Marshall: Columnist Answers Questions

Phillip Marshall answers a number of questions that have been e-mailed to him recently.

My column of last Monday on Terry Bowden's latest carrying on about his departure from Auburn and my ranking of Southeastern Conference coaches seems to have hit a nerve with some folks.

I make it a policy not to divulge names or even computer nicknames of people who write to me unless they know I plan to do that. I don't mind, however, sharing and answering some of the questions that were asked.

Here we go.

Q: You act like you know it all. How do you know that Coach Bowden wasn't forced out by Lowder and his cronies?

A: Not even Bowden has ever claimed that he was forced to resign. I know he wasn't because I spent weeks researching the story, talking to people on all sides. He walked out on his players. That fact is beyond dispute.

Q: How could you rate Tuberville No. 2 in the SEC? Have you forgotten what happened in 2003? One 13-0 season does not make someone a great coach.

A: One 13-0 season in the SEC goes a pretty long way toward making someone a great coach, but I didn't base it just on that. He's won nine or more games three times in six years. He's been to five straight bowl games. He's been to two SEC Championship Games, winning one. He has winning records over Alabama, Georgia, LSU and Tennessee. He's done all this despite inheriting an awful situation when he arrived in November 1998.

Q: Your bias is coming out. Tuberville and Fulmer ahead of Spurrier? Have you lost your mind?

A: I haven't lost my mind yet, but I might be close. Some would probably say I never had a mind to lose. Like him or loathe him, Fulmer's record over a long period of time says he's the best coach in the SEC. Spurrier was a great coach in unique situation at Florida. What he did in the 1990s might never be equaled, but it's not the 1990s anymore. There's not much question he was the best coach in the SEC in 1995, but this is 2005. If he makes South Carolina a big winner, I'll readily admit I'm wrong.

Q: If Terry Bowden was such a bad coach, how did he win 20 straight games?

A: I have never said Bowden was a bad coach. In 1993 and 1994, he had a unique combination going for him. He had hungry players who had been raised in the hard-nosed ways of Pat Dye. He preached hard-nosed football, too, depending more on the running of James Bostic than an all-out passing game. He added a little imagination and it was a lethal combination for opponents.

Q: Why do you think it went bad for Coach Bowden after such a great start?

A: I think the trouble started in 1995. He had maybe the nation's top back in Stephen Davis. Instead of building around him, he couldn't wait to copy what his dad was doing and go to a four-wideout attack. That hard-nosed mentality vanished. When Davis left, what was left of the running game went with him. The Tigers won 10 games in 1997 because of the wondrous ability of quarterback Dameyune Craig, but even then they couldn't run the ball a lick.

Q: A lot of people said Terry couldn't recruit. Isn't the truth that he wouldn't cheat?

A: Remember running back James Johnson, who was SEC Player of the Year as a Mississippi State tailback? He was literally begging to play for Auburn. Some Auburn coaches thought he was too big for their offense and he was not offered a scholarship. Remember quarterback Romero Miller at Ole Miss. He wept when Auburn withdrew its scholarship offer in favor of Jason Standridge, who never showed up. Remember Michael Burks? Bowden thought he was going to be the savior at tailback. Get my drift?

Q: What's your problem with Houston Nutt? You are always downing him. Why don't you admit that he is a great coach?

A: Because I don't believe he's a great coach and because he cries too much.

On to some more mundane questions about the coming football season…

Q: What do you think has to happen for Auburn to win the West again?

A: I think Brandon Cox has to be a steady performer at quarterback and the defense has to take quickly to the schemes of coordinator David Gibbs. I think there'll need to be some luck along the way, which is always the case. As with all teams, avoiding injuries to key people will be crucial. And I think Auburn will need to find a way to beat LSU in Baton Rouge.

Q: Do you think Courtney Taylor will come back after this season.

A: He says he'll be back unless he is a high first-round pick.

Q: How in the world do you think Auburn will replace four first-round draft choices?

A: They'll replace them the same way college teams replace great players every year. That's the nature of the game.

Q: Do you think Alabama can really make a charge in the West Division?

A: Anything is possible, but I'd be surprised.

Until next time …

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