Dye-Gest: Getting A Good Read On A Team

Pat Dye writes about his first spring as head coach of the Auburn football team and the strategy he used to get a better read on his players.

Thinking back to my time as a college football head coach, one of the best things we ever did as a staff happened during my first spring training at Auburn in 1981.

We decided to let the seniors on that team have a "draft" to select the sides for the A-Day Game. We also added extra incentive for the guys to play on the winning team by feeding that group steaks while the losing team had to eat hot dogs.

As a head coach it makes sense to find out what the players think of each other and a draft was a good way to do it. This spring for example, if it was time to draft the quarterbacks it would be interesting to see if the seniors with the first pick went with the sophomore Jonathan Wallace or the junior Kiehl Frazier.

It would also be interesting to see which players were drafted ahead of their teammates at the other positions. The exception I would make for the draft is to put the players running with the first team offensive line on the opposite team from the players who are first team on the defensive line. I think it is very valuable to make sure those guys get as much experience as possible going best vs. best in a game-like situation because the linemen need to interact and work well together.

After that I would go straight down the line, position by position, with one group of seniors getting a draft pick and the other one following with their choice until everybody on the team was selected.

I remember in 1981 we really didn't have enough players to put on the type of A-Day Game we wanted so we had to rely on a lot of walk-ons, but I thought the whole thing went well. The players and fans seemed to really enjoy the game, which drew a big crowd. I know as a coaching staff we learned a lot about the players on the team that spring and the draft was particularly revealing.

If I was Gus Malzahn I would sit in a room with just my seniors, let them choose their teammates for the game and pay careful attention to who the seniors preferred to be on their side.

(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 writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.

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