Lane Kiffin, Quarterback Whisperer


Lane Kiffin knows how to develop a quarterback. Don’t believe me? Check out the stats for yourself.
Besides the weather, the quarterback battle in Tuscaloosa is keeping everyone warm (scolding hot) right now. We may have to start paying James Spann double if the state of Alabama has to deal with one more hot take this summer. Here’s my question, have we learned nothing from last off-season? You know, when Lane Kiffin came in and transformed a former running back and safety into the all-time single-season passing leader? I’m talking Blake Sims, in case you lived under a rock all of last season. So here is my motto for this off-season: Have no fear, Lane is here.
Let’s take a look at some stats before you shrug me off. We’ll start when he was the Passing Game Coordinator and Offensive Coordinator at USC. He helped guide Matt Leinart to a Heisman Trophy in 2004 after posting 3,322 yards and 33 touchdowns. In 2005, Kiffin (and Steve Sarkisian’s offense) was the first school to post a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard rushers, and a 1,000-yard receiver in a single season. Okay, so an obviously talented offense but still impressive. The next season, he turned John David Booty into a 3,000-yard passer and posted almost 30 touchdown passes. Even this caught the attention of the NFL and let’s just go ahead and skip the next two years because Raiders.
Alright, first time Kiffin moves to SEC country and unfortunately, this was located in Knoxville in 2009. During this time, Knoxville was “Straight Outta Crompton” (pauses 5 seconds for laughter). Entering 2009, Crompton had a career line of nine touchdowns and nine interceptions, impressive eh? In just his one illustrious season at Tennessee, Kiffin gave Crompton life and by the end of the year no one was expecting a season total of 2,800 yards and 27 touchdowns. Praise the football lords, Tennessee had their next Head Coach for probably eternity.
Oct 11, 2014; Fayetteville, AR, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin talks with quarterback Blake Sims (6) during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Alabama defeated Arkansas 14-13. Mandatory Credit: Beth Hall-USA TODAY Sports By the time Knoxville went up in flames, Kiffin was back at USC. In the three full seasons Kiffin coached USC, Matt Barkley posted 9,592 yards, 101 touchdowns and a completion percentage of 65.1. Along with then conference records for passing yards and passing touchdowns. Total it up and it’s pretty impressive numbers from quarterbacks who never really even made a dent in the NFL, at least so far. As a Head Coach, certainly you can debate whether he was that great or not but one aspect you could not refute, Kiffin knows how to run an offense.
Enter last season. A lot of hype surrounding the Florida State transfer Jake Coker. I mean, I even wrote about why Coker is the obvious choice to start, that was just days before Nick Saban announced the opposite. So obviously, I’m pretty much the quarterback guru around here. Anyways, 3,487 yards and 35 total touchdowns later, Lane Kiffin is officially the “QB whisperer”. Sims didn’t have that great of an A-Day and camp reports weren’t very awe-inspiring either. Many speculated that Sims got the nod because of locker room support and Coker just needed more time. Maybe that was the case but Sims took the job and never looked back. Alabama improved in nearly every offensive category compared to 2013 (including a school record in average passing yards) and how could I almost forget Amari Cooper, a Heisman Trophy finalist, recorded 124 receptions (SEC record) for an Alabama record 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Now here we are, almost three weeks out before kick off and the same talking points are being mentioned. Just like last season, everyone thought Coker would have the job by now. Certainly, this is a bit more of a red flag this year. Coker had all of last season to improve his game, know the playbook and familiarize himself with the program. Throw in Spring practice, the entire summer and now Fall practice and yet, the quarterback competition may be even wider than last season. This has led to, and I’m totally not overexaggerating here, a state of emergency. Maybe Alabama should start a GoFundMe for riot damages if a starter is not named soon. Bit extreme? Okay, let me dial it down a bit or even a lot.
This isn’t Kiffin’s first rodeo and certainly not Saban’s first time dealing with a quarterback battle. Going through the list of contenders, it’s a pretty impressive list. Probably the most talked about player on the list is Freshman Blake Barnett. Using Fan Day to announce his arrival last weekend, he has rocked his way into the starting quarterback competition. Previously, everyone just thought he would take a red-shirt year and then win five titles in three years but maybe that plan will be altered. Alabama may be down to one main scenario, throw Barnett out there now and take the risk/reward with starting a Freshman or roll with Coker, David Cornwell or Alec Morris and possibly have a safer bet. After all, there is plenty of talent surrounding the quarterback this year. A top offensive line, a Heisman candidate behind you, three out of your top four wide receivers were five-star prospects, and your tight end was also tops in his class. So yeah, there will be plenty of help.
What your blood pressure for the remaining off-season will come down to is your faith in Kiffin. Notoriously known for putting talent in the best position possible, I’m personally not all that worried. Regardless of who starts, Alabama will have a fine season. Maybe even make it back into the playoff. The biggest enemy for Alabama is their schedule, not this position battle. However, that’s a discussion for another day. For now, I don’t want to be in Saban’s shoes. The decision between who to start may be Saban’s toughest as a Head Coach, almost makes me miss the days of the AJ McCarron and Phillip Sims battle. With Kiffin back in Tuscaloosa and top talent throughout the offense, I argue that Alabama is in better shape now compared to last year. Better shape than breaking school records? I guess we’ll see.

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