Lane Kiffin was removed as Alabama’s offensive coordinator one game early, leaving Steve Sarkisian to begin his new job on the game’s biggest stage.
When true freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts first heard the news, it was straight from the Crimson Tide’s new play-caller himself.
“He was the first one to tell me and I was like, ‘OK, well, let’s do it,'” Hurts said at Saturday’s media day for the national championship game. “When he got the job for next year, I told him, ‘Congratulations and I’m looking forward to working with you.’ But it just turns out to be that that came a little earlier.”
A little earlier, and with a little more pressure. Alabama plays Clemson for the second consecutive year in Monday’s national championship game as the Tide look to defend their title.
Kiffin took the job as head coach at Florida Atlantic in early December, and the plan was for him to remain Alabama’s offensive coordinator through the end of the College Football Playoff. He remained on the sideline for the Tide’s Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl victory over Washington on Dec. 31.
Then the news came that Kiffin would not remain with Alabama for the national title game — an announcement that didn’t come without controversy — and Sarkisian, the former USC head coach, would get a head start on his new role.
“You’re hearing this voice, you’re hearing this guy,” Hurts said. “And then you got another guy that’s coming in. So it’s kind of weird. But at the same time, it’s something that we’re going to have to get used to. I mean it’s something that I would have to have gotten used to next year.”
As for Sarkisian, he’s excited to work with a quarterback who has had a stellar freshman season.
“He’s a kid who loves football,” Sarkisian said at media day. “He’s a gym rat. He works at the game. Those are the kind of guys I like to be around. They make my job easier.”