cheer

"Nick Saban and over twenty players and team representatives visited the Children’s Hospital in New Orleans to offer healthy wishes to sick kids and share some autographed hats and footballs. Check out the gallery above to see coach Saban and his players spreading cheer, not to mention a few autographs, around the hospital Monday."

Love stories like this. Click the above link to check out pictures from the visit.