Make no mistake: Kevin Steele is still calling the defensive plays for Alabama as defensive coordinator That might be news for Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin, however, who recently suggested that Crimson Tide cornerbacks coach Travaris Robinson may have taken over the play-calling duties on that side of the ball. On Monday, Nick Saban set the record straight when addressing the theory of his former offensive coordinator.
"Kevin Steele is the defensive coordinator," Saban said. "He has all the defensive coordinator responsibilities. The only thing that we tried to improve on from an administrative standpoint, it was gameday 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 tried to downplay the situation when asked during his own weekly press conference what he saw on tape that led to the belief that Robinson is running the defense.
"I was asked the question what it was like going against Steele's defense," Kiffin said, according to the Clarion Ledger. "I wasn't really trying to start this big thing. We saw things on TV copy just where it was different, first off with the playbook, the calls and stuff. We looked into that further. It ain't no secret: People in these buildings know each other. We got some information that way too."
This entire situation began on Sunday when Kiffin initially shared the theory of Robinson taking over play-calling responsibilities from Steele when speaking to reporters on Zoom.
"I don't know what happened after the Texas game," Kiffin said. "But, you know, our guys watching the TV copy schematically in this last game, 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. He's done a good job too. And they've got really good players."
Alabama's defense has done a good job dominating lesser competition, giving up a combined 10 points in wins over Middle Tennessee and South Florida, but the unit was shredded in its first real test of the season, surrendering 34 points in a loss to Texas. Longhorns quarterback Quinn Ewers threw for 349 yards and three touchdowns. Two of his touchdown passes covered at least 30 yards, including a 39-yard strike to Adonai Mitchell late in the fourth quarter that gave the Longhorns their decisive 34-24 lead.
Alabama could have its hands full Saturday against an Ole Miss offense led by resurgent quarterback Jaxson Dart. Dart is sixth in the SEC with 852 passing yards through three games, and he has nine total touchdowns to just one interception. The Crimson Tide host the Rebels at 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS.