Despite issues in his personal life and the uncanny ability to get his views across on Twitter, Alabama fans have warmed up to the idea of Lane Kiffin controlling the car on offense.
Coach Nick Saban witnessed his guys average 36 points and 454.8 total yards offensively in two seasons under Kiffin. The former quarterback mentor at Southern California and Tennessee has produced two Heisman finalists, a Heisman winner (Derrick Henry), a Fred Biletnikoff Award winner (Amari Cooper) and two 3,000-yard passers.
He’s been recognized as a national champion at two different institutions, but another reason lies behind Kiffin’s potential happiness with his hands and play calling heading into next season.
For only the third time in his tenure, Kiffin will get to work with a pair of returning 1,000-yard wide receivers. Prior to Alabama, he inherited a goldmine with Dwayne Jarett and Steve Smith at USC.
Jarrett posted two 1,000-yard performances in 2005 and 2006, earning him consensus All-American honors for both years. Smith, who enrolled a year before Jarrett (2003), totaled 1,083 receiving yards and nine touchdowns on 71 receptions in 2006. The duo combined for 2,098 yards receiving and 21 touchdowns on 141 catches during the ’06 season, resulting in the team obtaining a 11-2 record as Rose Bowl champions and co-champions of the Pac-10 Conference (Pac-12 now).
Kiffin’s return to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 2010 as head coach brought him Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. Lee, like Jarrett, had two 1,000-yard seasons in 2011 and 2012.
Woods, who enrolled in 2010, chimed in with 111 catches for 1,292 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in 2011. This pair collaborated for 2,435 yards and 26 scores on 184 catches during the ’11 season, delivering USC to an 11-2 mark though it was banned from postseason action.
Rising sophomore Calvin Ridley and graduate transfer Gehrig Dieter will both be on the menu for Kiffin and the Tide in the upcoming season. Ridley wasted no time becoming a marquee name in 2015, as he set a school freshman record with 1,045 receiving yards and 89 catches.
The Coconut Creek, Florida native put in five 100-yard outings and tallied seven touchdowns.
As for Dieter, he bounced from SMU to Bowling Green but was solid at both schools.
He replaces the departed Richard Mullaney (38 catches, 390 yards, five touchdowns) and gives Robert Foster time to completely heal from a torn rotator cuff that was sustained last season.
With a name that conjoins two baseball legends, Lou Gehrig and Derek Jeter, one would think Alabama is getting a stud in Dieter. Evidence of this points to his output at Bowling Green a year ago, when he was one of four receivers to collect at least 90 passes for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns (94 catches, 1,033 yards, 10 touchdowns).
Ex-Tide wide receiver Amari Cooper and USC’s Marqise Lee both were finalists and winners of the Biletnikoff Award—given to college football’s top wide receiver under Kiffin.
The Tallahassee Quarterback Club Foundation will announce the preseason watch list for the award during SEC Media Days next week. Both Ridley and Dieter could very well make the cut.