Dunn: Iron Bowl Rivalry "Unique"

Defensive tackles coach Don Dunn talks about the Auburn-Alabama rivalry and preparing for the Crimson Tide.

Auburn, Ala.—-Coming off a win over Georgia and preparing for the Iron Bowl, the Auburn Tigers worked out for two hours in full pads on Tuesday as they get ready for Alabama. Defensive line coach Don Dunn says that the day was a good one and he can definitely feel the intensity rising in advance of the game.

"I think the last two weeks (are a little different) to be honest with you," Dunn says. "It's getting towards the end. The seniors are starting to realize ‘hey, this is it. It's my last go around.' I think these two games back-to-back, you can tell it. You can tell it around town, around the offices, that's just the way it is. Good or bad, that's the way it is, but that's the way it should be. That's why you go to Auburn, to play in these two games.

"But, it's definitely different," Dunn adds. "You try to keep everything the same. You don't want to go from one extreme to the other. You don't want to be up and then down. It is different."

Coming from Ole Miss with Coach Tommy Tuberville prior to the 1999 season, Dunn was familiar with intense rivalries having coached against Mississippi State. After having been through six Iron Bowls he says that he would put this rivalry up against any in the country because of what it stands for.

"The thing about this game is the players really don't have problems," Dunn says. "Over there we had free-for-alls and stuff. Here it's a clean game. There's a lot of respect among the coaches and players. I think that's what makes it so unique.

"Now the fans, I can't speak for them because that's a whole different world, but it's a unique situation. I cannot imagine a rivalry anywhere and I mean anywhere, I'll put this up against Ohio State and Michigan, this is it.

"Now that I've been in it I get more nervous every year and get more excited. It's a year-round deal. There's not a day that goes by that something isn't mentioned about this game. It's pretty unique. It's special. I'm lucky to be a coach in it. I'm thankful for that."

Because of the attention the rivalry gets and the fervor it creates in the state, it makes for a tough decision for a football coach. Would you rather the game get here quickly so you can get it behind you or would you rather it not rush up on you so you can get more done in preparation. Dunn says that's the tough part of coaching in this rivalry.

"You look forward to it and then you say, ‘I wish I had another day or another meeting,'" Dunn says. "You just try to keep it in perspective and not get too high early in the week. You don't want to be ready to play on Sunday. You want to be ready to play on Saturday and not Friday. You try to keep a normal routine, but it's hard because there's nothing normal about it. It's something different. It's fun."

Senior Wayne Dickens is having his best career season in 2005.

What won't be fun is trying to slow Alabama junior tailback Kenneth Darby. The SEC's number two rusher with 1,072 yards on the season, Darby is a tough competitor who can take over a game at any time. Dunn says it's easy to see when watching or listening to Darby that he likes to play the game.

"I think he's if not one of the best backs in the country he should be," Dunn says of Darby. "He's third now in the SEC. He's a tough hard-nosed kid who loves football. He wants to be the guy. He wants to run the ball and that's what you want in a big game. I heard some comments that he wanted the ball last week against LSU. You want a kid like that. That's just like in basketball. You want that guy to take the last shot. You don't want him throwing it back to you. I think he's a heck of a runner, very quick. He's healthy and he wasn't healthy last year."

A runner who likes to take the ball inside between the tackles, Darby will look to get his yards against an Auburn defense that has been solid against the run this season. It all starts with the tackles and Dunn says that his group of four in the middle led by Tommy Jackson has done a good job and shown a lot of improvement this season, improvement he hopes continues through this weekend.

"I think Tommy Jackson has had a great year," Dunn says. "I'm proud of him and Wayne (Wayne Dickens). I'm proud of all four of them. I've really got four now. I started out with a lot more, but it's survival of the fittest. I'm not Charles Darwin or anything.

"I'm real proud of Tommy," he adds. "He's stayed healthy. He does a real good job against the run. He's never going to be a great pass rusher. We don't get a lot of pressure out of our two tackles, but he and Wayne have played well. I know he's excited. It's his last time around."

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