Good morning. The Rammer Jammer is a daily rundown of everything you need to know about Alabama athletics, published every weekday morning.
After days and years of speculation, Lane Kiffin’s next destination is known. On Monday, Nick Saban confirmed the half-dozen reports that his current offensive coordinator will become the next head coach at Florida Atlantic, though he will remain on Alabama’s staff through the postseason. The College Football Playoff will become the coda on Kiffin’s productive three-year tenure at Alabama. If all goes according to plan, he could leave with two national championships in three years, all of which boasted first-year starters.
Kiffin has done wonders for his coaching reputation at Alabama, becoming the highest-profile branch on the tree of possibly the greatest college coach of all time. His offenses — including the way he adapted his own principles to suit Alabama’s personnel — have been the most prolific since the wishbone era. His play-calling, though frustrating to some, can be devilish to opponents. As a quarterbacks coach and offensive mastermind, his credentials are not in doubt, nor are his strengths as a recruiter.
The questions that remain to be answered stem from the broader issues of being a head coach. Saban is frequently called a CEO coach, the visionary of the organization who coaches his assistants as much as the players and attends to every detail by fitting it into his philosophy. Kiffin’s future success depends not on his football intelligence, but how well he’s learned those sort of lessons from Saban.
At first glance, FAU seems a strange choice for Kiffin, from a football point of view. The Owls have won just three games in each of the last three seasons and haven’t had a winning record since 2008. But Howard Schnellenberger, who praised Kiffin on Monday, proved that FAU could contend for the Conference USA title and bowl bids, and Kiffin did just parachute into one of the most talent-rich regions in the country. He’ll have to compete against some of the best coaches in the country for those recruits but also returns a staggering amount of offensive production.
Lane Kiffin will have….
2,256 of 2,521 rec yards
2,242 of 2,258 rush yards
2,521 of 2,521 pass yards
Returning to @FAU_Football in 2017
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) December 13, 2016
At TideSports, Ben Jones lists five possible replacements for Kiffin. Barrett Sallee at Bleacher Reports explores Saban’s internal options — Steve Sarkisian and beyond. Kevin Scarbinsky says Lane Kiffin was good, actually. See what the statistics say about that. In light of his aspirations, Kiffin’s decision makes perfect sense, writes John Talty at AL.com. At this stage, it’s strange to think of how strange the Kiffin hiring and tenure was, from Michael Casagrande. Alex Scarborough of ESPN looks at what made the strange bedfellows of Kiffin and Saban successful. And SEC Country’s Alex Martin Smith says Lane Kiffin was the life preserver that kept the dynasty afloat.
- Every weekday for the next two weeks, follow us as we reveal our list of the top 10 Alabama players this season. The installment on Monday: Anthony Averett.
- Fear not: Tua Tagoliavoa’s commitment is unshaken in the wake of Kiffin’s departure.
- Speaking of Kiffin-recruited quarterbacks, Blake Barnett was atop the future Owls’ wish list.
- Alabama is becoming Atlanta’s college football team, from Ben Jones of The Tuscaloosa News.
- Alabama placed six players on the AP All-America Team and the ESPN team.
- Three Alabama players are now officially consensus All-Americans.
- Saban is a finalist for the George Munger coach of the year award.
- And finally, Saban appeared in Atlanta to officially accept Alabama’s invitation to the Peach Bowl:
Kiffin’s top-5 moments at Alabama
5) The 2014 Iron Bowl — Kiffin’s first season challenged him with a quarterback controversy and an offense left stagnant under Doug Nussmeier. Even more dangerously, he entered the country’s most venomous rivalry while Alabama was coming off the Kick Six and struggling to keep pace with Gus Malzahn’s fastball offense. Under his direction, Alabama responded by winning the highest-scoring Iron Bowl ever. Perhaps no game encapsulates his skill as a quarterback whisperer as well; he gave Blake Sims the confidence to lead Alabama down the field after throwing multiple interceptions and with his backup warming up on the sideline.
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 14, 2014
3) Revenge for the tarmac — Kiffin famously came to Alabama after being fired by USC on the tarmac of Los Angeles International Airport after being called off the team’s bus and left behind. When the time came for Kiffin to face off against his former employer, he’d surely do so with equanimity and grace, right?
Or he could drop 52 points on his former bosses and troll them mercilessly on Twitter. The best part of this artwork in pettiness? It wasn’t anywhere near Kiffin’s best work. That was …
2) The Return to Knoxville — Tennessee fans lit mattresses on fire when Kiffin left the Volunteers’ head coaching position in the middle of the night. Kiffin was meant to be the future of the Tennessee program, an ace recruiter who would lead the Vols back to the top of the SEC East. Then, he bolted for USC and his dream job, after insisting otherwise. When he left, they vilified the man, fairly or not, and did as much to damage his coaching reputation as anything. So, with revenge on both parties’ minds, Kiffin returned to Knoxville in 2014.
On the first play from scrimmage, this is what he drew up:
Alabama won, 34-20.
1) The National Championship Game — Under Saban, Alabama doesn’t usually need to score many points to win. His defenses are notoriously stingy, and the extra touchdowns tend toward blowouts more often than game-winners. Against Clemson’s historic quarterback and offense, that wasn’t the case. Deshaun Watson picked up more than 400 yards and led Clemson to 40 points, and while Kenyan Drake and the surprise onside kick by Adam Griffith made the difference, Kiffin’s offense kept Alabama in the toughest game it faced all season. By the end of it all, Jake Coker, a first-year starting quarterback, was a national champion.
Built by Bama
- Cyrus Jones booted a punt, resulting in a turnover, while Dont’a Hightower recorded 7 tackles in the Patriots’ 30-23 win against Baltimore on Monday night. C.J. Mosley recorded 6 tackles for the losing side.