Kiffin lauds Saban, Bama for ‘high level’ of play


Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said Monday he thinks this is probably the best team Alabama has had under his old boss Nick Saban.

“As far as being balanced all over and not having holes anywhere,” Kiffin said of the No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide, who face the Rebels on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. “They play at a really high level on offense, really good on special teams, great returner and (are) playing really good defense.”

Kiffin was Saban’s offensive coordinator for three seasons at Alabama from 2014-16 and part of three SEC championship teams and one national championship team during that span. Kiffin has credited Saban for helping him grow and mature as a head coach, but also hasn’t hesitated to poke at Saban like he does everybody else, especially on Twitter.

Kiffin, asked if he stayed in touch with Saban, joked, “That’s not really his wheelhouse … sending out texts once in a while just checking on you.”

During Kiffin’s three seasons at Alabama, the Crimson Tide were 25-2 against SEC opponents, and Kiffin noted Monday that both of those losses were to Ole Miss.

“Very productive times with a lot of great players and a lot of great wins,” Kiffin said. “The only two regular-season losses were to Ole Miss. Good time and obviously very grateful to him.”

Kiffin said this is a much different Alabama offense under Saban than the one Kiffin faced as Tennessee’s coach in 2009.

“They are so much more dynamic on offense and how they play, and they’re pushing the ball downfield,” said Kiffin, who earned his first win as Ole Miss’ head coach last week with a 42-41 win at Kentucky in overtime.

When Kiffin faced Alabama as Tennessee’s coach, he said the Crimson Tide were more “grind it out, slow. People could keep scores closer. Now, they just kind of blow everybody out, just a totally different style of offense.”

Kiffin also said that Alabama, and not Clemson, was the premier program in the country.

“No offense to Clemson,” Kiffin said. “Those are the two premier programs that are operating on the highest level over the last 10 years, and (Alabama) is doing it in the SEC, which is a little bit harder.”

Saban is 20-0 against his former assistants, which Kiffin said should only underscore that there’s no such thing as an advantage just because you’ve been a part of Saban’s system and know how he runs his program.

“If you working for him gives you an advantage, you’re not a very good gambler, because 20-0 is a pretty strong record,” Kiffin quipped.

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