TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — There wasn’t a ton of reaction from Alabama players when Steve Sarkisian was announced as the replacement for Lane Kiffin as the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator.
“Go out to practice,” Alabama star left tackle Cam Robinson said in describing the team’s response.
Alabama is locked into preparations for the College Football Playoff. No. 1 Alabama faces No. 4 Washington in the Peach Bowl semifinal on Dec. 31.
Still, Nick Saban hiring Sarkisian is a big deal. Kiffin will stay on as Alabama’s offensive coordinator through the College Football Playoff.
During Alabama’s practice Saturday, Sarkisian was spotted standing next to Kiffin watching the quarterbacks throw. He’ll be in Kiffin’s place next season, so shadowing his predecessor makes sense.
“From what I’ve seen, he’s a really good coach,” Robinson said. “I think he has a great mind for the game. I think he’ll do an excellent job as the coordinator.”
Lane Kiffin and Steve Sarkisian chatted throughout the viewing period of practice. What do you think they talked about? pic.twitter.com/fD7oOQHHYw
— Marq Burnett (@Marq_Burnett) December 17, 2016
Robinson, a junior, is considered one of the top prospects for the 2017 NFL Draft, so there’s a chance he won’t be around to play for Sarkisian next season.
Alabama left guard Ross Pierschbacher will be back next season. Pierschbacher hasn’t had a lot of one-on-one interaction with Sarkisian, but he’s looking forward to the future.
“I think he brings a lot of knowledge to our offense and is a well-respected offensive mind as well,” Pierschbacher said. “I’m pretty excited to work with him next year.”
Don’t expect any wholesale changes in the offense in 2017. Sarkisian was hired in part because of his familiarity with Alabama’s current scheme. That will be a big plus for next year’s team in Pierschbacher’s opinion.
“I think it’s big, especially for a guy like (quarterback) Jalen (Hurts) even, since it would be similar systems,” Pierschbacher said. “Just for him and the younger guys to learn that and not just flip the script and not change the whole thing next year, I think that will be big for us.”
After Alabama announced the hire, Saban received questions about Sarkisian’s off-field behavior and progress.
Sarkisian was fired by Southern Cal in October 2015, one day after he was asked to take an “indefinite leave of absence.” The firing came after Sarkisian reportedly showed up to USC’s athletic facilities intoxicated. He reportedly checked into a rehabilitation facility that same week.
Sarkisian later sued the school for his dismissal, arguing that it didn’t accommodate his disability.
Saban said Alabama plans to be supportive of Sarkisian, calling him a part of the Alabama family.
“I think a lot of us have had issues somewhere in our life or in our family, and we want to be supportive,” Saban said. “He has been very diligent about what he’s trying to do, to do the right things in terms of his life, and we’re going to continue to support him and help him.
“He wants to do it, and we want to help him do it, and we’re going to do it any way that we can. He did a good job for us for a long time here and that’s what made me feel confident that the guy was ready to do this.”