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Alabama’s Lane Kiffin in need of an effective game plan

Cedric Mason- Touchdown Alabama Magazine

What was the motive behind hiring Lane Kiffin to Alabama?

A simple answer would be to open up the offense; however, to create balance was the main notion. Kiffin told the media last season that he would only enhance Alabama’s offense, not change it. It felt like a genius hire to athletic director Bill Battle and Crimson Tide’s head coach Nick Saban, as Kiffin guided the offense to 36.9 points and 484.5 yards offensively per game.

He took a pure athlete in Blake Sims and made him an efficient quarterback in the Southeastern Conference. Sims completed 64.4 percent of his throws for 3,487 yards with 28 touchdowns to 10 interceptions. He totaled 350 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.

Ex-Alabama running back T.J. Yeldon and current ball carrier Derrick Henry both neared 1,000 yards rushing in 2014. Former standout wide receiver Amari Cooper won the 2014 Fred Biletnikoff Award, after grabbing 124 catches for 1,727 yards and 16 touchdowns.

Kiffin has been ineffective this season, aside from Alabama’s season opener against Wisconsin. The Crimson Tide totaled 502 yards on offense, with 238 coming on the ground. Its backs averaged 6.4 yards per carry against the Badgers and posted four rushing touchdowns.

Derrick Henry was established early and often, recording 147 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries. Alabama’s structure in the run game settled quarterback Jacob Coker into the contest. He completed 15 of 21 passes for 219 yards with one touchdown and no turnovers.

The focus has been more so on Alabama’s quarterbacks, as opposed to generating a balanced attack. Its production in the run game has dwindled since week one.

Alabama’s offense struggled to run the ball successfully against Louisiana-Monroe, netting just 137 yards and a touchdown on 3.9 yards per carry. A quarterback needs confidence, but a team’s swagger starts on the offensive line. When the men upfront can flex some muscle and create leverage in the run game, it takes a lot of pressure of the quarterback.

Off-field rumors and questionable play calling has led to a make or break moment for Kiffin in Saturday’s game between Alabama and Georgia. His roots do not hearken to the run game, but against a Georgia team that specializes in controlling the ball, Kiffin must alter his plan.

Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer plans to have his guys line up and run through Alabama’s defensive front. Experience in the interior on defense is the difference between Alabama and Georgia. A’Shawn Robinson, Jarran Reed, Dalvin Tomlinson and others are upperclassmen for the Crimson Tide. Georgia, on the other hand, is young inside with freshmen and sophomores. This game is huge for Ryan Kelly and Alabama’s offensive line.

Jake Coker has completed just 51.2 percent of his passes (53 of 102) with four interceptions, after his week one stance against Wisconsin. Kiffin cannot put it all on Coker if the Crimson Tide expects to defeat Georgia this weekend. Saturday will be put up or shut up for Kiffin.

Alabama’s rush offense since Wisconsin

  • Middle Tennessee State- 39 carries, 220 yards, three touchdowns (5.6 average)
  • Mississippi Rebels- 42 carries, 215 yards, two touchdowns (5.1 average)
  • Louisiana-Monroe- 35 carries, 137 yards, one touchdown (3.9 average)

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

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