It has been Alabama head football coach Nick Saban's policy to have each of his coordinators speak to the media once in preseason camp and then place them off-limits through the regular season.
Sunday was that annual occurrence in Tuscaloosa, with Kirby Smart taking the podium for the seventh time as Crimson Tide defensive coordinator and Lane Kiffin for the first time as the offensive overseer. Kiffin, the former head coach of the Oakland Raiders, Tennessee Volunteers and Southern California Trojans, spoke for nearly 14 minutes.
"This isn't about Lane Kiffin or anything before or where he's going," Kiffin said before the team's third practice. "This is about Alabama."
Kiffin spent eight days with Saban as an offensive consultant last December when the Crimson Tide were going through Sugar Bowl preparations for Oklahoma. Alabama lost to the Sooners 45-31, but Kiffin was hired in January after coordinator Doug Nussmeier left for the same post at Michigan.
Alabama announced in June that Kiffin had agreed to a three-year contract that would pay him $680,000 each of the next two seasons and $714,000 in 2016, when the Tide are coincidentally scheduled to open against USC. Kiffin guided the Trojans to a 10-2 record in 2011 and to a preseason No. 1 ranking in 2012, but he was fired early last season with a 28-15 record.
Kiffin also was fired in 2008, when he was early in his second season with the Raiders, who had a 5-15 mark under his direction. He coached Tennessee to a 7-6 mark in 2009 before bolting back to USC, where he had been offensive coordinator in 2005 and '06.
"As you make mistakes, the No. 1 thing you've got to do is learn from them and not just make excuses for them," Kiffin said. "I've made more than anybody, probably, and to be able to go through what I've gone through and still be fortunate before the age of 40 to be here as offensive coordinator with Coach Saban at Alabama, you take some time to reflect on that.
"I've been with two of the most successful coaches ever with Pete Carroll and Nick Saban, and to have the opportunity to be offensive coordinator for both of those guys at a time when their programs are rolling and at the top of the ladder has been great."
Kiffin admitted that Saban met with him before the news conference to make sure Kiffin "wouldn't say anything that would be on the ticker."
Alabama is expected to operate with fifth-year senior Blake Sims or Florida State transfer Jake Coker at quarterback, with neither having started before. The Crimson Tide could have freshman Cameron Robinson as their starting left tackle, but Kiffin's offense also could possess the nation's best tailback-receiver-tight end trio with T.J. Yeldon, Amari Cooper and O.J. Howard.
Kiffin praised those three for their work ethic, and Saban praised Kiffin for his seven-month performance.
"I think Lane has done a really good job since he's been here in providing leadership for the whole offense in terms of the direction we want to go and the identity we want to have," Saban said.
Ten minutes into his session, Kiffin was asked about Oct. 25, when Alabama visits Tennessee. He admitted to being surprised it took so long for a Knoxville question.
"We had a great year there, and the people were phenomenal," he said. "I really loved being there, and it was just a unique situation that came about. You can't look back. I don't live that way."
Kiffin added that he expects an "extremely competitive" game against the Volunteers.
Saban expressed encouragement with how all the quarterbacks have improved since spring practice. He was asked specifically about Coker and said he is fitting in well with other players and that he has talent but has shown the occasional apprehension.
"No one ever seems to ask about Blake Sims," Saban said, "but he's done extremely well in camp as well."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.