Dye-Gest: Time to Grow A Football Team

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

This is an exciting time of year for me for a lot of reasons. Spring officially starts on Sunday, but weather-wise it is already here.The dogwoods are beginning to bloom along with the azaleas. The Japanese maples are starting to put on their leaves and new growth so the colors at my place for the next month will be off the charts.

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The birds are building nests, the squirrels are looking for mates and the geese are fighting over who’s who as they are starting to nest. Having the opportunity to see all of that makes me thankful to live in Alabama where we have four seasons. Spring is always special around here and I know it was that way when I was coaching.

In football so many things can change this time of year. When I think back on my coaching career I remember how exciting it was to be putting together a team during spring training, a time of the year when you get a chance to see kids on your team growing up.

As a coach you are trying to grow your most talented players into great ones whether the improvement is mental, physical or both, You are also trying to help guys who aren’t quite as talented improve to the point where they are going to help you win games. Guys who are notch below the better players can help you win, too, if you can get them to step up to the point where they can conribute in the playing rotations.

Normally in the spring, as a head coach, you put special emphasis on developing a couple of positions that need the most work. In Auburn’s case there are multiple areas that need a lot work. An example of that this spring is the wide receivers. It is important that these players take a big step forward and continue to do that in preseason after three promising recruits join the team.

Coach Gus Malzahn and his staff have other areas of emphasis in spring drills. The Tigers must come up with new starting tackles on offense and the number one mission is to stabilize the situation at quarterback. I won’t be surprised if the quarterback competition is on-going beyond the spring and into the preseason. As a coach you hope to have a couple of quarterbacks who step up and stand out above the rest.

Last year Jeremy Johnson and Sean White split time as the starting QB. I noticed that Coach Malzahn said that those guys have shown more maturity this spring, which is what you would hope to be the case. It is certainly something that I saw happening many times when I was a head coach. If they are the type of young men that I think they are, they both have a lot of motivation to prove they can start the season at the top of the depth chart and stay there despite a lot of competition with four players in the current battle and a fifth joining the team this summer when Woody Barrett graduates from high school to join White, Johnson, Tyler Queen and John Franklin.

Defensively, it looks like the Tigers are giving their cornerbacks and safeties a lot of attention this spring. There is some talent back there, but without a doubt the Tigers have a need to develop more depth. I think that is also major point of emphasis with the linebackers.

Up front the defense has potential. Those players need to use spring training to develop the type of chemistry needed to play up to their expectations, which I think are probably higher than last year. Hopefully, that is the case for every returning player on the roster.

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