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Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - 2021-07-22

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Saban praises Kiffin

Sec Media Days

By Tom Murphy and Bob Holt

HOOVER, Ala. — Alabama Coach Nick Saban, informed of the complimentary remarks made about him by Ole Miss Coach Lane Kiffin on Tuesday, returned them in his morning session Wednesday. Kiffin worked three seasons as offensive coordinator under Saban from 2014-16, a period that produced three SEC titles, one CFP national championship and another appearance in the title game. Alabama’s record in that span was 40-3 before Kiffin departed, between a win over Washington in the CFP semifinals and a loss to Clemson in the CFP Championship Game, to take the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic. Two of those losses were against Ole Miss, and the other came against Ohio State in the first CFP playoffs. Saban credited Kiffin with being on the cutting edge of his change in offensive philosophies. “Well, Lane did a fantastic job for us when he was the offensive coordinator,” Saban said, adding he didn’t think Kiffin got enough credit for the transition. “We made a tremendous change when Lane came in, and Lane had always been the same, kind of philosophy-wise, as we were in terms of pro-style football. “And because of what Ole Miss — and it’s ironic that he’s at Ole Miss now — had done and beaten us several times running the spreads, running the RPOs, running the screens and things that are difficult to defend … and we weren’t utilizing some of those things, which I thought put us at a disadvantage, and Lane really hadn’t done much of that stuff, either. “So when he came in, I said, ‘Look, we want to change this. You need to research this. You’re smart. We can do this.’ He actually did implement that and was the first one to sort of change how we did things on offense. It enhanced our opportunity to score more points.” Kiffin, who did not engage in regular media sessions at Alabama, has since tweeted things about and to Saban, such as references to Saban’s famous “rat poison” remarks regarding positive media coverage. Kiffin even brought that up on Tuesday. “I think there’s been, because we’re a little different, a lot of people have sort of wondered what the relationship was, but we never really had a bad relationship because there was always a lot of mutual respect for the kind of play caller he was, the kind of coach that he was, and the job that he did,” Saban said. “I actually said and told the people when he went to Florida Atlantic that Lane will be a better head coach than even he is an assistant because he has those kinds of qualities. Obviously, he hasn’t disappointed in the job that he did there or the job he’s done at Ole Miss. “So none of this is a surprise to me. And I didn’t hear his comments, so I can’t comment on those, but I can only say from my perspective how much respect I have for him as a coach.”

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