Thursday, December 04, 2008

What Auburn needs

To be honest, well, a guy kinda like this ...

That's Tubby, and as you can see from the fact the hair on the top of his head was still dark and not winterized by the job, it was still pretty early in his Auburn tenure (it may be from his introductory press conference; I don't know). Young (well, Younger) Tubby was pretty much everything an Auburn program reeling from Bowden mismanagement needed. If Auburn strikes this kind of gold again, we're all going to be very, very fortunate.

What made Younger Tubby such a good coach for Auburn? What attributes did he bring that New Auburn Head Coach will have to bring? Here's three, ranked in order of importance according to the JCCW's always-humble opinion:

1. Players playing above their talent level.

Let's not mince words here or lie to ourselves: it's not easy to recruit to Auburn. Our home state isn't talent-rich as Florida, Louisiana, or Georgia and what talent there is grows up supporting our rival more often than not, an effect which becomes even more severe when said talent is coached competently. We have to battle Georgia and Georgia Tech in our traditional recruiting grounds in west Georgia, and again, those battles become more difficult when those teams have competent coaches. Ditto the Florida panhandle. Ditto, well, everywhere. There's a sad and unfortunate reason both stars from the 2007 class (Burns and Ziemba) arrived from Arkansas.

The point of all this: as long as Saban's at Alabama, Richt's at Georgia, Meyer's at Florida, and Miles is at LSU, Auburn is not realistically going to recruit as well as those four programs on a year-in, year-out basis. How wide the recruiting gap could actually become is, obviously, debatable, but I think the following statement is just about fact: Auburn will have to make up a talent deficit to compete for titles in the current SEC.

By-and-large, that's what we want as Auburn fans, right? We're not really that demanding, despite what they're saying about us out there right now. We don't need to go to Atlanta every year, don't need championships every other year the way some people (*cough*LSU fans*cough*) apparently do. We just want to be in the mix, and we're happy. To stay in that mix going against the likes of our current rivals, Auburn is going to have to play over their heads on a regular basis.

That's what Tubby's teams did. Not always. But often enough that Auburn stayed in the mix, and stayed there long enough to pull out a couple of trips to Atlanta and more remember-this-one-forever kind of victories than some programs get in their entire existence. This is certainly an attainable goal for whoever steps into Tubby's shoes, no matter who happens to be sitting on the throne in Tuscaloosa.

This is where success at Auburn starts: in the coaches getting every last drop of execution and effort out of their players, regardless of how talented they might be.

2. Recruiting.

Of course, it helps just a wee bit if the players you're getting the most out of have, um, a lot in them to get out. Or something.

Anyways: since recruiting to Auburn isn't always easy, Auburn needs someone good at it, someone who can both win a few battles for the studs and who's got a good eye for overlooked prospects. (Tubby? Boy howdy could he be good at it.)

3. Scheme and Vision

This was always the most underrated aspect of Tubby's tenure: the dude could coach some defense. He had his plan for it: recruit smaller, faster, more athletic guys who could knife into the backfield and swarm to the ball, rather than getting a bunch of wide bodies out there to muck things up. And between this vision, Tubby's already sturdy X's and O's from his coordinating days, and the good work of the DC's he would hire and collaborate with, Auburn has had one of the best defenses in the country.

Auburn's next coach doesn't have to be a defensive genius or an offensive guru. But he should probably be one or the other. Ask Ed Orgeron: all the recruiting in the world doesn't help if you can't get your players into the positions they need to be in to win.


Auburn's coach doesn't has to be a saint. His players don't have to be saints. But he and his players have to act like they are--if not all the time, the overwhelming majority of it--or it's not going to work.

Auburn's coach has to have his players graduate. He can't cheat or have other kinds of run-ins with the NCAA. From the JCCW's perspective, he can't overrecruit to this kind of degree. I'd distinctly prefer it if he didn't embarrass his opponents.*

And while it's not a requirement, if he could be on good terms with the press and his subordinates and not act like football was some kind of all-consuming brain disease--so I could go on holding those things against Alabama's head coach to irrational levels without being a total hypocrite--that'd be swell.

Tubby did all these things.

The search for his replacement--for Tubby, actually, just a different, more energetic version of him--starts now.

*Tubby was generally pretty good about this, but remember that fake field goal in the fourth quarter of a runaway against Sherill's Miss. St. team? I still kinda wish he hadn't done that. Nobody's perfect, I suppose.


Joe Blow said...

You know who else has done all of those things at their current location? Turner Gill. I think a hire like that would be the shot in the arm that Auburn needs right now.

tennessee tiger said...

I love all the Bammer posters on the thread regarding Saban's need to cut roughly 1-in-6 of the returning players to accomodate the monster class he signed this year. Stuff along the lines of, and I am paraphrasing here: "no one told these kids they got 4-year rides -- if they're not good enough, then f#$% em'."

That's all well and good if a kid proves to be nothing but trouble. But I think you owe a kid something if he's working hard in the classroom and working hard on the field; you shouldn't replace just because you found a better option. It's obvious he won't go pro, so shouldn't you honor that commitment to allow him to finish his degree (if he can do it in 4 years)?

Then again, I remember that the lion's share of Bammers are lucky if they finished high school. I guess that explains the attitude that kids who sign with Bama are not entitled to educations (although the fans are certainly entitled to national championships -- it's their birthright, after all. Hyuck hyuck hyuck.