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January 10, 2014

Inside the numbers: Kiffin brings value as play caller

Yes, national reputation precedes Lane Kiffin.

But peel back the layer of the polarizing Kiffin you think you know most - the one that has alienated fanbases, the one that left the SEC in the middle of the night, the one who has been fired and left at an airport before his team could even make it back to campus - and there's a proven playcaller who is also considered one of the nation's top recruiters.

Kiffin, resume, reputation and all, now brings his acumen to Alabama as offensive coordinator, the school announced Friday afternoon.

At age 38, Kiffin has 17 years of coaching experience including head coaching stints at Tennessee (2009), Southern Cal (2010-13) and the Oakland Raiders (2007-08).

Kiffin has a combined 35-21 record as a college head coach and went 5-15 in less than two seasons as the Raiders' head coach in 2007-08. While his head coaching stops haven't been successful, Kiffin has shown the ability to turn around offenses.

His last foray in the SEC, 2009 at Tennessee, Kiffin put together a promising 7-6 record in his one season as head coach, a two-game improvement over Phillip Fulmer's final year at UT.

Kiffin's most memorable game was a 12-10 loss to then-No. 2 Alabama; The Crimson Tide needed to block The Volunteers' game-winning field goal attempt as time expired to survive and go on to win the 2009 National Championship. Tennessee outgained Alabama 339-256 in defeat.

Perhaps it was that performance that stuck with Alabama head coach Nick Saban; No team gained more total yards or passing yards (265) on Alabama during its 2009 title run than Kiffin's team.

"He is an outstanding and creative offensive coach who has great experience both at the college and NFL level," Saban said in the UA release naming Kiffin the offensive coordinator. "He has a very good understanding of the game and I have always been impressed with what I saw in the games he called. He coaches with a great deal of passion and enthusiasm, and also does an excellent job as a teacher. Lane will be an outstanding addition to our coaching staff and we look forward to him and his family joining us at the University of Alabama."

Kiffin, who implements a pro-style attack that fits the Saban philosophy, had his last stint head coaching stint at USC. He was fired on Sept. 29 following a 62-41 loss at Arizona State. While defense was the main culprit for the change - USC tied a school record for most points allowed in a game with 62 - his offense showed promise during his tenure.

Not counting the 2013 season, when Kiffin only coached five games, USC's offense with Kiffin as a playcaller ranked 38th nationally in yards per play (6.05) in 2012, ninth (6.53) in 2011 and 30th in 2010 (6.03). USC was 40th in scoring in 2012, 16th (35.8) in 2011 and 37th (30.1) in 2010.

The year before Kiffin arrived as USC's head coach, USC ranked 64th in scoring at 26.5 points per game.

Kiffin also improved Tennessee's offense in one season there. Before Kiffin, The Volunteers ranked No. 116 in total offense (268.8 yards per game) and 94th in yards per play (5.27) in 2008. In Kiffin's year, those numbers jumped to 383.6 yards per game (60th nationally) and 5.69 yards per play (53rd).

Now, reputation, resume and all, Kiffin will try it again in Tuscaloosa.



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