Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin runs drills during practice at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Monday, Dec. 29, 2014. They will square off against Ohio State in the Allstate Sugar Bowl NCAA football game, which will be played Jan. 1,
Gerald Herbert
January 24, 2015

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Lane Kiffin is back for Year 2 as Alabama's offensive coordinator, despite being up for at least one NFL job.

Kiffin faces a much different challenge this year with another search for a starting quarterback and no Amari Cooper, but for the Crimson Tide just having him back is good news.

Reportedly a candidate for the San Francisco 49ers' offensive coordinator job, Kiffin stuck with coach Nick Saban and the Tide.

''The calls that come, obviously you're going to listen to them,'' he said Sunday at Alabama's media day. ''I just really felt that we had done so many good things in Year 1, but this chapter wasn't over yet. There's still so many things to learn from Coach.

''Just going into the offseason, it's kind of like being a freshman. I've said that to one of our coaches. I feel like a sophomore now where last year you're a freshman just trying to figure it out, trying to get the scripts ready, get to practice and stuff. Now you really start to understand how and why he does it and why it's so successful.''

The former Southern California, Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Volunteers head coach guided one-year starting quarterback Blake Sims to a school record for passing yards en route to the national semifinals.

Now, Kiffin has five quarterbacks to choose from before the opener Sept. 5 against Wisconsin, led by Jake Coker and David Cornwell. He said the competition is ''wide open'' but mostly declined to discuss specific candidates just a few days into preseason camp.

The combination of Saban and the outspoken Kiffin, which seemed potentially combustible, ended up working well. Part of that might be because the preseason media day is the only time the head man allows his coordinators to speak to reporters before the postseason.

They took advantage of Sims' style of play to switch to a more fast-paced offense, which Kiffin said was Saban's idea.

Cooper wound up being a Heisman Trophy finalist and a top-five NFL draft pick after shattering a number of Alabama receiving records. Now, the Tide must replace three starting offensive linemen, the three leading receivers and tailback T.J. Yeldon, the program's No. 4 career rusher.

It's another sizable challenge for Kiffin, but at least he's not a freshman any more.

''We're going to find our players and get them the ball the best way we can,'' he said. ''It's not Little League, where everyone gets the same amount of touches. You saw it last year with Amari and everything being so lopsided. It came down to OK, if he's your best player, give him the ball.

''It's a basketball mentality. If LeBron's (James) got 30 at half, you're not going to stop passing it to him. I think Amari had 47 catches in the first quarter of games alone. Now he's gone, so where are those catches going to go?''

They will be divvied in some fashion among veteran receiver Chris Black and an assortment of highly rated young recruits, including Robert Foster, ArDarius Stewart and freshmen Daylon Charlot and Calvin Ridley.

Tight end O.J. Howard, a swift 6-foot-6, 242-pounder, also could be more of a receiving target. The offensive stalwarts early on, at least, might be 242-pound running back Derrick Henry, who actually led the Tide in rushing last season, and versatile backfield mate Kenyan Drake.

''Our whole offense can surprise people this year because we have basically a new identity,'' Howard said. ''We have a lot of guys that are going to play this year that haven't really played a lot. I think just in general our whole offense will be surprising to a lot of people when they see what kind of guys we have that can make plays.''

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