Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's style called 'player friendly'

Anniston StarMarch 20, 2014 

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- "Player friendly."

Those are the words two Alabama starters from last season have used when describing new offensive coordinator/quarterback coach Lane Kiffin's offensive style.

Both junior wide receiver Amari Cooper and senior tight end Brian Vogler (Brookstone) praised Kiffin's way of teaching and coaching.

Cooper said the terminology and the way the plays are called make the offense "more simple and player friendly."

Vogler said it's almost surreal having Kiffin as a member of the coaching staff.

"In a sense, yeah because he's a high-character guy," Vogler said. "People know who he is, very high-profile. Seeing him over there, I think it's great honestly because he's a hands-on coach, he's player friendly. He walks you through stuff the way he envisions it. He really helps us a lot as players."

Kiffin, who replaced Doug Nussmeier, will not only have to find a new quarterback, but will also have to keep the Tide's seemingly endless number of skill players happy.

The first step is developing a relationship away from football. While the Tide is just three practices into spring, the players have already grown fond of Kiffin off the field through the offseason program and team meetings.

"Pretty cool guy. Pretty laid back guy," Cooper said. "He pays attention to everything, every little thing. I noticed that about him when we were practicing for the bowl game."

Added Vogler: "For the most part, he's pretty calm. Keeps to himself around us. Every now and then if you do something in practice, he'll make a joke about it. Just try and put you on the spot about it. Other than that, he's pretty calm, pretty collected."

During his Wednesday news conference, Tide coach Nick Saban said Kiffin "will do a really good job of getting the ball in the playmakers' hands."

Getting more players involved will be a tall order as 11 players caught at least one touchdown pass last season. But there is one area Kiffin may be able to help immediately.

Alabama's top two tight ends, Vogler and sophomore O.J. Howard, combined for just 22 receptions, 340 yards and three touchdowns a year ago. Those numbers are expected to increase under Kiffin.

"I sure hope so. That'd be awesome," Vogler said. "Wouldn't hurt to put some more things on film."

From an offensive line standpoint, junior center Ryan Kelly said it will take some time to get all of the new concepts, but he anticipates the line to be firing on all cylinders by the time spring ends.

Kelly said Kiffin has a "great mind" and that he "really connects well with the players." Kiffin is Kelly's third offensive coordinator as he caught the end of Jim McElwain's tenure and both years under Nussmeier. Kelly said he's used to the change.

"(Offensive line) Coach (Mario) Cristobal's done a really good job transferring a lot of what Kiffin brings to the table to helping the offensive line understand it," Kelly said. "For the first couple of weeks, we've just got to base what we learn now off the old offense. I think toward the end of the spring we'll be clicking like that."

Many also anticipate that Kiffin will bring more tempo to the Tide's offense, but don't expect a track meet. Vogler doesn't envision Alabama becoming a fast-paced offense full-time because the players are so accustomed to running a pro-style attack.

"It's hard for me to say right now if that would work for us," Vogler said. "I think we're a team that's made to be maulers. Guys are just going to be really physical with you, hit you from every aspect of the game and hit you in every direction. I just don't know if that's really our style of being speedy and trying to be elusive and go around everybody and dodge people like other schools do."

Vogler did say the offense is "just a little bit more dynamic," but couldn't explain how. But for those wondering if Kiffin plans to do a complete overhaul of the offense, not so fast.

"It's Saban, so it's going to be the same offense," Vogler said. "Obviously, there's wrinkles. Every coach brings his own wrinkle to it, but you're going to see the same stuff."

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