ARLINGTON, Texas — In two seasons at Alabama, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin has turned a pair of inexperienced passers into reliable playmakers.
Last year, Blake Sims went from the bench to accounting for 35 touchdowns.
This year, Jake Coker went from fighting for his job to orchestrating a 12-0 record while a starting quarterback.
The undefeated ride has been plenty bumpy, but Coker is now a late-round NFL prospect thanks, in part, to Kiffin’s tutelage.
“There was this assumption that because he was older, he was a fifth-year senior, he wasn’t going to make mistakes,” Kiffin said during Tuesday’s media day. “Anybody’s going to make mistakes. Whether you’re a rookie, whether you’re a fifth-year veteran in the NFL. If you haven’t played, you haven’t played.”
After being a draft afterthought earlier this year, Coker’s big arm has been enough to sway scouts and prognosticators.
“I think what people see at the end of the year is him playing so much better because now he’s got confidence and experience,” Kiffin said.
So when did it all click into place for the 23-year-old?
Kiffin’s answer will make thousands of eyes roll in Knoxville.
“Tennessee,” he said. “We were actually down in the fourth quarter, and we drove down to go ahead and win the game. He made some throws in there I think where he probably was like, ‘Alright, I know for sure I got this now.'”