Marshall Column: Coaches Excited About Recruiting

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about Auburn and college football in generalin this column as well as AU hoops.

Monday morning ramblings…

With signing day just more than two weeks away, recruiting is much in the news. Ask any Auburn football coach how it's going, and you are likely to get a smile.

Said one assistant coach: "What we need is more scholarships. I'm turning down guys I would have beaten the door down to get in past years."

Also telling is head coach Tommy Tuberville's view of team rankings and player ratings.

"When I was at Miami we never had a recruiting class ranked in the Top 10, and we won three national championships," Tuberville said. "Why is that? Because we didn't have a fan base that bought those magazines."

Tuberville's 2004 football Tigers celebrated their 13-0 season with a Parade of Champions on Saturday.

No one with any knowledge of college football would disagree that recruiting is the lifeblood of the sport. But fretting over not signing enough "5-star" players is a waste of time. If players are fast enough and athletic enough, it's all about how they develop once they get to college.

"I couldn't tell you how any player we are recruiting is rated by anybody except us," Tuberville said.

*Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart made an amazing decision Friday when he announced he would return for his senior season. Leinart was virtually assured of being the first player picked in the NFL draft.

He said he wants to try to win a third consecutive national championship with the Trojans. Remember you read it here: It won't happen.

All the "experts" who say the Trojans were head and shoulders better than any other team this season have conveniently forgotten three close calls during the regular season. The Trojans beat a four-win Stanford team by a field goal, a six-win UCLA team by two points in their last regular-season game and were fortunate to survive against California.

In a championship season, you win those kinds of games. But any of them could have gone the other way as easily as they went the Trojans' way. They suffered significant losses on defense, which are being widely overlooked because of the players who return on offense.

*It's going to be a long, hard two months for Auburn's basketball team.

The Tigers missed a golden opportunity Saturday. Ole Miss is a bad team, really not as talented as Auburn. But the Rebels scored at will down the stretch, shooting better than 69 percent in the second half.

The talk will start now of the possibility of going winless through the SEC schedule. That won't happen. The Tigers will win sooner or later, probably two or three times.

But Jeff Lebo will get it done at Auburn, and it won't take that long. With a top-notch recruiting class already in hand, the Tigers will at least look like a basketball team again next season. By his third season, it's a good bet that Lebo will have his team in contention in the SEC West and for an NCAA Tournament bid. If a couple of freshmen come through, it could even happen next season.

*One man's guess at how the SEC will stack up going into next football season:

WEST: 1. LSU, 2. Auburn, 3. Alabama, 4. Ole Miss, 5. Arkansas, 6. Mississippi State.

EAST: 1. Tennessee, 2. Florida, 3. Georgia, 4. South Carolina, 5. Vanderbilt, 6. Kentucky.

That preseason guess, of course, means just as much as all the others. Nothing at all.

*Don't look for a big-name opponent to replace Southern Mississippi on Auburn's schedule. In fact, because of the timing, there's a good chance it'll be a Division I-AA team.

The good thing that could come of the Golden Eagles' decision is that Auburn's schedule might become better balanced. Before, the Tigers opened the season with five consecutive home games, then played four of their next five on the road. There could be some juggling now.

Regardless of who replaces Southern Mississippi, Auburn will have no apologies for its schedule. Eight SEC games plus the season-opener against Georgia Tech is plenty tough enough.

It'll be interesting to see if Florida State is criticized for its season-opener next season. The Seminoles play The Citadel.

Until next time…

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