Each year, we talk to SEC coaches who analyze the league without having their names assigned to the comments. This is the first of a two-part series, starting with the West Division.
The teams are listed alphabetically.
It’s hard to criticize what Nick Saban has done at Alabama, with four national championships, five SEC titles and only 13 losses in the past nine seasons. But according to one coach, Saban’s stubbornness cost him a fifth national title. His perspective was directed at the Crimson Tide’s former offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin.
“The only thing that kept (Kiffin) from winning two national championships (in his three years at Alabama) was Nick Saban,” the coach said. “If Lane called the game against Clemson, they (Tide) would have won. Nick’s telling everybody he screwed that up.”
Alabama lost a high-scoring game to Clemson for the 2016 national championship.
“Somebody should have controlled Lane off the field with all the stuff that drives Saban crazy,” the coach said. “And that didn’t happen, either.”
The coach spoke highly of Kiffin, who basically was fired before the national title game and is now coach at Florida Atlantic.
“Everybody said he (Kiffin) couldn’t do anything and he won the SEC and national championship with Jake Coker, who nobody liked, said he couldn’t do anything. He won the SEC with a true freshman (quarterback Jalen Hurts),” the coach said. “Yes, Saban will miss Lane Kiffin. The guy did an unbelievable job at Alabama, probably the best job in the history of college football as an offensive coordinator at a big-time school from a production standpoint.
“Was Hurts exposed late in the season? He didn’t throw the ball particularly well the last couple of games. But I think he’s a winner. And he’s got a lot of talent. Is he a polished passer yet? No. Does he have the ability to be? Yes. Remember, he was just a freshman.”
Alabama’s defense again will be good but not as dominant as in recent seasons, one coach said.
“Look at the number of great players lost cumulative over the last three years,” he said. “It’s hard for anyone to lose that many. Look at the draftable players. They’ve lost a lot of great players. It’s hard to replace those guys.”
Said another coach: “Alabama is just as good as it’s always been with the first 22. It’s the second 22 that’s a marked difference this year. It’s not very often in a 10-year period that you played as many snaps with as many talented players as they have.”
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