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Saban pushes back on Kiffin suggesting Alabama shifted defensive play-caller

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Alabama coach Nick Saban says defensive coordinator Kevin Steele is still calling the plays. Mississippi coach Lane Kiffin isn't so sure.

Kiffin stirred some controversy ahead of 15th-ranked Ole Miss' visit Saturday to the 13th-ranked Crimson Tide, suggesting that cornerbacks coach Travaris Robinson appeared to be calling the plays for Alabama's defense in a 17-3 win over South Florida.

Not so, says Saban. He brought up the speculation unprompted on Monday, citing reports that had been “floating around out there.”

“Kevin Steele is the defensive coordinator. He has all the defensive coordinator responsibilities,” Saban said. “The only thing that we tried to improve on from an administrative standpoint was game day administration of getting the signals in quicker. That’s the only thing that we worked on together as a staff. The whole staff made a contribution to it, and I think it was a lot better in this game than it was in the Texas game.”

Kiffin told reporters on Sunday that “it certainly seems like T-Rob's now calling the defense.”

“We played him before at South Carolina, so we’re preparing accordingly, you know, for him calling the defense,” Kiffin said, according to reports. “He’s done a good job, too. And they’ve got really good players.”

Kiffin didn't exactly walk back his comments a day later, citing things he saw when watching Alabama's game against South Florida and perhaps some inside information. He's a former Tide offensive coordinator and his defensive coordinator, Pete Golding, arrived from Tuscaloosa this season.

“I was asked a question about going against Steele's defense, so I wasn't really trying to start this big thing,” he said. "We saw things on the TV copy just where it was different, first off of what the play looked like, the calls and stuff.

“So we looked into it further. I mean, it ain't no secret, people in these buildings know each other, so we obviously got some information that way, too.”

The 65-year-old Steele started his third stint under Saban at Alabama this year and his second as defensive coordinator. Robinson was South Carolina's defensive coordinator from 2016-19.


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