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Alabama offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Lane Kiffin answers questions during a news conference for the NCAA Cotton Bowl college football game, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2015, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
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Alabama head coach Nick Saban, right, looks on as offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin calls a play on the sidelines during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Wisconsin, Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Alabama is having defensive coordinator Kirby Smart plucked from its staff by Georgia and nearly lost strength coach Scott Cochran to the Bulldogs.

As for Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, who has been quite the journeyman during the past decade, a little status quo would be just fine.

"I would love to be back here," Kiffin told reporters Sunday at a Cotton Bowl news conference. "We will have a new set of challenges with the third year of a new quarterback. We will replace a Heisman Trophy winner (Derrick Henry) just like we did a Biletnikoff winner (Amari Cooper) the year before.

"We have some great returning players to work with, so I would be really excited about coming back."

Kiffin was available to the media on Sunday for the first time since early August. His news conference preceded a two-hour workout in full pads, which was the ninth of 11 total practices for the Crimson Tide in preparation for Thursday night's Cotton Bowl against Michigan State at AT&T Stadium.

Should Kiffin be back in Tuscaloosa, he would begin his third season at AT&T Stadium against Southern California. Kiffin coached USC to a 28-15 record from 2010 through five games into the 2013 season, when he was fired by Trojans athletic director Pat Haden.

Kiffin was USC's offensive coordinator a decade ago before being hired to coach the Oakland Raiders, a stint that lasted just four games into his second season in 2008 and yielded five wins in 20 opportunities. He was then hired at Tennessee, producing a 7-6 record with the Volunteers in 2009 that included convincing victories over Georgia and South Carolina and a 12-10 road loss to an Alabama team on its way to a national title.

When the routine-oriented Nick Saban hired the often-brash Kiffin in January 2014, it made for a most unlikely pairing, but their two seasons together have yielded a pair of Southeastern Conference titles and two trips to college football's four-team playoff. Kiffin declined an opportunity after last season to become offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers but does harbor the desire to be a head coach again.

"All I can control is improving as a coach and getting our players ready for games and continue working hard for Coach Saban, and then whatever happens, happens," Kiffin told reporters. "I have a great job, and any time there is any thinking any different, I just remind myself how many people would want to be the offensive coordinator for Nick Saban.

"Take out the head-coaching experience at the three different places I've been, and if somebody were to tell you that you would work for Pete Carroll and Nick Saban before you were 40 years old as their coordinators on some very successful teams, you would take that in a second."

Kiffin took time in his news conference to thank Saban for the opportunity to come back this past season, adding that he has learned from Saban's "CEO" qualities.

Alabama relied on the passing tandem of Blake Sims and Cooper last season but abruptly shifted this season to pounding it out with Henry, who had 90 combined carries in wins at Auburn and in the SEC title game against Florida. Fifth-year senior quarterback Jake Coker said Sunday that Kiffin is more relaxed this season, giving other offensive assistants more of an opportunity to do their jobs.

Among Alabama's offensive staff, Kiffin has the least amount of time in Tuscaloosa.

"I think he does a great job of calling plays that play to the strengths of the offense and the strengths of each guy," Coker said. "He finds matchups that are favorable, and his play-calling has really made things easier on us."

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

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