Because Auburn has played so many kids throughout the season, those young guys should be ready to play their best football of the season with the experience they gained in September, October and November. Combined with the extra practice time they put in during December, they should take their performance to a higher level.
I will be surprised if Auburn's young guys don't play a major role in the outcome of the game on Saturday night.
Having some time away from the daily routine of hurried weekly preparations for the next game gives players an opportunity to think about what they learned and how they performed this fall. I really believe young guys can get better by improving the mental part of their games, and that is something they can do without having to go through physical reps on a practice field every day.
I know the human nature of football players is that they think about their game, they think about the position, they think about the mistakes they made during the course of the year and they think about the good things they did in the course of the year. And, even though it's not a physical repetition on the field, that is a mental repetition and it is a major part of their growing process.
One of the big questions for me concerning the Tigers in this game vs. Virginia is how the quarterback situation will be handled. Will this be the game that the freshman, Kiehl Frazier, gets a lot more playing time or will Gene Chizik and Gus Malzahn stick with Clint Moseley even though he didn't play as well as hoped late in the season? The coaches have had plenty of time to get Frazier ready for a more extensive role if they want to go that route.
Another question is what kind of effect will there be on the Auburn team that is playing without Ted Roof, its defensive coordinator from the past three seasons? Also, will there be an impact on the team with this being Coach Malzahn's last game coordinating the offense before he takes over full-time as head coach at Arkansas State?
My take is that the departure of Roof, and Malzahn's leaving the program following the game, won't have a major effect on what takes place on the field at the Georgia Dome on Saturday night. I believe fumbles, penalties, how well Auburn tackles and how hard both teams play will determine the winner in this game between what look be fairly evenly matched teams. We'll see what happens on Saturday night.
From the Mailbag:
I just finished reading your column about the sequence of events falling into place during the 2010 championship run for Auburn vs. the 2011 season. Great insight from you and I appreciate your comment that special teams play this year is a positive indicator for the immediate future of the team due to all the young talent that gained experience. I attended Auburn from '83 to '87 and was roommates with Rob Browne from Memphis. Rob may be the world's most intense Auburn fan, so I am sure you have met him during your trips to Memphis.
Thank you for everything you have done (and continue to do) for Auburn! Auburn football changed forever the day you were hired. I know being around the 2010 team last year must have been especially meaningful for you. War Eagle!
(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 is 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 player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a 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 for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.