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ALLSTATE SUGAR BOWL: OHIO STATE v ALABAMA

December 29, 2014

Lane Kiffin

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

COACH KIFFIN:  First off, very honored to be here.  It's been a great week so far.  The players have really practiced well.  Meetings have gone well.
Had a great few practices of preparation before we got here.  And it's been a very exciting season.  Had some ups and downs but to be able to be here, to be part of the first playoff, it's something very special.
But as Coach Saban talks about every day, it's not about that, it's about the process and it's about today.  So we'll have a great practice today, be ready to play a very well‑coached team with a bunch of great players and a defense that has really played well all year long and really obviously in their last game have played about perfect.

Q.  Can you just talk about the development of Blake, when you got there, what you were working with and the process?
COACH KIFFIN:  I think the question is about Blake and his development and what we did with him.  I don't really believe it's anything we did with him really.  I think Blake has had a great story so far this year and it's been because of the way he's played and worked.  From the first day we got here there were a lot of questions about Blake, how he would perform, whether he was even a quarterback.
Brought in a transfer that the assumption was by a lot of people that the transfer, Jake, would be the starting quarterback.
And never once did Blake bring that up.  Never once did he question that.  All he did was go to work.  There were times when he was getting less reps than Jake was which is very difficult for a quarterback to accept after having been here for four years, going on his fifth year.
All Blake did was respond by practicing, preparing, like the starting quarterback and worrying about what he could control.  And really I think we probably did a poorer job at times early from a coaching standpoint of calling the game best for him.
And I think you can see the progression of the offense and his play has been about us adjusting to him and tinkering our system so it would fit him best.  And he's played as well as anybody in the country down the stretch here.

Q.  What about your coaching style allowed for the transformation of (indiscernible) and Sims this year, what about your philosophy around those guys, to mature as quickly as they did?
COACH KIFFIN:  I don't know that it's anything to do with my philosophy.  I think in both situations, both quarterbacks had been at the program for a long time.  Had not experienced the success that they had hoped for.  And I think it really was just an opportunity that both guys ran with.
I do believe our system is very quarterback‑friendly.  It is a system that does not take a long time to learn.  And so guys can in the first year of it perform well, or if they're young players that you bring in can play really well.
So I just think that both stories are very good stories of two kids that really had had a rocky career up to that point and just came in and performed really well.

Q.  You say you did a poor job calling plays early‑‑
COACH KIFFIN:  Not necessarily a poor job but not calling the game best for Blake because we didn't have any background with him.  It's not like he got preseason games to go play.
So as the season has gone along and we've been able to see not just what does Blake do extremely well physically but how does he handle the game, what parts of the system does he perform best in, and then continuing to do those things not necessarily do things that this is what we do in our system but Blake doesn't necessarily do those best.
So it really was just fitting it to him and getting the system and especially the no‑huddle aspects of it, which was something that was fairly new for myself, what we're doing now is something that we had never done anywhere we'd been on a complete game basis.
Obviously at times there had been no‑huddle that we had run with different quarterbacks at different places but nothing like we're doing now.  And it's just been interesting to see and it's been interesting for myself as a coach to grow and do something different than what we had done to fit the system to our players.

Q.  What did you learn from just the experience and the experience at Southern Cal that have made you a better coach today?
COACH KIFFIN:  Well, the question is about what have you learned from this experience.  I mean, there's a list that would go on forever about it.  For Coach Saban to afford me this opportunity to come here for myself and to be able to be the offensive coordinator is one thing but to be able to sit every day just like our staff meeting this morning we've already had and to be able to learn from somebody like him and his process, shoot, I would have done it for free.  I would have paid him for it, like most people would.
So it's been a great experience for myself to see here's what probably is the best system in college football right now as far as performing year in, year out and how he does that and be able to learn that, and what you've already learned from a different system in our first time at USC under Pete Carroll, which had a great run there, and how different the opportunity to be able to experience both of those, I don't know how you could ask for a better opportunity and to have a better opportunity that he gave me last January.

Q.  Last year Coach talked about is this what we want college football to be.  Games like Auburn, up and down the field.  Has he had a hard time adjusting to the offense and defense at times?
COACH KIFFIN:  I think once again, as you look at this, and you look at Coach Saban and one of the many reasons why he is so successful and the best coach in college football is he's not stubborn.  He's not just we're going to do this because we do this.  He's always researching, always looking at everything within the program and trying to find is there a better way to do it.
And I think this is maybe as good an example as you can have.  I get a lot of credit for the up‑tempo offense and what we've done with Blake and changing from what we did before.  But the reality of the story this up‑tempo offense and going faster and having the fast plays is all Coach Saban.  This was him from the first day I got here, almost every day talking about we need to play faster, we need to be more explosive.
We need to run more plays.  We need to give defenses more problems.  And so really it was what has happened this year with this offense and the numbers and Blake and everything, really are a credit to Coach Saban and what from the first day what he saw going on in college football and said, well, if it's working so well and it gives people so many problems why aren't we doing it?  That's where we are today.

Q.  Do you think he likes it better today than a year or two years ago, people are more accepting of it?
COACH KIFFIN:  I don't want to speak for him.  You'll have to ask him.  I am sure he likes 12 to 9 or 9 to 6 a little bit better, but that's just being a defensive background.  But once again, it is what it is.  And it's the direction that college football is headed.  So instead of fighting that, why not join it and really that's a big reason why we're sitting here today.

Q.  Can you talk about your relationship with Nick on the sidelines.  If you were a fan sometimes, it's very entertaining on the sidelines, people reviewing the plays and things like that (indiscernible)?
COACH KIFFIN:  Yeah, Coach Saban, during the game and before the game, his organization and detail, I mean it literally, you talk about a chess match.  There's no emotion going into any decision that he makes.
People will say he's so calm he's not showing emotion.  I'm sure that's on purpose, because he has an exact plan for every situation that will come up.  I mean, it may be if this game goes to overtime at 7:00that morning it's going to be discussed if it goes to overtime which end are we going to be at because where the student section is.  What's the wind five minutes before kickoff?
So during the game he's the same way.  Everything is calculated.  It may be third down.  He's going to tell me on third down, hey, if it goes to fourth and one or two or three we'll go for it.  If it goes to fourth and four we're going to punt.
He's always thinking ahead of the game.  I had heard from coaches that had been with him how unbelievable he was as far as managing the game and his preparation for it.  And they were right.  I mean, it's a big reason why he's won so many games.  Not just the process of the offseason, the week, preparing the players, but the game day management.
And it happened in the Iron Bowl.  There's a fourth down right there that we go for when the game's really not going our direction and we make that really starts to turn the game the other way.  If he doesn't make that decision and punts we may not be sitting here today.

Q.  Talk about how he's rubbed off on you.  Do you feel like you've rubbed off on him?
COACH KIFFIN:  No.  I'm sure I haven't rubbed off on him.  And he shouldn't.  Here's a coach that got fired, unemployed, he brings in as one of the best runs in the history of college football.  So I'm just a GA sitting there trying to learn every day, no, literally taking notes from him and how he runs it and what an unbelievable opportunity to have after the great run at USC in those years being there with Pete Carroll and now to be able to be with him, it will be a good book some day.

Q.  How satisfying is this for you personally?  Sometimes there's missteps and eventually find themselves right out of coaching.  You fell into a very good situation.  How satisfying has it been that you made a good step after USC?
COACH KIFFIN:  Once again, that goes back to being grateful to Coach Saban.  The phone wasn't ringing a lot.  That's the reality.  Regardless of we all see ourselves in a different view a lot of times than others.  I thought, well, okay probably not going to get a head coaching job but it will be easy to get an offensive coordinator jobs because of what we've done before and places we've been.
And like I said, the phone wasn't ringing.  And he called.  And he took a chance.  I know he thought a lot about it.  Because it wasn't going to be the popular, necessarily the media hire, as he's referred to before.
But he believed in what he thought and what the interview was and the times we had discussions before.  We had met the year before, I guess two summers ago, after our bad year at SC, had came out here to meet with him at his house.  Spent three, four hours with him.  Just a lot of questioning for him about handling situations and different questions that I had for him.
And I think that time and that discussing things with him probably made him more comfortable with the hire as well.  Obviously it wasn't done for that reason at that point.  But as far as being gratifying and proving any of that, it's not about that.  It really is just about getting back to coaching and it's been really fun.
It has been really fun especially for the games.  It's been a long time since I just had coached offense.  Every place we've been, as the head coach for those years, three different places had called the offense.
So during the game, you're trying to call the offense, you're trying to manage the game, you're trying to watch defense, special teams make adjustments and subs, that's a lot going on.  Sometimes it isn't necessarily that fun.
Where now we're just focused on the offense, just focused on the players and to see their development and see them play the way that they have this year and the excitement they've had during the games, that's been very satisfying.

Q.  Head coaching job in the future?
COACH KIFFIN:  I'm not worried about that right now.  I'm worried about today.  Like Coach talks about the process.  The process is practicing really well today and being ready for these meetings when we get out of here coming up and making adjustments from mistakes we made yesterday in practice.

Q.  How would you characterize your relationship with him?  Is it like father/son, like older brother/younger brother or crazy uncle/immature nephew?
COACH KIFFIN:  You're really trying to get me to make SportsCenter today.  That's the third question you've set me up with.  I just looked at it as head coach and assistant coach.  I don't look at it as relative or anything like that.
And he's constantly coaching his coaches.  No different than me.  Like all the coaches.  He had things this morning before we even started our 7:30 staff meeting that he had written down about the offense or about me that we went over this morning.
So he's always‑‑ he says it‑‑ one of the great things he does, if he has an issue with something he's not going to sit around and talk about it with other people.  He said, I'm going to tell you exactly what it is and then we're going to move forward.  And that's it.
And so once you understand that, he explains it to you, you understand that he's always just trying to help you.

Q.  What do you see from Ohio State defensively specifically Bosa up front, how do you anticipate managing that and your guys' ability to run the ball in terms of the running game?
COACH KIFFIN:  I haven't really seen that film with a bunch of long runs like maybe you have.  But I think first off Bosa is an issue.  Very long, strong player, relentless.  Effort player.  So we have to know where he is.  They do a really good job of moving him around.  I think that's missed.  People talk about his numbers and what a good player he is.  He's a great player but they do a great job of moving him so it's difficult.
He's inside.  He's right.  He's left.  He's off the ball.  He's on the ball.  So I feel like what they've done with him on defense is kind of what people do on offensive guys, skilled guy.  They move him around, make it hard to find and they've done a great job with that.  I think they play very physical.
I think the two inside players, the two defensive tackles, are issues because they play so hard and they get off your centers and guards.  And their two inside linebackers are very physical and their field linebacker can really run.  And they leave him in there against three wides a lot and because they have the confidence that he can cover.
So this is a very, very good defense.  One that really if you look out, if you look all year, outside of Michigan State, which a lot of those yards are at the end of the game, people aren't really moving the ball against these guys very much at all.

Q.  How about their talent as compared against some of the talent you've seen in the SEC?
COACH KIFFIN:  Their talent is as good as anybody we've played.  They're very talented.  Very long.  Very strong players.  You can tell that they were built to play physical defense and that's what they do.  And they can run outside and cover.

Q.  A couple of times in the Iron Bowl, the SEC championship game, cameras got you throwing up your arms for a touchdown on plays.  One time, before the ball was snapped or the ball was played, what did you see there that made you‑‑
COACH KIFFIN:  I do that 30 games a time.  They only show it when it works.  A lot of times I just‑‑ I'm not‑‑ I don't even know I'm doing it really.  It's just in my head that they're in this coverage and so there's an excitement that‑‑ because you're calling plays to get a defense.
If we get this defense, we're going to score.  As long as we execute it and make the throw.  And so there's times that you can tell what they're in so that you know okay this is going to work.
The Iron Bowl, hey, we called the same play three or four plays before, looking for (indiscernible) to Cooper where he's going to be on the safety on the corner post.
And we didn't have it, throws the ball to DeAndrew to the left because there wasn't coverage.  We called it again, get the coverage, you could see they're in it.  If we execute it, like the players did, it's going to be a touchdown.  I don't even know when I started doing that.

Q.  You and Urban Meyer had a contentious relationship when you were at Tennessee.  Have you had any interaction with him since you got to Alabama at all?  When is the last time you talk?  What's your relationship like now?
COACH KIFFIN:  Yeah, Coach Meyer and myself communicated a few times over texts, phone call.  I don't remember the timing of it.  And it was, hey, all this kind of crap from before let's move on.
I obviously have great respect for what he's done everywhere he's been and how fast he's gotten this program up to being the top four team in the country.  So I don't remember the exact last time I've communicated with him.
But obviously great respect for him and what he's done.  And that was just one of my many mistakes.

Q.  Your mom had a quote about this 5.0 skit that came out.  I don't think you've talked about it yet.  She said you liked it and shared it.  When did you see it and what did you think when that skit came out?  It went viral pretty fast.
COACH KIFFIN:  We used to have a rule we didn't let my mom talk to the media, like Coach Saban doesn't let us talk to the media.
I don't know what she said.  But I did think the skit was funny.  Somebody sent it to me.  I thought it was pretty‑‑ I thought it was pretty funny, entertaining.  She didn't like the language very much in it, I know that.

Q.  Is it important to still be true to yourself even though you say that the coach rubs off on you a lot, is it still importantto be who you are?
COACH KIFFIN:  I still think you have to be who you are, but it isn't like you don't do adjustments and changes.  There's not a day that goes by that I don't think about, okay, I did this, this is how Coach does it, this is a better way to do it.
And you're just really growing every day around him, not as a head coach, just as a coach.  But at the same time, too, I'm not Nick Saban.  So there's going to be things that you're not going to change because then you're just trying to be something that you're not.  But that doesn't mean that you're not adjusting.

Q.  You mentioned that Nick doesn't hesitate telling you what he thinks.  Does he grade you like on Monday, does he meet with all the coaches this is what I liked, what I didn't like?
COACH KIFFIN:  Yeah, he does.  I mean, it's not the way you're making it sound exactly.  But it's not Monday.  It's Sunday.  And when we watch the film, he watches the defense, the defense and offense and special teams, prior to watching that, he's already watched it that night after the game.
And he already has his notes of his thoughts of things that we did well, situations that came up.  Hey, we could have done this better or let's discuss this because this is a situation that we need to figure out if it happens again what are we going to do.
And so that's one of the great things about him, like I said earlier, he's going to tell you exactly what he thinks, whether it's good or whether it's bad, and so you can learn from that and move on, which is a lot better than having a head coach that I don't know what he thinks and he's holding it in.
So I think it's a great quality and I think it's very helpful.

Q.  Did you work on Christmas Eve?
COACH KIFFIN:  Did we work on Christmas Eve?  We did not work on Christmas Eve, yes.

Q.  How hard was it to be gagged as an assistant coach here where you're not talking to the media, or is that something you enjoy?
COACH KIFFIN:  No, I think it's really good for assistant coaches, because it's just no extra time.  I mean, I see‑‑ I know why Coach does it.  I think when I was with‑‑ I was quality control coach but with Coach Coughlin, I think he had the same thing with the assistant coaches.  At Jacksonville.  It makes sense instead of doing this you're just in working.
So it's not hard at all.  And it's refreshing, too, you leave the practice field, you go right to work to watch the film and not have to think about, okay, well, here's the questions that are going to come up and the things that are out there and stuff.  So you really kind of lose track with what's out there because you're totally focused on football and the offense which has been good.

Q.  Yesterday I asked him about this yesterday.  Asked him if it was easier now, maybe more difficult for him.  He said to become a head coach than it is for an offensive coordinator now to become a head coach, the way football has changed.  What do you think?
COACH KIFFIN:  I don't think that's fair at all to say offensive coaches should be head coaches and defensive coaches shouldn't, or we're going to hire offensive guys because it sells tickets.
I don't think that's fair at all.  And I think Kirby's an example of this.  Every job that's open in America should be flying to go see Kirby Smart.
How can you have a better resumé than what Kirby Smart has put on tape?  It's unbelievable year in, year out how the defense performed.  Lose first round picks and have to replace guys, play in a conference that's always adjusting and growing and has great offensive coaches in it, and he's learned from Coach Saban, how do you not hire Kirby Smart because he's not an offensive coach?
Well, he's smart enough to know he's going to go hire an offensive coach.  He ain't going to call the offensive plays.  He's going to go play great defense and probably go hire a spread, explosive offensive guy because that's the direction where college football has gone.
I think it's very unfair for people to say we're not going to hire a defensive head coach.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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