Alabama coordinators Kiffin, Pruitt talk USC, team
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin isn't saying much about the prospect of opening against his former team, Southern California. New defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt isn't dropping any hints of what he really thinks about his personnel.
The Crimson Tide's two play callers took the podium Sunday for their annual - and only - preseason availability but offered few insights three practices into preseason camp.
Pruitt takes over one of the nation's top defenses featuring NFL prospects like defensive end Jonathan Allen and linebackers Reuben Foster and Tim Williams. How much talent and potential does he see from his defense? Pruitt offers a non-answer answer.
''There's guys here who have some experience,'' said Pruitt, who ran Mark Richt's defense at Georgia the past two seasons. ''To me, as coach (Nick) Saban, when he recruits guys, he's looking for the right intangibles. There's a certain criteria for each position. The guys wouldn't be here if they didn't meet those criteria.''
Kiffin, who's shown a knack for poking at opponents over the years, said he hasn't thought much about facing his old team on Sept. 3 in Arlington, Texas. He was fired unceremoniously at the airport after landing in the early morning hours following USC's loss to Arizona State just over three years ago.
Kiffin didn't bite when asked if he'd get a little extra satisfaction from a win over the Trojans.
''I really have not thought much about it,'' he said. ''It won't be about me, just like it wasn't about me when we were at Tennessee, it's not about coach (Saban) when we go to LSU. It's about our players playing really well. All we can do is put our players in the best position to win.''
For Kiffin, that means replacing quarterback Jake Coker and Heisman Trophy-winning tailback Derrick Henry, along with No. 2 rusher Kenyan Drake. Plus, center Ryan Kelly was a first-round NFL draft pick.
The quarterback competition includes Cooper Bateman, Blake Barnett, David Cornwell and freshman Jalen Hurts.
Coker started every game but one, but Saban has said he really won over the team in the game he didn't start. He replaced Bateman in the loss to Mississippi.
''We're actually in that same area where there was four a year ago and now it turns out there's four again,'' Kiffin said. ''We would always like to be to one - that's the best thing. But we don't want to eliminate anyone because this has been a very strange quarterback competition over two years. You guys watching scrimmages or games, even ourselves as staff, if you took a poll at times two or three weeks before the openers the last two years it would be mixed on who was going to be the starter.''
He said making sure coaches pick the right quarterback is more important than making a decision based on any timetable. Two years ago, Blake Sims outdueled Coker, who also played in the early games.
''I think if we would have had a timetable we may not have found the right guy in the last two years,'' Kiffin said.
Pruitt has more experienced candidates in replacing four defenders who were second-round picks.
Players like Ryan Anderson (six sacks), Rashaan Evans (four sacks) and Williams (10.5 sacks) came off the bench last season.
Anderson said Pruitt's hiring to replace Kirby Smart, now Georgia's head coach, influenced his decision not to enter the NFL draft.
''That played a big part in me coming back,'' Anderson said. ''He's just a player's coach. He isn't a coach that always does all that yelling and stuff. He will talk to you. He will coach you. He isn't just going to yell at you, dog cuss you. He's going to coach you.''