TUSCALOOSA – He must not have got the memo.
Alabama coaches walked out to the middle of Bryant-Denny Stadium for a photo during the university’s Fan Day on Sunday. Each of them wore fresh Nike shirts straight from the bag, khakis and white shoes.
All of them except offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, whose red shoes were all fans could talk about on Twitter moments later.
Perhaps it’s fitting that Kiffin stole the show on social media – he’s been doing it for a while now. The offensive coordinator’s Twitter account, @Lane__Kiffin, has more than 120,000 followers and has drawn plenty of laughs while also stirring the pot with other SEC programs.
“Yeah, well I don’t really run my Twitter or social media,” Kiffin deadpanned. “Coach Saban runs it.”
By far the staff’s most active social media presence, Kiffin is no stranger to causing a buzz. He has mastered the art of subtle jokes and jabs at Alabama’s rivals, and he might as well be the king of Bitmojis.
He’s also shown he can go toe-to-toe with rival coaches.
Shortly after Alabama flipped four-star quarterback commit Mac Jones from Kentucky in June, Wildcats quarterbacks coach Darin Hinshaw posted a quote directed at the Class of 2017 recruit.
“In this life, we have to make many choices,” the quote from late religious leader James E. Faust read. “Some are very important choices. Some are not. Many of our choices are between good and evil. The choices we make, however, determine to a large extent our happiness or our unhappiness, because we have to live with the consequences of our choices.”
Kiffin acted fast, retweeting Hinshaw, which unleashed a slew of bad press upon the Kentucky assistant.
Simply put, Kiffin knows what he’s doing on Twitter. On a staff with the only head coach in the SEC without a Twitter account, he knows his role, too. The offensive coordinator’s cool bravado and social presence make him a big recruiting tool for the Tide.
And if the shoe fits...
“It really is just were we are at with the generation of kids we’re recruiting,” Kiffin said. “To interact with them and my own children, it's just kinda where we're at. That's really how a lot of recruits communicate. Until they changed to where we could text kids a couple of months ago, that was really our easiest way to be able to interact with them."
A new NCAA rule, allowing coaches to retweet and favorite posts from recruits might have made the offensive coordinator’s social-media skill set even more valuable. The rule went into place on midnight of Aug. 1 and generated plenty of attention as college coaches flocked to Twitter, unearthing old tweets from months past and flooding timelines with constant retweets.
Kiffin has taken part in the action as well. However, when it comes down to it, the offensive coordinator claims he wishes he could just stick to play calling.
"I don't necessarily really like parts of it because I'd rather be doing ball,” Kiffin said. “But that's part of recruiting as an assistant coach where we're at."
As valuable as he is away from the field, Kiffin’s contributions have been even more influential on it. In his two seasons as offensive coordinator, Kiffin has produced the Tide’s top two single-season passers in Blake Sims (3,487 yards) and Jake Coker (3,110 yards). He also helped develop 2015 Heisman running back Derrick Henry, who broke the school’s single-season record with 2,219 yards on the ground last season.
However, if Kiffin is known for producing anything on the field, it’s wide receivers. The offensive coordinator helped Amari Cooper win the Biletnikoff Award in 2014, as the former Tide receiver set single-season school records in receptions (124) receiving yards (1,727) and receiving touchdowns (16).
This past season receiver Calvin Ridley proved to be the latest star to blossom under Kiffin, tallying 1,045 yards and seven touchdowns on 89 receptions in his freshman season.
“He’s a great play caller,” Ridley said. “He gets the best players the ball in great situations, so he’s doing really great with that. I like him.”