"Tough, Real Tough," Assistants Say

We feature comments from Auburn assistant football coaches about changes in the Tiger program.

Auburn, Ala.--Don Dunn has worked beside John Lovett as a fellow assistant coach at Ole Miss and as the tackles coach for the defensive coordinator since Tommy Tuberville arrived at Auburn three seasons ago.

Tuberville considered both Dunn and Lovett for the defensive coordinator's position when he brought his staff to Auburn. Lovett got the opportunity, but he is no longer a part of the staff after Tuberville announced his decision on Wednesday he is replacing Lovett and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone with fresh blood outside the current staff. The head coach says he hopes to have at least one of the coordinators on board by the middle of next week.

"That is tough," Dunn told Inside the Auburn Tigers. "It's real tough, real tough on everybody. We have been together a long time. It is like losing a member of the family. I know it is extremely tough on Coach Tuberville, but I am sure they understand. That is just the nature of this business, but it is real hard."

Don Dunn watches bowl practice at the Georgia Dome.

Dunn says that he is certain Mazzone and Lovett will land on their feet despite losing their jobs. "There is no question about that," he says. "The number one thing is they are great people. They are great family guys. They are character people and good coaches. I don't have a doubt in my mind that they will do well."

The newest member of the coaching staff, Phillip Lolley, worked as closely with Lovett as anybody. Both shared the duties of coaching defensive backs.

"John Lovett is a relentless worker," Lolley says. "He is as hard a working man as I have ever been around. I feel close to him for what he did for me. He allowed me to coach with him and I appreciate the things he helped me with. I haven't been around too many that know football better than that guy."

Lolley predicts both Lovett and Mazzone will find new jobs and be successful. "They are going to do great," Lolley says. "Those guys are football coaches."

Offensive line coach Hugh Nall knows Mazzone perhaps better than any of the other Auburn coaches. "We have worked together for seven years at Auburn and three years before that," Nall says. "He is a great person. He is a friend and a good football coach. It is just a tough situation.

"Noel has been successful wherever he coached," Nall says. "It was an off year...this (getting fired) is part of the job and everybody who is in coaching understands that. I also spent seven years coaching with John. It is a tough deal."

Tiger Ticket Extra: Dunn says it was a tough fall for him for a variety of reasons. "It was a strange year, a crazy year. It started with DeMarco (McNeil) getting hurt in the Ole Miss game. He really had that problem in the summer and re-aggravated it. Then we had that Sept. 11th ordeal. Then all of the crazy stuff that went on with poor old Tommy (Tiger Walk director Tommy Williams developed inoperable brain cancer), Rashaud's (Walker) mom (dying in a car/train accident), Jim Hardy (a team manager who was paralyzed in a hunting accident during the season) and a young team. You never know how they are going to respond. I am very proud of that defensive front. They are just good kids. They are all good kids. I want to get them well and get ready to go to work and get some more of them".

Defensive tackle DeMarco McNeil at practice.

McNeil is expected to have knee surgery sometime in January. Defensive tackle Dexter Murphy played through a shoulder problem and injuries to both wrists...Spencer Johnson was hobbled much of the season with injuries to both knees. "Spencer, he looked like an 80-year-old man, but he played tough," Dunn says. "I am real proud of him. DeMarco wasn't healthy. It was frustrating."...Another defensive tackle that Dunn was hoping to play, Marcus Johnson, quit the team at the start of the season to further deplete the depth. Later, part-time starter Marcus White suffered a serious neck injury in practice before the Georgia game. "We are still having him checked," Dunn says about White's status. "Hopefully, he will be able to get some clearance. That was another guy who was sitting on our bench."

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