Now that they have been out on the field day after day for many hours in the heat and the sun, their legs can feel like mush and the initial excitement of practicing is just a memory. This is the time when the leadership from players on the field has to step up and insert its influence.
The players expect their coaches to be correcting them and pushing, but when it comes from a fellow teammate, someone who is respected by the other players, it can have even more of an impact. Peer pressure can be a powerful thing and that is certainly the case on a football team.
It's also important for the coaches to keep on pushing their players through the workouts every day without fail, making sure what needs to get done does get done for the team to reach its potential. This is a time of year a team can go backwards if the players and coaches lose their concentration if they are just trying to get through the workouts instead of practicing with a purpose.
For the 2012 Auburn football team it is essential that it emerge from preseason ready to perform at a high level or else the Tigers could easily get off to an 0-2 start. They open against a Clemson squad that is considered a Top 10 team by some and then begin league play on the road against Mississippi State.
Going 2-0 would provide terrific momentum for Coach Gene Chizik's Tigers. Going 0-2 would be a big deal, too. It wouldn't mean the season is totally ruined, but it would certainly require regrouping and some re-evaluation of what the Tigers are trying to do.
I am excited about seeing how this team comes out and performs in the opener vs. Clemson. There was something about last year's game, and a lot of people will know what I'm talking about, that didn't sit too well with me personally as a former coach at Auburn. I hope it didn't sit too well with the coaches and players over there now and that should provide plenty of motivation for Coach Chizik's team to perform well in Atlanta on opening night.
I think a key to success for Auburn vs. Clemson and Mississippi State will be how well Auburn's quarterback plays. The only advantage I see for Clemson in the opener is that team will line up with a quarterback who has been playing for two years. Mississippi State is also expected to play with a quarterback, Tyler Russell, who has a good bit of college game experience.
It will be important for Auburn's quarterback to come out strong to open the season and walk the walk as his team competes against opponents who should get good play from their QBs. One thing is for sure about the quarterback position--when each of those games is over everybody will know how he performed. It's not like playing offensive guard or nose tackle. Everybody will know whether the QB made mistakes and everybody will know whether he made plays.
As a coach you are looking for player at quarterback who doesn't make the type of mistakes that will get you beat and a guy who will step up and make plays in critical downs. Right now we don't know if Auburn will have that type of guy running the offense, which is one of the reasons it is tough to get a handle on how good the 2012 Tigers are going to be.
(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.