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Crimson Tide photos / Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian gets ready to lead the Crimson Tide out on the field before last month's Iron Bowl.

Millions of Americans opened presents last Friday and by Saturday had resumed their typical routines.

That's not how it works for Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, who recognizes and appreciates the gifts he encounters on a daily basis. A staggering five of the 11 Associated Press first-team All-American offensive members play for Sarkisian's Crimson Tide, including the trio of quarterback Mac Jones, running back Najee Harris and receiver DeVonta Smith.

Jones, Harris and Smith are assured of finishing in the top five of the Heisman Trophy balloting, with Smith expected to be the first receiver to win the award since Michigan's Desmond Howard in 1991.

"I think that speaks volumes to our team in general," Sarkisian said Tuesday afternoon. "For us to have three of the top five in the Heisman means that our team is playing good football, because those things do not happen if you're not winning football games and you're not in this situation in the College Football Playoff. That's a byproduct of being on a good football team.

"We are not one-dimensional, and we do not recruit one-dimensional offensive linemen. We ask them to run block, and we ask them to pass protect. We don't recruit one-dimensional backs, and we have very intelligent receivers. We use quite a bit of formations and motions and things, and it can be taxing on you if you don't know what you're doing."

The success of Alabama's offense this season — the Crimson Tide are averaging 543.9 yards and 49.7 points per game — made Sarkisian an easy selection as the Broyles Award winner as college football's top assistant coach. There was even one special Saturday when Sarkisian filled in for Nick Saban, who missed the Iron Bowl on Nov. 28 due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Sarkisian guided the Crimson Tide to a 42-13 whipping, Alabama's biggest win ever against a ranked Auburn team.

"Obviously that was a unique scenario, and I just wanted to do the best job I could do for the university and our football program and Coach Saban," Sarkisian said. "Ultimately, it was about the players, and our guys played their tales off in that game and played really well in all three phases. I didn't want to lose sight of what my initial role always is, and that's t0 have our offense ready to play and to call plays.

"It was an awesome opportunity, and it was great to be back in that role for a few hours, but it was about the players and their performance."

There is no doubting the respect Sarkisian has for his players and vice versa. Sarkisian seems overqualified for the Broyles Award after having served as head coach at Washington and Southern California, but Sarkisian endured a humbling stretch after losing his job at USC midway through the 2015 season due to a couple of alcohol-related incidents.

Sarkisian was hired as an offensive analyst at Tuscaloosa in 2016 and was set to take over the Crimson Tide offense in 2017, but he left abruptly to call plays for the Atlanta Falcons. He returned to Alabama early last year and has guided the Crimson Tide to at least 35 points in every game since.

"He calls great plays, and he's great at developing players," Jones said. "All the players love him and are behind him 100%. He's an aggressive play-caller, which shows on the field, and we love how he adjusts to what we're saying and telling him, too. Some offensive coordinators don't listen to their players as much, but he definitely takes in what we tell him and what we see on the field."

Said Smith: "He does a lot with his offense — a lot of movement and a lot of shifts and a lot of motions. He puts people in different places and helps everybody be successful."

Miami Dolphins rookie Tua Tagovailoa was Alabama's quarterback for most of last season, and he had a receiver quartet of Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Jaylen Waddle and Smith. Jeudy and Ruggs joined Tagovailoa as NFL first-round selections, while Waddle played just four games this season before breaking his ankle on the opening kickoff at Tennessee.

That put the aerial load on Smith and Jones, who could finish 1-2 in the Heisman race.

"DeVonta is notorious for the second-and-26 catch against Georgia in the national championship game (of the 2017 season), while Mac came in as the three-star who had to grind it out and sit behind Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa," Sarkisian said. "These guys prepare better than anybody right now for us on offense, and it shows in the way they play the game. They remind me of NFL players when it comes to that."

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

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