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Lane Kiffin, Year two under Nick Saban

Alabama’s offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin excited fans inside Bryant-Denny Stadium last season with exceptional play calling. The Crimson Tide recorded 40+ points in six home games, and averaged 36.9 points for the season. Kiffin brought balance to Alabama’s offense, as it accounted for 484.5 yards per game. Its running backs put in 5.1 yards per carry, and quarterback Blake Sims had a huge season. He threw for 3,487 yards with 28 touchdowns.

Wide receiver Amari Cooper had 124 catches for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2014. Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban extended his hand to Kiffin in the 2014 offseason. The Crimson Tide ended 2013 on a two-game losing streak. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was being looked at by Michigan, while Kiffin desired a way to get back into college football.

He performed well as an offensive coordinator and head coach at Southern California, collecting two AP national championships, three Pac-10 titles and seeing three Heisman Trophy winners, Carson Palmer (2002), Matt Leinart (2004) and Reggie Bush (2005, vacated). Kiffin molded former Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton into a worthy player for the National Football League. He was ran out of both programs, despite his success.

Kiffin was hired at Alabama in January of 2014. Much speculation occurred, but Kiffin quietly made the offense a force to be reckoned with. Running backs T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry both neared 1,000 rushing yards with 11 touchdowns last season. Kenyan Drake led the team in touchdowns (6), prior to hurting his leg against Ole Miss. Kiffin guided Alabama’s offense to a Southeastern Conference title and an appearance in the inaugural College Football Playoff.

Alabama will be without Amari Cooper, DeAndrew White, Christion Jones and T.J. Yeldon, but it returns much talent and experience in the fall. Wide receivers Chris Black, ArDarius Stewart and Robert Foster all worked on the second-team offense with Jake Coker. Kiffin’s commitment to Alabama has given Coker more confidence. The Crimson Tide will have more weapons to use with Drake healed and true freshman Calvin Ridley arriving this summer.

A heavy dose of ground and pound will be needed in 2015 to help Coker feel more comfortable. Derrick Henry, who stands at 6-foot-3, 242 pounds, looks to get the lion’s share of carries. He was productive down the stretch last season, but was underused in Alabama’s last two postseason games. Defensively, the Crimson Tide will be stacked with playmakers.

Kiffin will continue bringing creativity to the offense, but it will be his job to make sure Alabama maintains momentum throughout each game. Will the Tide get it done in year two under Kiffin? College football writer Phil Steele records Alabama having the toughest schedule this fall. The odds of Alabama winning it all this year is 6-2, according to Vegas insider.

Stephen M. Smith is a staff writer and columnist for Touchdown Alabama Magazine, Pick Six Previews and SB Nation. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ESPN_Future.

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