Alabama in familiar spot with Atlanta trip, Kiffin leaving
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Alabama is in familiar territory and not just because of a quick return trip to Atlanta.
For the third time in six seasons the top-ranked Crimson Tide head into the playoffs — or previously into the BCS national championship game — with a coordinator preparing to leave for a head coaching job. This time, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin is leaving to take over at Florida Atlantic after ’Bama’s season ends.
Alabama (13-0) faces No. 4 Washington (12-1) in a semifinal game on Dec. 31 at the Georgia Dome.
It wasn’t an issue before: Jim McElwain left after the 2011 season to take over at Colorado State. Alabama beat LSU 21-0 in the title game.
Kirby Smart’s imminent departure for Georgia didn’t impede a championship run last season.
Now, it’s Kiffin’s turn to pull double duty and prepare for at least one more game while starting to work on recruiting and assembling a staff at Florida Atlantic.
“He’s done a great job here molding our offensive players to what they can do to have the best chance to be successful, and I think that’s always something that is very telling about the quality of a coach,” Tide coach Nick Saban said Monday.
Saban said FAU “has selected someone that’s going to do a great job for them” but he declined to take questions about Kiffin’s hiring, which hadn’t been formally announced by Florida Atlantic. He spoke at a news conference Monday with Peach Bowl officials.
Alabama starts practice on Friday before returning to Atlanta, where they beat Florida 54-16 in the Southeastern Conference championship game on Dec. 3. The Tide is well acquainted with the Georgia Dome.
The Crimson Tide has won seven straight games at the Georgia Dome and eight of nine overall under Saban. That includes a 4-0 record in Kickoff Classics and 4-1 in SEC title games.
It also was the site of Saban’s first really big win at ’Bama. The Tide upset No. 9 Clemson 34-10 to start the 2008 season en route to a surprising 12-0 regular season.
Saban still feels that win was a launching pad in helping restore the program to national prominence.
“We were a relatively unknown program when we played Clemson,” he said. “They were ranked in the Top 10 if I recall correctly, and we had a pretty dominant performance in that game. And I actually think that game probably did as much to launch this program forward as any game or anything that we ever did. We took a little bit of a risk in playing a game like that against a very, very good team and a good program that was highly ranked.
“We were happy to have the opportunity to do it.”
NOTES: Cornerback Marlon Humphrey has been doing rehab on a right leg injury that sidelined him from the SEC championship game. Saban is hoping Humphrey will be able to fully participate in practice. “With the type of injury he has, I’m not sure we’ll know for sure what his status will be until we start practicing again,” Saban said. “But we’re hopeful that this is the type of injury that just rest will be very beneficial to him and that he will be able to participate fully when we get back to practice.”
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