Gus Malzahn (above) is beginning his fifth season as head coach of the Tigers.
I have always been a strong believer in the importance of spring training for college football teams. The coaches and players have plenty of time to work on fundamentals and assignments, in detail, and teaching the details properly and learning them thoroughly are a big deal.
However, something I believe is even more important to success for a coming season is building the chemistry and work ethic needed to succeed. The better the trust is among teammates, the better the trust among coaches and players, the better the chance there is for everybody pulling together for success on Saturdays.
The more unselfish a group becomes the tighter it gets, and when that happens a football team has a shot at reaching its potential. A team certainly needs to continue to develop in preseason and during the fall, but the foundation for success needs to be built in spring.
Another spring training key is developing depth. As a coach you want to know which guys you can count on to play winning football when games are on the line whether they are starters or backups. A coaching staff that can figure that out while developing quality depth at each position will have made major progress in spring drills.
I also think it is a big deal for quarterbacks to prove themselves this time of year. There is nothing more important to a college football team’s success than taking the field on game days with a quarterback who has strong leadership skills. You want a guy who the entire team believes can get the job done.
With no games to prepare for this time of year it is important as coaches to make sure all of your guys are as committed as they can be to improving every aspect of how they perform. Just going through the motions trying to get through the daily grind is not what you are looking for and I don’t think Auburn fans need to worry about that happening.
From what I?can tell the Tigers are having high-tempo workouts with a lot of moving parts with everybody involved. It is exciting to watch, but like virtually all teams in the spring there is a long way to go to become outstanding. I do think the parts are there for this group to develop into a successful team. I don’t know if it will be good enough to win an SEC Championship, but I do think all the pieces needed to finish the puzzle are there.
Looking at the 2017 Auburn team, which is into its second week of spring practice, I think the Tigers have players with the ability to put an improved squad on the field this fall, but it needs to be a team-oriented thing. For example, it doesn’t matter if you have a lot of talented receivers running great routes if the offensive line doesn’t protect the quarterback. The same is true if the line does a great job with its pass protection but the receivers aren’t in the right place at the right time and can’t make the catches they need to make.
I was thinking about Coach Gus Malzahn as he prepares for the 2017 season and there are some things that have happened on offense in the last two years he has gotten a lot of criticism for and questions about, but he is the same guy who was instrumental in Auburn winning the national championship in 2010 as offensive coordinator. Three years later in his first season as Auburn’s head coach the Tigers went back to the national championship game with a team that had all of the intangibles needed for success.
It wasn’t the greatest team in the country talent-wise, but his offense was so dynamic it gave the Tigers a chance to bring home the championship trophy. When you think about that game against Florida State, the difference wasn’t on offense or defense. The big issue was giving up too many points in the kicking game in a contest the Tigers lost by four. I don’t see any reason why Coach Malzahn’s team can’t be successful on offense, defense and special teams in the coming season as it looks to blend a lot of experienced players with the newcomers this spring and when when preseason practice begins in August.