Lane Kiffin's debut on the Alabama sideline was more than a success Saturday in the Georgia Dome, it may have been the difference between winning and losing.
Kiffin called all 82 of the Crimson Tide's plays from the sideline, 49 rushes, 33 passes for a total of 538 yards of total offense. More than that, though, he provided the instant feedback to his offensive players that prevented more errors or miscommunications from occuring.
"I think if he wasn't on the sidelines, we would have had a lot more issues, maybe more issues than we could overcome to be successful in the game," UA coach Nick Saban said.
Kiffin was in constant face-to-face communication with quarterback Blake Sims, sometimes between plays, during timeouts, commercial breaks and between quarters.
"We did a really good job of managing Blake (Sims) and helped him manage the game as much as you could ever do it. I don't think anybody could have done that had he been in the press box. I think that was critical, too."
Fullback Jalston Fowler said the extra set of eyes on the sideline provided a chance for more feedback.
"It's a good thing because he can tell you what he sees and if you just listen to him, you'll be able to follow up and it helps you out," Fowler said.
It was a decision Saban said was made two weeks ago and practiced ahead of time to simulate how it would be in the game.
"I think it went really well," Saban said. "Lane did a really good job, the whole offensive staff did a good job of getting the information but I think from a game management standpoint, it really went well."
QB competition still going
Anyone expecting Sims' performance (24 of 33, 250 yards and one interception) to put a lid on the quarterback competition can do away with that notion.
Saban praised Sims, but reiterated that the staff continues to develop Jake Coker, as he learns the offense.
"Blake did a good job in the game," Saban said. "He had a couple open guys he missed. And we had a couple good throws that he made that were dropped. Those are the type of things we were talking about cleaning up on both sides."
Saban said the plan is for Sims and Jake Coker to play this Saturday.
"I still don't hesitate to say there's a quarterback competition. In some way we'll probably try to play both quarterbacks in this game. I don't know how. When I figure it out, I'm probably not going to tell you. And I don't know if that's important to be honest with you.
Key players out
The 33-23 win over West Virginia didn't come without a pair of significant injuries to senior starters.
Wide receiver DeAndrew White will miss two weeks with a separated shoulder and nickel defensive back Jarrick Williams is likely out four weeks with a fractured foot.
White sustained a shoulder injury after catching a 19-yard pass in the third quarter. He exited the game and didn't return and was seen wearing a sling on his right arm.
Williams and the coaching staff weren't aware of his injury until after the game when Williams noticed soreness in his foot.
"He said his foot was hurt. He actually finished the game. They put a screw in it (Sunday) and he'll be four weeks for sure and then we'll have to see where he goes from there," Saban said.
Next man up
Replacing Williams, one of the team's most physical defensive backs, will be no easy task.
Junior Geno Smith has experience at the Star defensive back position, used when the team goes into a nickel defense, and at free safety, where he practiced for the majority of fall camp.
Saban also said Maurice Smith is a player who could fill in and that Eddie Jackson, who is coming back from a knee injury in the spring, will get increased repetitions in practice this week.
"…we're going to probably start investing some reps in Eddie Jackson this week. We'll see whether we think he can play or not," Saban said. "He thinks he can play, thinks he's ready to play, thinks he's ready to go. Doc's cleared him to go so we just ... haven't invested the reps with him with the ones and the twos.
"If you do that and a guy can't play, then that's somebody else you could have repped that didn't get the reps that is now going to play in the game. We're going to start investing some reps in him and then we'll decide later in the week whether we think he's OK to go or not."
Reach Aaron Suttles at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.