There was no shortage of headlines made this college football offseason with some high-profile openings at Texas, USC and Penn State, among others and high-profile coaches involved in countless rumors and speculation, but it was the hiring of an offensive coordinator that may have been the one to cause the biggest stir when Alabama hired former USC Trojans head coach Lane Kiffin to run the offense in Tuscaloosa.
Andrew Gribble of Al.com caught up with some of Kiffin’s former players at last week’s NFL combine to get their thoughts on Kiffin and what they expect to see out of him with the Crimson Tide and the praise was effusive.
“I knew Lane was a good coach,” former Tennessee Volunteers offensive lineman Ja’Wuan James said. “He talked to me. I talked to him throughout my career. He’s definitely helped with a lot and he’s a great coach and a great guy.”
Former USC tight end Xavier Grimble backed up what James had to say, “I think he’s going to do well in that position. I still think he will be a good coach later on if he gets another opportunity to be a head coach. … “He’s not a bad person or a bad coach. He knows what he’s doing. He’s good with the players. He’s a players’ coach.”
The perception of Kiffin from the outside is that he isn’t a very personable guy and he didn’t always have the warmest relationship with the media, but isn’t the best measure of a coach’s character or personality what his players think of him?
If that’s the case then Kiffin is going to be just fine at Alabama and rehab his career and perhaps get another head coaching opportunity elsewhere. As former USC offensive guard Marcus Martin said, “He did some amazing things for us. … He’s an offensive mastermind. He’s going to be great wherever he ends up at.”
The highest praise in Gribble’s column comes from a player who practiced against Kiffin’s offenses at USC as George Uko referred to Kiffin as an “offensive guru.” If the guru shows up in Tuscaloosa, you can expect to see some gaudy numbers from Jacob Coker, T.J. Yeldon, Derrick Henry, Amari Cooper and the Alabama offense as long as he’s around.