In addition to getting ready to play the Oklahoma Sooners, the Tigers can get an early start on the 2017 season because there are a lot of talented, young guys on the roster who are going to be able to benefit from the extra attention they receive from the coaches this time of year.
My experience from doing this many years as a college coach is that you can be really surprised with how much progress guys made while they were being redshirted or not playing a lot. In some cases the changes are with their mindset, in some cases the changes are physical and in other cases their improvements are both mental and physical.
As a coach I found the early portion of bowl practices to be a particularly important time for the young players coming back and the ones who really take advantage of the opportunity will have an edge going into spring practice. In Auburn’s situation, something that is probably not unique to bowl teams across the country, the Tigers should benefit from the time off since the end of the regular season. That gives the guys who have been hurt a chance to get well and in Auburn’s case there are difference-makers in that group like Kamryn Pettway, Sean White, Josh Holsey and Tre Williams. Those guys just need to get well and tuned up, and there is plenty of time to do that.
The coaches love this time of year because they don’t have restrictions on the amount of time they are with their players. With no classes the 20-hour rule is not in force so it gives a team plenty of time for extra meetings and extra film study in addition to practices. They can do football all day long and that is better than spring practice and fall practice. They can also get together in an informal setting and have an outing or two doing something fun like having a bowling competition or whatever to help team bonding.
The Tigers received good news this week when former Baylor quarterback Jarrett Stidham decided to join the team. He is a talented player with all the credentials, but that doesn’t make it automatic he will be Auburn’s starter next season. It does give the team another experienced player to compete at the quarterback position and that is huge.
It is just as important that Pettway has decided he is going to come back because it has already been established what he can do running the football in the SEC. He is a lot of fun to watch when he is healthy and I am looking forward to seeing what he can do as a junior.
Before the Tigers get too involved in next season there is the challenge of a bowl game against a very strong Oklahoma team. It tickles me to death that Auburn is playing the Sooners. That is not the type of opponent you can just go through the motions against and have a chance to beat. The Tigers know going in this is going to be a heck of a challenge. This is also the type of game the kids want to play in if they are the right kind of kids, and I think Auburn’s are so I am really looking forward watching the Sugar Bowl.