The Dye-Gest: Winning As A Team

College Football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye writes about the Auburn Tigers in this edition of his Dye-Gest column.

A comment that Coach Ellis Johnson made when talking about his defense makes a lot of sense to me. Johnson, who is Auburn's new defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, said you don't have to have the best players to win a football game, you just need to have the best team.

When he made that comment I thought about the undefeated 2010 Auburn team that won the BCS championship. That group certainly didn't have the best players at every position on defense or offense, but it was the best team because it featured playmakers on both sides of the line of scrimmage who were surrounded with a lot of good players who played great football that year. Put all of that together and the result was a team nobody could beat.

Quarterback Cam Newton and defensive tackle Nick Fairley were the biggest playmakers in 2010. Newton could beat defenses with his arm and legs while Fairley could cause havoc by disrupting an offense with his ability to penetrate into the backfield and ruin a play.

I remember in Auburn's win over LSU that year they tried to double-team Fairley and he was still making big plays when the team needed them. Although he was the star of the defense, Fairley wasn't the only guy making key plays with games on the line. The 2010 Tigers were loaded with winners who were able to rise to the occasion when needed.

A great example of that is at wide receiver. There were great players at that position in the SEC in 2010 like A.J. Greene and Julio Jones, guys who are making millions of dollars in the NFL, but when it came to winning football games that year in my opinion no quarterback had a better group to throw to than Newton did with Darvin Adams, Terrell Zachery, Emory Blake, Kodi Burns and Philip Lutzenkirchen on the field.

Newton had the greatest season in Auburn history as a running quarterback, but one of the reasons he was able to do that was the team was solid at running back with guys like Michael Dyer and Onterio McCalebb on the field with him running behind a very solid offensive line featuring seniors Lee Ziemba, Mike Berry, Ryan Pugh and Byron Isom.

As impressive as Fairley was that year, he sure didn't do it on his own. Zach Clayton and Mike Blanc were good enough lining up next to the All-American defensive tackle to allow him to be a great player because opposing offenses had to worry about all three of those guys in the middle of the defense.

Combine that with a lot of other good players on defense like the linebacker group of Josh Bynes, Craig Stevens and Daren Bates along with a secondary that developed to the point it could help hold Oregon's No. 1 ranked offense to 19 points, and that is why week after week the Tigers were such an effective team.

I was talking to an Auburn fan the other day who told me that he would be happy if the Tigers go 6-6 this year. I have no idea how many games the team will win this year, but in my opinion they should certainly set their goals higher. I am sure there are going to be opponents on the 2013 schedule that will have advantages talent-wise vs. Auburn, but there is enough talent on the roster to be successful if the group develops the type of chemistry and winning attitude the 2010 played with week after week.

There is no indication there are superstars on the 2013 roster like a Newton or Fairley, but college football history is full of examples of teams that performed very well without those types of players leading the way. If Ellis Johnson and offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee can find enough guys with winning attitudes to line up with week after week, the Tigers will have a chance to be the best team on the field a lot more often than they were last year.

(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to

Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for 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 Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.

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