Lane Kiffin's imprint on Crimson Tide offense to be revealed in the fall

Lane Kiffin's imprint on Crimson Tide offense to be revealed in the fall

April 21st, 2014 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Alabama coach Nick Saban, right, talks with new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Lane Kiffin at A-Day.

Photo by Associated Press/Times Free Press.

Little could be gleaned from Alabama's offense Saturday that could give Crimson Tide fans or foes any ideas of what can be expected later this year under first-year coordinator Lane Kiffin.

Head coach Nick Saban said things were kept basic on both sides of the ball, and junior tailback T.J. Yeldon estimated that just 10 percent of the playbook was on display. Yet a few minutes after Saban and Yeldon spoke, junior center Ryan Kelly shed at least some light on how Kiffin is different from predecessor Doug Nussmeier.

"Coach Kiffin likes a lot of motions and kind of wants us to get up to the ball," Kelly said. "It's not an Oregon-type offense, but if you look at last year, we were snapping the ball with five or four seconds left on the clock. Now it's not so much of a no-huddle as just something to where we can get up there and communicate better instead of just at the last second.

"I think it will make the offense more effective."

Neither the first-team Crimson offense nor the second-team White offense managed 300 yards during the A-Day spring game, which the White won 17-13. Neither team had 200 yards until there were less than four minutes remaining.

Kiffin oversaw a quarterback competition the past few weeks and will witness another one in July, when Florida State transfer Jacob Coker challenges fifth-year senior Blake Sims. After excelling in the first two scrimmages that were closed to the media, Sims struggled at A-Day, completing 13 of 30 passes for 178 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.

Whoever emerges at quarterback will guide an offense that has a formidable tailback tandem with Yeldon and Derrick Henry, a talented receiver in Amari Cooper, a mismatch for defenses in tight end O.J. Howard, and an offensive line with three returning starters and promising freshman left tackle Cameron Robinson.

"Lane and I have a good relationship," Yeldon said. "He's a good coach, and I think his plays are pretty much the same."

Some of the offensive struggles at A-Day can be attributed to a defense looking to atone for the way last season ended.

The coupling of junior-college transfers D.J. Pettway and Jarran Reed with promising sophomores A'Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen gives Alabama the potential of a better defensive front. There are also three quality inside linebackers with Trey DePriest, Reggie Ragland and Reuben Foster, as well as three on the outside with Denzel Devall, Xzavier Dickson and Dillon Lee.

"We responded a lot better this spring," DePriest said, "and I think a lot more guys have bought in when it comes to doing the necessary stuff we need to do to get back to where we're trying to go."

Having won three of the past five national championships and having last season's bid derailed after an 11-0 start, there is little doubt about the goal come autumn.

"I think the challenge for our team is if they want to continue to have success on a consistent basis, everyone has to buy into the process of the system of what we do," Saban said. "You can't start questioning it. You have to buy into it, and you have to believe in it. Everyone has to be a team guy, and everyone has to check their ego at the door."

What a coup

Alabama not only wrapped up spring practice this past weekend but extended its reach for future success by landing a whopping four Rivals.com top-100 commitments for the 2015 class.

Giving the Crimson Tide nonbinding pledges were cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick (6-foot-0, 193) of Jersey City, N.J., linebacker Leo Lewis (6-0, 238) of Brookhaven, Miss., and the Coconut Creek, Fla., tandem of athlete Shawn Burgess-Baker (6-0, 194) and receiver Calvin Ridley (6-1, 189).

Fitzpatrick is Rivals.com's No. 2 cornerback and No. 9 overall prospect, while Ridley is the No. 1 receiver nationally and the No. 11 prospect overall. Lewis is the nation's No. 2 inside linebacker and No. 61 prospect, while Burgess-Baker is the No. 6 athlete and No. 73 prospect.

Alabama has 14 commitments for 2015 and is well ahead nationally in the Rivals.com, Scout.com and 247Sports.com rankings.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.