Coach Yoxall (Auburn's strength and conditioning coach Kevin Yoxall) has had the guys running and lifting since they got back from the bowl game in Arizona. They have been doing their early morning "mat" workouts that are a challenging part of the yearly routine for players.
The coaching staff takes the players to the limit, physically and mentally, this time of year. The early morning drills are not the kind of thing you like to do, but it is necessary to find out who the tough guys are. Developing toughness can't be underestimated when building a football team.
This is the time of year the coaching staff can find out who their competitors are, the guys who don't want to lose whether they are in the mat drills going one-on-one or on the field in a football game going 11-on-11.
Also this time of year leading up to the start of spring practice the coaches are evaluating personnel and trying the best they can to get all of their players in the right places when the pads go on again for spring drills.
With no games to play it isn't a fun time of the year for the players, but it is a necessary part of team building. I believe how a coaching staff handles this time of year can set a team apart from other teams across the country. This is a time of year that there is a tendency to back off and get complacent, but the great programs use this time to get better as a team and get closer as a team.
It is a big plus if the coaches can begin building the chemistry this early and get a good feel of the personality of the group going into the fall. To me that is highly, highly important.
It is also important to identify who the leaders are going to be on the field. You want find the guys who are not going to let you have a bad practice and you want to find the guys who have made jumps physically and mentally from the previous year. It is amazing how much college football players can improve from the fall to the spring.
While the players are doing their drills, this is the time of year for the coaches to take an in-depth look at what they did on the field last season to evaluate what worked well and what needs improvement offensively, defensively and in the speciality teams.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn who was also head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming, Dye participates in the Legends Poll, a Top 25 rating of the best teams in college football as determined by a panel of all-star former head coaches. Dye writes three columns a week--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.