We start next week defending our title of last year. It is going to be interesting for our football team to regroup and challenge for another title, but I think that we have the ability to do that. And can we do it? We'll have to wait and see. After losing so many good players from last year our coaches are obviously challenged and we have got a lot of young players that are stepping into those rolls that are void to step up and take the challenge on head to head it should be fun. We have had a good offseason. We had a good spring practice we have got a lot of good players coming back, I think that the atmosphere of our team is positive. We probably will have the most talented team that we have had since I have been at Auburn from top to bottom at every position with depth with speed and with athletic ability, but we don't have the one thing that sometimes you need and that's experience. Experience is something that you can't just recruit; you have to build it.
We start with a new quarterback. Any time you have a new one it's always a thrill a minute. I think Brandon Cox is going to be a heck of a college quarterback. He's going to make a name for himself. He has the luxury of having good people around him. That's one thing Jason Campbell did not have when he first started. Jason had a lot of guys like him, very inexperienced, but he has two new running backs, but I think as we get through the season, build his confidence, I think he's going to have a heck of a year. Also, defensively, on that side of the ball, we should be as good as we have ever been. Put all that together it makes for a fun year to start out with.
We open up with a very tough team in Georgia Tech. We will find out pretty quick if we can hold up our end of the bargain. We'll get better each week. We just hope to play well enough to keep our streak of 15 games in a row going and look forward to a good year.
Q. You said this is your most talented team ever. That's pretty remarkable statement considering you had four guys drafted in the first round. How do those two kind of facts mesh?
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: We have had good recruiting years. Our coaches have done a good job of recruiting in certain areas. You don't replace a Carnell Williams and Ronnie Brown; nobody does. You just don't do it in college football. They had great ability and leadership skills and a lot of heart. They enjoyed playing college football. That's the reason they came back and with them coming back for their senior year, gave us an opportunity for the younger guys to grow up another year and not have to be thrown into the fire so quickly, and by doing that it's made us better going into this year--but we have a lot of speed.
My philosophy is don't worry about the size. Just recruit speed and we have a lot of players on our team that can run. We have a lot of quickness, we have a lot of weapons at all positions, but again we have got to put it in the right spot and we have got to play together as a team.
Football is a true team sport, one of the few left. One guy doesn't do it. You can bring that group, same group form last season and they might lose one or two or three times even with the same schedule. It's about chemistry and playing together. We have got the thing to start with, as I said, we have got the athletes to do it with, we have just got to try to do it the right way and be consistent.
Q. Going back to size and speed, is speed what you saw in Travis Williams that made you think a guy that size could be a successful linebacker?
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: We watched Travis. I was assistant coach 19 years and I coached linebackers a number of those years. When we watched Travis on film he was one of those fairly loose type of guys that has no regard to his body. You have to be that to play in this league, he doesn't weigh much over 200 pounds, to play like he does inside, from tackle to tackle, from sideline to sideline, makes a lot of plays. Being small and quick at linebacker enables you not to have to take on offensive linemen. We run around blocks. We're not old-fashioned where we're going to take a Marcus McNeill on at 340, that doesn't make a lot of sense. We're going to use our speed and quickness and run around him, give somebody a bad play and get our defense off the field, get our offense back on.
Travis is the prototype that we have. If you look at all three of our linebackers that will start this year probably they will all be about the same size. Again I would rather have quickness and speed than size any day.
Q. Talk about Tre Smith and has he fully recovered from the shoulder surgery last year?
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: Tre is fine, he had a great spring, tremendous off season. Two days ago he had an appendectomy so he's going to miss probably three weeks. They got to it in time where it was not -- it's always major when you have surgery, but the situation where he will be able to get back on field a lot quicker. He's in great shape. He wouldn't have done a lot the first few weeks anyway. We are going to use our younger guys to get them going. Tre has been there, done that. He started a game for us back when he was a freshman so he will be ready to go. We're excited about Tre being our starter.
Q. What kind of discussions did you have with Marcus McNeill about the NFL; what does it mean for him to be back another year?
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: This is the third year in a row our seniors have come back. I think they learn from each other and Marcus is the type of guy that he loves football, and he knows that he's a good football player. He passed up a lot of money and him coming back is going to be fun to watch. I think that the sky's the limit for him. But we don't say anything to them. What we do is give them all the information and let them make their decision on their own.
Q. Do you think enough has been done as far as changes in the BCS process and formula and in making coaches available -- do you think enough has been done --
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: Nothing has been done to solve the problem. We have used a Band-Aid. You can have all the voting polls you want. Popular vote is not the way you have a National Champion. You need to play it on the field. We're smart enough to where I think we should be able to figure out a way to keep our Bowl system and have a four or eight team playoff to have a true National Champion. We got left out last year and rightly so. The way it was picked we were No. 3. We weren't No. 1 or 2. There's really no way to complain about it. It is the system we have, it's the only one we have, but we can do a lot better. So wait and see.
Q. How do you people that you meet in this off season and prospect's families, how do they view your season, undefeated but not winning the National Championship, how are you seen now?
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: It's been phenomenal. It's obviously opened doors. The media attention that we got, positive and negative, the last two years has put us out in front of a lot of the TV screens and newspapers across the country that normally we wouldn't have been on. That publicity, we have tried to use it to the best of our ability. Our coaches have done a good job. We're not going to broaden our recruiting base because of what we have done and we're getting more calls from different areas. We're still going to recruit the same areas because we want people to fit into our environment at Auburn University. It's really opened a lot of doors and it's been fun. It's been fun for people to recognize that you had a good team last year and things are going very positively, but I think last year's team was great for college football the way our players handled the 13-0 and the situation that we were in, not to be able to play in -- the one, two games at the end. I think a lot of people learned from our players and how they handled the whole situation and the style -- going back to the style of play of how we played throughout the year.
Q. I know you have got some talent at wide receivers in particular coming back, could you expand on the offense in terms of -- I know we're going to see new running backs; how is the offense looking --
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: Last year we had two game plans going into the game because one thing I like about Al Borges is he didn't come in with a system saying this is what I know, we're going to run it no matter what talents we have. Al is an experienced coach. He understands how to put people in different positions and we would go into a game with Jason Campbell, one type of offense and Brandon Cox, another because Brandon can't do all the things that Jason could do and visa versa.
So I think because of doing that we're a lot farther along now with the offense, with Al coming back for us and being able to keep two coordinators two years in a row first time in a long time for me. But I think it's really going to help our offense. Courtney Taylor, Aromashodu, those guys have really earned their spurs so to speak. They are going to be good this year. They are going to help a young quarterback.
Brandon Cox is not a guy that's going to get out of the pocket like Jason did. There's going to be a new look to our offense, but it's going to be an offense that we have been practicing for a year; not one that we have been practicing for just a few weeks.
Q. Would having more contact with the players during the off season and being able to do more organized team activities, would that curtail some of these off-field problems?
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: It probably would not make too much of a difference. We have a lot of contact with them. You can spend all the time you want with them. You can't just go out and practice with them. I think the biggest thing, I don't know what anybody else does, we try to have a hands-on approach with our players. We talk to them. We have a lot of tough love. They know straight up. I don't put up with a whole lot, because it's an honor and privilege to go to a major university and get your education paid for and play college football. If they don't respect that they doesn't deserve to be at Auburn. That's my feeling.
They are representing a lot of people other than just their football team, their family and the university. We have had problems. I have had problems before. I don't have many anymore because they understand the difference between right and wrong, if they take the wrong route they won't be around much longer. I truly believe that in this environment that kids nowadays are tougher to handle, but also they will listen to you and if you will talk to them and be around them more than just as football coaches then I think they will react a little bit differently.
Q. Coaches now cannot stand up in front of their teams and say if you go out and win every game, win the conference Championship 13 and 0, you will win a National Championship. Any of the coaches talk to you about that and also do you think your team has the players come back, have a chip on their shoulder because even though they went 13 and 0, they obviously didn't get the National Championship?
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: As I said earlier, that's hard to swallow, it really is. Normally you'd be able to, especially in our conference, be able to tell our guys, listen, we win them all and you are going to get a shot to play. That's the problem with our system. Again it's not perfect. Will we have a chip on our shoulder? I hope so. We don't hold any grudges against anybody that played in it because they earned the right. They won the same amount, but it's just the system the way it's been handled. We should be able to handle a little bit differently and again if we're going to play 12 games, why in the world can't we have a Playoff system? Why can't we play for a National Championship? Until the media or the fans start really getting involved in this we won't change it because the uproar is not loud enough. If you sit in our football team's seat it will make you pretty mad and make you disgusted with how it all went on. Nobody is at fault other than the group that of people that have the opportunity to change the rules.
Tommy Tuberville said on Thursday that he is looking forward to getting the 2005 season rolling.
Q. So many juniors leaving early; what is it about Auburn that allows you to keep those guys?
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: I don't really get involved with it that much. I am not the type of coach that's going to bring a guy in and tell him all the positives about staying and the negatives about leaving. I want him to understand if they come back they are coming back for the right reasons. We try to get the NFL involved. We want to talk it out in an educated way. I do not want Marcus coming back for the wrong reasons, coming back because I am telling him he's going to make All-American. He has got to do that on his own. He has got to show the NFL that he's a type of guy that can play in the NFL, get more experience that way. We have been successful with assistant coaches handling it, making the educated decision, but again, a few years ago I think year 2000 we lost three guys. If they had come back we would have had a great chance to win the conference championship the next year and obviously we didn't. We lost three or four games and had a disappointing season. We have been fortunate, but this year we're going to have a challenge again. We're going to have several players that are going to have an opportunity to make that decision, but we will handle it the same way by getting involved to a certain extent with the parents and letting them make an educated the decision the way that they want to make it.
Q. Mark Richt commented earlier, he's only coaching pure football like 25% of the time. With all the many hats that you guys have to wear, publicly especially, are coaches in major programs becoming like almost CEO types?
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: You are what you want to be. I am a football coach for 125 players. I am going to be around them as much as I can. We have a lot of other responsibilities and rightly so. We make a lot of money. When you choose this profession you have got to do it the way that you think fits your university, who you are working for because you owe them that. That's what I am going to do. I try to be hands-on with the alumni, the fans and the media. I am a salesmen. I sell everyday and I try to sell the truth and the way it's going to be and how it's going to be, but again every school is different but the main objective is to make sure you stay close to your players and they understand your philosophy on how they handle themselves. I think that's really basically what we all need to look at is being more football coaches and all the other stuff should be second, but it is obviously important that we do all those things.
Q. How satisfying was last year for you personally given everything that went on with your job situation?
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: It was good. Was it one of those I-told-you-so years? Not really. I sat in the same room; maybe the same one. I told all of you out there two years ago that 2003 we were going to have a good football team but that wasn't going to be our best one; last year was going to be. We pretty much know how our team is going to play in the situation that we're in. But it worked out well going through. It was tough on all of our families which is the most important but in the long run it made Auburn stronger. It made our football program, our athletic program stronger, got us focused in the right direction, which is about the people involved, young people and about our school.
Coaches come and go. I hope to be at Auburn for a long time but I won't be there forever. I will eventually get out or do something else, but you do the best you can. You hope people have the confidence in what you are doing and hope it all goes hand-in-hand.
Q. When you were here last year that question came up. You seem to want to take the high road. Your players, did they have a carryover effect after 13 and 0 last year?
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: Yeah, we all kind of took the high road. There's no reason to make a situation worse. You take the hand that you are dealt. You play it and you go on. Never has anything good come out of complaining or looking back.
I think our guys, last year, did a tremendous job of offsetting the things that happened the previous year and got focused on the year at hand and these are young men that we're training to be adults. Last year was a prime example of players growing up and learning from the bad and taking the bad and turning it into something positive and making themselves not only better players, but better people and a real close knit football team that was very successful.
Q. Elaborate on the defense side of the ball?
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: I think the surprise of the year for us defensively will be a guy named David Irons. He transferred to us last year from junior college, he is Kenny Irons' brother, who plays running back for us. David is probably the most athletic defensive back I have ever been around. He was hurt the first day of two-a-days last season. He will take Roger's position. He has got great jumping ability, speed, quickness and is about as good a cover corner as I have ever been around. I think he will be a major factor in our success if we continue to improve because you need, in our league, at least one corner that you can say, well, okay, that's our best guy, go get him. So he's going to be a big factor for us and then everybody's heard obviously of our two defensive ends--I have coached a lot of great speed quickness, but Stanley McClover and Quentin Groves, two guys that are pretty good football players, they are fast. They need to learn how to play first-down defense. They sometimes don't understand you are not going to have an opportunity to rush that passer unless you stop them on first down when they run it. They have got a lot of growing up to do. They are fun to watch and again they will have a lot of accolades going through their year.
Marcus McNeill will be the first one to tell you, after he came back, he came up to me, and Marcus has got to be one of the best offensive linemen in the country, just a tremendous talent. He hadn't blocked either one of them yet, and he came up to me and asked me why did I come back if all you are going to do is put me up against these two all the time. It has made him better.
So it's going to be fun to watch those two guys, defensive line, new guys and we have some other guys coming, that David Irons playing corner for us.
Q. Talk about the spring, the transition between Chizik and Gibbs?
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: I coachthe defense. We're going to run my philosophy. Gene did a good job for us. I tried to hire David four years ago. He wanted to go to the NFL. Now he's back. I think what he brings to us is knowledge of substitution defense that we in college are not really familiar with because we haven't done a lot with that. We have got the type of players that we can move around, maybe play four defensive ends on a third down situation, get more speed on the field. But David's philosophy and mine are very aggressive, tackle at the line of scrimmage, use speed and quickness and outplay people.
As I told you earlier with David running the defense with the quickness and speed that we have, I think it's a pretty good way to win football games, but David is going to be a good addition for us.
Q. Following up, what specific improvements did Quentin make this spring and talk about the progress of Steve Gandy?
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: Quentin, the thing that he improved on the most was first-down defense, how to use his hands getting off blocks, playing the run. Those type of defensive ends love to rush the passer, love to blitz, but again when it's all said and done, stopping the run and doing those types of things is where you get people in long yardage situations, but Quentin has the speed, he ran a phenomenal time on the 40 this spring for the pro scouts. He has gotten bigger, which is going to be very important. We want him to be around 250, 255, but again the experience factor of playing every down or three out of every four downs is going to be a tell-tail for him. He has got a lot of growing up to do. He has got the ability.
Q. You mentioned you won't be at Auburn forever. Is coaching in the NFL down the road?
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: I have never been -- I like college football, I think certain people like the significance of going and trading and contracts and changing players all the time. I like our situation where we can have our guys three, four, five years, build a team, build a program where a lot of things are still important other than just winning; watching guys grow from young guys, coming out of high school to young adults, mature adults that learn from situations that arise, good and bad, over the four, five-year period. I am excited about coaching college football and there's not a better sport.
Q. Judging from your philosophy about the playoff system, all that you don't see, 12 games and postseason, is too many games --
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: 12 games is too many, especially in the short period of time that they are jamming all those into. I am not against playing 12 games, but I'd like to have another date like they did a few years ago when they gave us the opening date of the season. I think we can cutback practice time go from 29 practices to 22, three weeks of practice would be sufficient if you played another game and then you'd have an opportunity to have two good open dates during the season where you can give guys an opportunity to sit back and rest a little bit and heal up because it's a very tough physical sport as well as mental sport. If we played 20 games, it doesn't make a difference as long as they give us a little break. From 85 guys on scholarship and still not having a five-year eligibility rule where you'd play all of the freshmen coming in, it really takes a toll on the 40 or 50 players that you play throughout the year.
Q. You mentioned Kenny Irons. Unusual to see a kid transfer within the conference. Could you remember how that transpired and were you surprised South Carolina granted him that release?
COACH TOMMY TUBERVILLE: We recruited Kenny very hard and he decided -- we had signed his brother David a year or so before. I think the deciding factor was of course he wanted to go to South Carolina, but he didn't know whether he wanted to the play with his brother or not because he had been around him. After going to South Carolina, he got his release and wanted to play with his brother. I think it was more of a brother thing than anything else of being on the same team because they had been there for so long. It's been good. They have lived together in the same apartment. I think they've renewed old rivalries against each other on the practice field, which we did last spring. It's been fun to watch. Both have tremendous talent. Their dad was a good football player. He's very in touch with both of them. He comes to practice, watches them, very supportive.