Nick Saban: Visit an idea session

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- If it took calling Phil Jackson to better understand the merits of running zone versus man-to-man, he wouldn't hesitate to pick up the phone and dial. There's no room to worry about outside perception in Alabama coach Nick Saban's world. If it's going to make his football program better, he'll do it.

That's why Saban didn't hesitate to extend an invitation to former USC coach Lane Kiffin to visit Alabama. As ESPN reported and Saban confirmed, Kiffin was in Tuscaloosa on Monday, "to share ideas and exchange ideas ... [for] professional development."

And, frankly, Saban was surprised there was any reaction to Kiffin's appearance.

"Lane is a really good offensive coach, and I've always had a tremendous amount of respect for him," Saban said Tuesday. "Just to come in and brainstorm a little bit to get some professional ideas with our guys is a really positive thing."

Kiffin once was viewed as one of the pre-eminent young offensive minds in college football, but that image has been muddied in recent years. The 38-year-old coach currently is unemployed after being fired by USC in late September. He was a disappointing 28-15 in four years leading the Trojans, and that came on the heels of a one-year stint at Tennessee in which he went 7-6.

But whatever ill will exists toward Kiffin in the South and beyond, Saban was willing to overlook it. Alabama's offense, Saban surmised, could use a fresh look from Kiffin, whose pro-style scheme has many similarities with what the Tide already run under current offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.

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