Making sure that team chemistry is where it needs to be is the most important thing for a head coach to have a good handle on. That ultimately determines whether you are going to be able to reach your goals or not.
Having everybody on the same page, having everybody playing with the same heartbeat, is essential to any championship team. That is why we are all interested to see what is going to happen with the talented senior wide receiver.
In my experience there is no person more qualified to handle these type of decisions than the head coach and that is the case with programs across the country. How these situations play out does have a significant impact on the team.
We don’t know for sure, but the issues with safety Jermaine Whitehead last year could have had an impact on how the Auburn team performed. That is difficult to measure, but without a doubt last year’s group certainly didn’t play as well coming down the stretch as it did earlier in the season.
Auburn fans who are old enough may remember one of our players we had an issue with at the start of the 1987 season. Aundray Bruce didn’t show up for the first meeting so I just called off the meeting and I gave him 200 stadiums to run for not being there plus I chewed him out.
He had some kind of lame excuse, but there was no excuse for missing the meeting. Then a couple of weeks later, when we were in three-a-days and he was running his stadiums before and after practice, Coach James Daniels did a bed check at 11 o’clock and Aundray was where he was supposed to be. However, Coach Daniels came back at 1 o’clock and found that Aundray had a dummy in his bed and was out after curfew so I gave him 200 more stadiums.
We were still working twice a day and I knew it was very, very demanding physically for him to do what he was doing, but that is what it was intended to be--punishment for not doing what he was supposed to do.
He showed up one morning and refused to run because he said that he was tired. I said you are supposed to be tired. I told Aundray he didn’t have to run those 400 stadiums, but in order to play at Auburn he had to do every one of them. I told him you can go home back to Montgomery if you don’t want to finish them.
He did run the stadiums and ended up having a great year, and was the first player selected in the NFL?Draft. It had a good ending. Hopefully, Duke Williams will do what is necessary to correct the mistakes he has made to the satisfaction of his coaches and his teammates so he can be a leader, not just a player.
He has great talent and there a good number of those type of players who have an edge to them, but part of growing up is using that edge to your advantage on the field rather than it becoming a disadvantage off of it. I am sure he understands what he needs to do to get back in the good graces with the team. If he does them to the satisfaction of Coach Malzahn that would be the best thing that could happen in this situation.
The worst thing that could happen would be for him not to do what he has been asked to do and for the team to take him back. He needs to be all in when he comes back and not have any more issues during the course of his senior season. The team is a lot more important than any one individual, regardless of the individual’s ability. If Williams doesn’t get with the program he will be the one who loses the most, not the team. Hopefully, he will understand that and have a great senior season like Aundray Bruce did.
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