Time For A Change Of Scenery

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about the Auburn football Tigers.

I wondered last summer what in the world Brandon Jacobs was doing at Auburn. And I still wonder.

Jacobs is a remarkable athlete--big, powerful and very fast. In the right situation, he could perhaps be a dominant running back. He is not in the right situation. He is the third best running back on Auburn's football team, and third-team running backs don't get a lot of carries.

Jacobs is practicing at linebacker as the Tigers get ready for the Music City Bowl game against Wisconsin. He asked to make the move, but he clearly isn't happy about it. He said Thursday that he had been 98 percent certain he was going to transfer before changing his mind. He said he expected to be back at running back when all is said and done.

Auburn coaches and professional scouts say privately that Jacobs really needs to be playing tight end or defensive end, that he could probably punch his ticket to the NFL if he dedicated himself to either position. He's not buying into that.

Regardless of whether he stays at linebacker or moves back to running back, Jacobs needs a change of outlook if he is going to thrive as an Auburn senior. His interview Thursday was troubling.

Not once did Jacobs say anything about doing what was best for Auburn's football team. His words were all about getting to the NFL, about what was good for Brandon Jacobs. Perhaps more troubling was his response when asked the difference between playing for running backs coach Eddie Gran and linebackers coach Joe Whitt.

"Coach Whitt wants to coach you up on every little point," Jacobs said. "Coach Gran does the same thing. As far as coaching points, it's the same. I've never really grown a relationship with any of these coaches. I learn from them and that's it. That's all there is."

As best I can tell, Jacobs is a minority of one among Auburn players in his ambivalent feelings toward Auburn's coaches. Auburn assistant coaches and head coach Tommy Tuberville are as close to their players as any I've been around.

Even though he had no chance to qualify, Jacobs signed with Auburn after a phenomenal career at Assumption High School in Napoleonville, La. He signed again after starring at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.

As this season went on, Jacobs clearly became increasingly unhappy. Late in the fourth quarter of Auburn's 28-23 victory over Alabama, players on Auburn's sideline waved towels and exhorted the crowd late in the game. Jacobs sat silently on the bench. Another Auburn player saw him and screamed "Come on!" Jacobs just shook his head and sat silently.

If Carnell Williams or Ronnie Brown opts to leave for the NFL, Jacobs could still get his chance to make an impact at running back. But all indications point to both staying for their senior seasons, and Jacobs isn't going to get around them as long as they are healthy. It is unlikely Jacobs will make a big impact at linebacker, and he apparently has no interest in trying tight end or defensive end.

Jacobs is a good young man, a hard worker who has overcome long odds to get to where he is, but unless he can put his team before himself and find a way to be happy, he should follow his earlier instincts.

He should transfer before it's too late.


For what it's worth, and it's not much, here is one man's guess at the outcome of the remaining bowl games:

TANGERINE BOWL: North Carolina State 38, Kansas 17

FORT WORTH BOWL: Boise State 38, TCU 35

LAS VEGAS BOWL: Oregon State 28, New Mexico 20

HAWAII BOWL: Houston 49, Hawaii 38

MOTOR CITY BOWL: Bowling Green 27, Northwestern 24

INSIGHT BOWL: Virginia Tech 24, California 21

CONTINENTAL TIRE BOWL: Pittsburgh 31, Virginia 21

ALAMO BOWL: Michigan State 30, Nebraska 27

HOUSTON BOWL: Texas Tech 42, Navy 31


HOLIDAY BOWL: Texas 35, Washington State 14

MUSIC CITY BOWL: Auburn 26, Wisconsin 24

SUN BOWL: Minnesota 28, Oregon 24

LIBERTY BOWL: Southern Miss 20, Utah 10

INDEPENDENCE BOWL: Arkansas 17, Missouri 14

SAN FRANCISCO BOWL: Boston College 23, Colorado State 7

OUTBACK BOWL: Florida 38, Iowa 28

CAPITAL ONE BOWL: Georgia 30, Purdue 21

COTTON BOWL: Ole Miss 24, Oklahoma State 17

PEACH BOWL: Tennessee 42, Clemson 28

HUMANITARIAN BOWL: Georgia Tech 19, Tulsa 13

ORANGE BOWL: Miami 31, Florida State 30

ROSE BOWL: Southern California 34, Michigan 27

FIESTA BOWL: Ohio State 28, Kansas State 14

SUGAR BOWL: Oklahoma 27, LSU 24


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