Dye-Gest Column: New Season, New Challenge

College Football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye writes about being a head coach and the 2014 Auburn Tigers.

As a college head football coach I always felt it was my responsibility to have my team ready to play at a peak every week with the players ready to go mentally, physically and spiritually. I also found that is something that is a lot easier said than done with so many variables involved.

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I believe that actually getting that done on a weekly basis is the toughest challenge for a head coach. You can be brilliant with X’s and O’s with your offensive and defensive schemes, and you can have talented players all across the depth chart, but if you don’t get them physically and mentally ready to perform at a high level week after week you are probably going to lose some games you are good enough to win.

Knowing how hard that is to do and watching how the 2013 %%MATCH_1%% team performed so well in that area, above everything else that is where Coach Gus Malzahn excelled in his first season running the show at Auburn.

Even during the game the Tigers struggled in last year with that disastrous first half in the rain, Coach Malzahn’s team never backed down and played as hard as it could to the final whistle. The Tigers actually had a chance to defeat %%MATCH_2%% for what would have been a highly unlikely comeback.

When something like that happens it is obvious to me the head coach is doing something right and so are others on the team. Assistant coaches are a part of that and you also need the right type of leadership among the players, which that second half in Baton Rouge showed the 2013 Auburn team had. A big part of a college head coach’s job is to make sure he has the right players in leadership positions and trains them properly so when things go wrong the team won’t head in the wrong direction.

Looking at Auburn’s schedule this year, I think there will be times when things don’t go well and the Tigers will need to show the mental toughness and character that helped last year’s group succeed.

I don’t think I am in alone in believing this year’s team has more overall talent than the 2013 squad did, but that is just one part of the equation for success.

Scheduling luck, whether it is good or bad, will be a factor the Tigers will encounter. Also, regarding the schedule, opponents Auburn faces this year will be looking to make names for themselves with the opportunity to knock off the defending SEC champion so the Tigers better expect to get the best shot from everybody they play.

Looking at who the Tigers are facing there are very, very difficult road games to deal with this time around so the leadership, from the head coach on down, will need to be ready to rise to the occasion.

Yes, it is a big challenge with the Tigers facing what is probably going to be one of the most difficult schedules any college team will play this year. However, I am still excited about the possibilities for this team and I can’t wait for the season to arrive. I really want to see what Coach Malzahn’s team can do.

Just because the Tigers were really good last year you can’t assume that will be the case this time around, even though many of the same players returning. They have to go out and prove on gamedays they are prepared to win, which is something that doesn’t happen by accident.

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