Kiffin Wants Vols To Be Like Tide

Is the future of Tennessee football what you see at Alabama? If Tennessee Coach Lane Kiffin has his way, the Vols could be playing like Nick Saban's Crimson Tide in the future.



In his Wednesday press briefing, Alabama Coach Nick Saban was asked about Tennessee Coach Lane Kiffin's pronouncement that the Crimson Tide pattern is the one Kiffin wants to use in rebuilding the Vols' football program. Saban took that as a compliment, and offered one of his own.

"I really appreciate the comment," Saban said. "But I think they are playing with a tremendous amount of toughness and shown a lot of resolve as a team to go to Florida and play a very competitive game and be very physical in that game and they are establishing that with their offense and how they play defense. I think those characteristics are probably the most important in building a program. You build a foundation with the intangibles that you need to create the work ethic and the toughness and those kinds of things. I see that happening with their team."

Saban has a head start since he is in his third year at the helm of Bama football. Kiffin is in his first year with the Vols.

Alabama will host Tennessee in a Southeastern Conference game at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. CBS will televise the game. Bama is 7-0 overall and ranked first in the nation and has a 4-0 SEC record. The Vols are 3-3 overall and 1-2 in SEC play. Tennessee had an open date last week after having played its best game of the year in defeating Georgia, 45-19. Alabama has played seven straight weeks, but gets an open date after playing the Vols.

Saban had good news on the injury front. Last week, cornerback/kick return specialist Javier Arenas was held out of Bama's 20-6 win over South Carolina. Arenas had a rib injury. Saban said, "Javy (Javier Arenas) has taken all the reps and done all the work this week. Dre Kirkpatrick (cornerback) has done all the work. Josh Chapman (nose tackle) has worked. Michael Bowman (wide receiver) has worked. A couple of other guys, nicked up a little bit, (linebackers) Chris Jordan and Cory Reamer, had bumps and bruises, but are working their way through it. "

"We've had a couple of good work days," Saban said. "I'm pleased with the way the players are trying to respond and get through the week in terms of preparation. When you want something, that certainly creates the drive to achieve it. And even though we seem to be becoming a fast-food nation of people wanting immediate self-gratification--instant coffee, instant tea, instant everything, right now--that's certainly not the way of the world when it comes to college football. You can't win if you don't finish the race. It takes a lot of perseverance on everybody's part to continue to work, focus on what they need to do to improve and get better.

"We're excited about the opportunity we have on Saturday. We have a tremendous amount of respect for Tennessee's toughness, their ability to run the ball and the way they play defense. This is going to be a real challenge for us and we're looking forward to it."

One major topic of conversation last week was the performance of Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton in the Vols' win over Georgia. Crompton was the SEC Offensive Player of the Week after passing for four touchdowns.

Saban said, "They did a lot of things different in the Georgia game. I'm sure with the bye week they'll do some things different in our game. They moved the pocket a lot with a lot of boots and sprint-outs and things like that and he did a nice job of executing those things and it really complimented their running game and those plays were misdirection plays and got the defense moving in one direction and they made a lot of plays on Georgia with play action passes and obviously that works best when you run the ball effectively which they have been doing all year long and he did a great job executing in that game. They also made a couple of big plays and they were off play action as well."

Meanwhile, Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy has been in a bit of a slump. Saban said the media might be responsible for that.

Saban said that McElroy has had a good week of practice. Then he said, "One of the things you all do extremely well is create expectations for people because of their performance. You say he's going to win the Heisman Trophy and you do things like that or leading contender and all that, and they when they have a bad game they're fair game to have their legs cut out from under them. But if you didn't build them up, the chopping block would not be nearly as effective in terms of killing them.

"We understand that's the way of the world. I think some people handle that better than others. I think sometimes you can get caught up a little bit in focusing more on how you are playing than what you are doing, how you are doing rather than what you are doing. Does that make sense? We don't want them to focus on how they are doing. We want them to focus on what they are doing on this play at this time and all the things fundamentally they have to do to be successful on that play. It's a little bit that fast-food nation I talked about, immediate self-gratification, you're all interested in results. But you have to be able to focus on the process that gets the results.

"It's like shooting a foul shot. Whether the foul shot means you're going to win by making it or you're ahead by 30 and it means nothing, you should be able to shoot the shot the same to give yourself the best opportunity to be successful.

"You talk to guys like Michael Jordan and they asked him ‘what'd you do to elevate your game at the end of the game?' and he said, ‘Nothing. Everybody else just choked. I just played the same. I could still shoot the same shot, drive the same way. They just got too close or too far or whatever because they were over-playing the situation, and I just did what I do. I just played my game.'

"And that's sort of what we want Greg to do and what we need him to do. I think he understands that and I think he got to the point where he was expecting so much from himself that he got a little disappointed, and that's not necessary. We want him to focus on what he needs to do to be successful and we want to do everything we can do to help him be successful."

Saban confirmed that Chris Rogers and Jerrell Harris had changed numbers. "It's a special teams issue," the coach explained. "You can't have two guys with the same number on special teams. We had a couple of guys we wanted to work in on special teams and maybe have a role and it was a number issue and both guys were happy to do what was best for the team and Chris Rogers (formerly number 8, same as Julio Jones) is number 1 and Jerrell Harris (formerly number 5, same as Roy Upchurch) is number 10.

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