We had a new quarterback and a lot of new starters that year. We weren't a real good football team to start the season and we never became a real good football team that year because of our lack of experience. You can replace bodies and you can replace talent, but you can't replace experience if you don't have it on your team.
Coach Gene Chizik and his Auburn team are not into a reloading mode right now. They are rebuilding. What happened last year was phenomenal. That team had the right ingredients to be successful with a combination of stars playing great football and average but experienced players who performed at a high level.
We had a major challenge in 1984 replacing 13 starters. The 2011 Tigers have to replace more than that with eight starters gone on defense, eight more on offense plus kicker Wes Byrum, holder Neil Caudle and punter Ryan Shoemaker being seniors last year. The large 2010 senior class also included some very good backups.
The only way you can overcome such heavy losses is to have an easy schedule, which is something the 2011 Tigers don't have. It is a lot easier to build confidence for a rebuilding team and find out who your leaders are when you are winning early in the season instead of losing.
Losing affects everybody--the players, the fans and the coaches.
Every year a team's personality is going to be different, whether it is reloading or rebuilding. Considering that Auburn has a major rebuilding job to tackle combined with the toughest schedule I remember for an Auburn team in a long time and the 2011 season is not going to be easy, even if this team's personality is one the coaches really like.
The Tigers face five tough games on the road plus they are swapping Kentucky for Florida and that makes the schedule tougher. I am not trying to say anything bad about the Wildcats because they had a good football team last year, but the talent level in the Kentucky program isn't at the same level it is in Florida's program.
Coach Chizik and his staff have a challenge on their hands, but I think that is a good thing, an exciting thing. I am looking forward to seeing how this team develops.
I certainly don't expect the Tigers to go out there and win every game and be a perfect 14-0 again this season and set all kind of records like they did last year, but as a coach what you hope for is to put a team on the field every Saturday that will compete at the highest level it is capable of competing. You hope that you can make the intangibles surrounding the game work for you, and there are a lot of intangibles in football.
To be successful the 2011 the Tigers also need to be a team that avoids silly mistakes and not have a lot of turnovers. The team needs to be sound in the kicking game.
It's also important that the Tigers make sure they are a team that isn't out-hustled and out-hit. Those are things they have control over each week.
There are also things the coaches and the players can't control, and how the Tigers handle those are important, too.
For example, the coaches can't give their starting quarterback, whether it is Barrett Trotter or Clint Moseley, the kind of experience in pressure situations they will need to go into Fayetteville and Baton Rouge with the knowledge that they have been there and done that successfully, but with the things this team can control they need to make sure they are the best they can be.
Knowing this Auburn coaching staff, I think they will develop a team that won't settle for anything less than trying to play to the best of its ability. While it was thrilling to watch the Tigers find a way to win every game last season to me as a coach it is also exciting to see kids do things for the first time in their college careers. There will be plenty of them that will have the opportunity to do that this fall for the Tigers.
(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.