Kiffin again questions who called Tide’s defense

Kiffin again questions who called Tide's defense

Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin doubled down on his accusation that Alabama defensive coordinator Kevin Steele wasn’t calling plays for the Crimson Tide during their 17-3 win over South Florida last Saturday.

Kiffin told reporters Monday that he wasn’t attempting to make waves when he said Sunday that it appeared that defensive backs coach Travaris Robinson had taken over playcalling duties after Alabama’s loss to Texas — something Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban had not announced.

Ole Miss travels to play Alabama on Saturday.

“I was asked the question, ‘What’s it like going against Steele’s defense?’ I wasn’t trying to start this big thing,” Kiffin said. “We saw things on TV copy just where it was different. First off, of what the play looked like — the calls and stuff. And so we looked into that further. And then it ain’t no secret that people in these buildings know each other, so we obviously got some information that way, too.”

Unprompted, Alabama coach Nick Saban refuted that suggestion during his Monday news conference.

“On this other thing I hear floating around out there — I’m sure you’ve seen the same reports that I’ve seen — is that Kevin Steele is the defensive coordinator,” Saban said. “He has all the defensive coordinator responsibilities. The only thing that we tried to improve from an administrative standpoint was game day administration of getting the signals in quicker, alright? So that was the only thing we worked on as a staff, and the whole staff made a contribution to it and I think it was a lot better in this game [against USF] than it was in the Texas game.”

Alabama, which lost to Texas 34-24, rebounded defensively to beat USF 17-3.

Steele, 65, is on his third stint working for Saban at Alabama. He originally joined the staff during Saban’s first year in 2007 as defensive coordinator.

Steele, who coached linebackers at Alabama during Kiffin’s time as offensive coordinator in 2014, returned as defensive coordinator this offseason after holding in the same position at LSU, Auburn, and Miami.

On Monday, Kiffin reiterated his appreciation for Saban hiring him on the heels of his firing as head coach at USC.

“People give people opportunities all the time,” Kiffin said. “But the things I learned from him defensively, things I learned from him organizationally — discipline. I’m extremely grateful to him. He really helped him at a really challenging time in my life.”

Saban said that Ole Miss is a good team and “Lane has done a good job with the program.”

“This is one of the best offensive teams in the country in terms of the things they do, the multiples they have,” he said.

He later added, “We’re going to have to play our best and we need to improve to be able to do that.”