When I look back over my football career, not just my college coaching but as a player in high school, college, pro football and in the service, there are certain things that are crystal clear to me now about building a good football team.
The number one thing you have to do, and this starts with the coaches, is to set the right goals for your team. You want to set them high to push your players to their limits, but you want to be realistic, too.
Next begins the preparation to reach those goals and that is the stage that Auburn, and other college football teams, are going through this time of year in their winter strength and conditioning programs. Now is the time to begin building teams that are hungry and motivated to be successful in the fall.
A major key to making that happen is building the chemistry. Obviously, you have got to have talent and play-makers on both sides of the ball, but few teams have great players at every position. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t develop into a great team with the right chemistry.
This time of year, when it is cold, wet and dreary and the north wind is blowing and everybody is ready for spring to finally get here, college football players and their coaches have got to be motivated to do the work necessary to improve as individuals and as a team. If you are going to be special you have to put in the time and effort to make that happen, and this is the time of year to get that done.
Everybody is eager to play on Saturday when the season comes around and there is excitement in the air, the stands are full, the band is playing and your mama and daddy, your kinfolks and your girlfriend are there to see the games. However, you are only going to be as good and play as effectively as your preparations have been throughout the year.
College football teams can change a lot from year to year with new players and different personalities. We don’t have to look any farther than here in Auburn to see a perfect example of that. In the past five years we have seen the Tigers win a national championship, follow that with a so-so season, a really bad season and then a return trip to the national championship game followed by a disappointing finish last year.
I would say the personality, character, chemistry or whatever you want to call it was a major factor in explaining the differences in the results from those Auburn teams. When the players on the roster change with the older players leaving and younger ones arriving the personality of the team changes, too. That is one of the things that makes college football such a great game and why it can be difficult to predict what is going to happen from season to season.
With the 2015 Auburn football team I don’t see any reason why there shouldn’t be high expectations for this team. I think the coaches and players certainly do, but having high expectations is not enough. There has got to be a lot of sweat, a lot of effort and a lot of time spent in preparation for the season. Every time an individual gets better who is playing, or even if he is not playing, that makes the team get better. We will see the fruits of this team’s offseason labor this fall and find out if what they have been doing gives them the hunger, the edge and the determination to be a great team that is necessary for success in the SEC.
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