Glad to have you aboard, Steve Sarkisian.
You’ve been watching Alabama operate from a short distance this season, offering your expertise in meetings while staying out of the game-day picture.
While Nick Saban and the rest of his staff will be helping you put together a plan to beat Clemson next Monday, most of the burden will fall on your shoulders. You’ve been in your share of pressure-packed situations before, sure, but this one probably outweighs the others.
So, we’re going to give you a little boost, seeing as you’re short on time. There are some things Kiffin forgot to do as his run in Tuscaloosa neared its end.
Don’t make the same mistakes. Pay attention.
1. Get the damn football to Calvin Ridley
Alabama’s best offensive player had 1 catch for 6 yards against Washington.
Wide receiver Calvin Ridley caught 89 passes for 1,045 yards as a true freshman. This season, after multiple organizations named him a preseason All-American and SEC Country’s expert panel listed him as the conference’s No. 3 overall player, Ridley has 22 fewer catches for 312 fewer yards.
Instead of reaching Amari Cooper-esque heights in Kiffin’s offense, Ridley was a forgotten man the past month or two. He didn’t catch more than 5 passes against an FBS opponent since Oct. 15 at Tennessee, and he didn’t top 100 yards receiving since Oct. 1 against Kentucky.
Compare that to last season, when Ridley had stat lines of 8/102 against Florida and 8/138/2 versus Michigan State in a College Football Playoff semifinal.
That trend must end against Clemson on Monday night. The Tigers gave up big passing plays all season, and Ridley will not be locked down by future NFL second-round pick Mackensie Alexander, as he was in last season’s title game.
Get it to him!
2. Make your QB comfortable
It appears Jalen Hurts has hit the so-called “rookie wall.” A little more than a year ago, he was running through high school defenses in Channelview, Texas. He quickly captured Alabama’s attention during national championship practices last January and tore up A-Day in April.
The momentum continued into September, when Hurts stole the starting quarterback job from Blake Barnett and lodged himself in the Heisman conversation. But the hype train began to sputter in late October, when Hurts’ passing numbers began dropping off. Soon after, his rushing numbers hit a sharp decline, too.
Over the past three games — vs. Auburn, Florida and Washington — Hurts averaged just 2.26 yards per carry while underwhelming with his passes.
Some of the blame falls on Kiffin’s shoulders; those three teams had excellent defenses, and all three focused on stopping Hurts. While he remained mostly unfazed, Hurts was not been put in the same position to succeed as he was earlier this season.
You can bet Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson will light up the offense. Alabama will need Hurts to keep pace.
RELATED: What Nick Saban said about Clemson
3. Listen to the fans
If there’s one thing Alabama fans despised most about Kiffin, it was his refusal to establish the running game early. Last Saturday was the most recent example, as Heisman winner Derrick Henry joined in the cacophony demanding that Kiffin #RunTheBall.
Ohio State leaned on its passing game early against Clemson, and it failed miserably against a Tigers “D” that allowed just 70 yards in the first half of a 31-0 win.
Running the rock is a safe solution for any coordinator coaching his first game with a team. Doing so should be fairly easy with a slippery dual-threat quarterback, three powerful running backs and an excellent run-blocking unit (tight ends and receivers included).
So, yes, get the ball to Calvin Ridley. Ensure Jalen Hurts gets back to his All-SEC ways.
But don’t forget to smash Clemson in the mouth with Bo Scarbrough — and don’t wait until the second half to do it.
Monday’s College Football Playoff championship game begins about 8 p.m. ET in Tampa. TV: ESPN.