Marshall Column: Interesting Start to 2005 at AU

Columnist Phillip Marshall covers a variety of subjects in his latest information and opinion column.

January has certainly been interesting for Auburn football.

It started on the same day as the Sugar Bowl when Selena Roberts wrote her column in The New York Times about Auburn chaplain Chette Williams, implying that something improper was going on.

There was no evidence, and when Auburn compliance director Mark Richard looked into it, he found only two extremely minor irregularities that were the result of possibly paying expenses from the wrong fund.

Well, Williams might think about sending Ms. Roberts a thank you note.

Chette Williams enjoys the Parade of Champions held last Saturday.

Since the column and the controversy that followed, donations to Williams' ministry and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes have skyrocketed.

Asked about the donations, Williams just smiled, and said "We've been blessed."

Last week, of course, was all about former defensive coordinator Gene Chizik. A day after winning the Frank Broyles Award as the nation's top assistant coach, Chizik interviewed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. A day later, he interviewed at Texas.

It's old news now that he accepted a job as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator with the Longhorns.

A lot of people were upset, of course, but there really are solid reasons for Chizik to make such a move. Chizik wants as badly to be a head coach as any assistant I've been around. If he can duplicate at Texas what he did at Auburn, it can only help in his quest. And for whatever reason, Texas assistants under Mack Brown have had a lot of success landing head coaching jobs.

Chizik is telling the truth when he says many coaches believe Texas is the best coaching situation in college football. Though there is nothing to say Texas' program is, at this point, any stronger than Auburn's, the school is awash in money.

Having said that, Chizik could have handled his departure better. In his teleconference, he talked for 15 minutes before he ever mentioned Auburn. He had only a little to say about the players he was leaving behind and nothing about head coach Tommy Tuberville, who gave him the opportunity to show what he could do at the highest level.

Nevertheless, Chizik is a good football coach and a class act. It's a safe bet that his replacement will also be a good football coach and a class act.

There will be no shortage of candidates. Coaches know the score. Despite what Lee Corso or others may say, the Tigers seem set for a good run. Undefeated seasons are rare for any team, but Auburn is going to be competing for championships for a while.

Who will the next defensive coordinator be? I'm not going to speculate. Any names that are being tossed about out there are probably inaccurate. Tuberville probably knows who he wants to hire, but he's keeping that to himself.

And that brings us to the normal madness of this time of year, recruiting.

With national signing day less than two weeks away, Tuberville is still saying what he's been saying for months. He believes this recruiting class--even if no one else were to join--will be the best he's been around, and that includes his days at Miami. And no so-called recruiting rankings are going to change his view.

Auburn linebackers coach Joe Whitt tells one of my favorite recruiting stories.

He had watched a smallish high school linebacker on tape and had decided he didn't want to sign him. Former defensive coordinator John Lovett pleaded with him to go see him play. Whitt went, planning to tell him that Auburn would not have a scholarship for him.

After talking to the linebacker and his parents, Whitt changed his mind. "I knew right then this was a kid I wanted to coach," Whitt said.

The linebacker, of course, was Travis Williams, who has an opportunity to be remembered as one of Auburn's all-time greats.

People whose judgment I trust say tight end Tommy Trott, who committed to Auburn on Wednesday night, is every bit as good as advertised. He has the size and physical nature of a tight end but the skills of a wide receiver. That's a rare and valuable combination.

I've never had a conversation with Trott, but he's already one of my favorites. Why? He didn't seek the spotlight. Instead of having a silly press conference to call attention to himself, he quietly told news outlets what he had done and that was the end of it.

The pressure is getting intense for players who have yet to commit, and for some players who have committed and are being urged to change their minds. It's really more pressure than many 18-year-olds are equipped to handle.

I always find it interesting that coaches will be angered when a prospect doesn't keep his word even as they are trying to talk another prospect into breaking his.

Until next time…

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