Marshall: Football Coaches Coming and Going

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about Auburn football and basketball in his column.

Rambling around on a Monday morning...

By the time anyone reads this, James Willis should be on campus interviewing for the job as Auburn's linebackers coach. It'll be surprising if he is not offered the job and even more surprising if he doesn't take it.

Willis, an All-Southeastern Conference Auburn linebacker in 1992, made a terrific impression when he returned to campus n in 2001. He was a student assistant for two seasons as he finished up his degree after seven years in the NFL and one in the ill-fated XFL. He was a graduate assistant in 2003, helping Joe Whitt coach linebackers.

Even at Division I-AA Rhode Island, Willis earned a reputation in two seasons as heck of a linebackers coach and one of the top recruiters in the East. That's why Al Golden quickly offered him a job after taking over as Temple coach last December.

Willis has never made it a secret that he wanted to come to home to Auburn one day. If things work out, it looks like he'll have that opportunity sooner than he would have expected...

Speaking of Whitt, he spent last weekend exactly where his son, Joe Jr., said he did. He was bird-hunting in Midland, Texas. He'll soon be busy in his new role in Tigers Unlimited, where my guess is he will be just as successful as he was in coaching and leading Auburn football players for 25 years.

More than his considerable football knowledge, more than his work ethic, more than anything, it was Whitt's honesty and integrity that carried him through a quarter of a century of Auburn football and four different head coaches.

That's why it is sad to hear the constant speculation that he was involved in the clandestine move to remove Tommy Tuberville as head coach in December 2003. He wasn't involved or even informed. The speculation that he helped his son land defensive end Peanut Whitehead for Louisville is downright ridiculous. Whitt had no role in recruiting Whitehead, period.

I guess people are going to believe what they want to believe...

Tuberville's hiring of Will Muschamp to take over the Auburn's defense seems to have been a masterful stroke. Like every coach, Muschamp will be judged by what happens on the field, but he's an engaging person who will be a breath of fresh air in the aftermath of the reclusive David Gibbs.

Will Muschamp

Muschamp, some will remember, made a game-turning interception at Jordan-Hare Stadium when Georgia rallied from a 23-9 deficit for a 23-23 tie that ended Auburn's 20-game winning streak in 1994.

At 34, Muschamp is on the fast track to becoming a head coach. And yet another Auburn-Georgia connection is established...

It's too early to say it's going to happen, but Auburn officials have definitely shifted their focus from building a new practice facility to building a new arena to replace Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum.

Athletic director Jay Jacobs says he wants to have a plan for Auburn basketball facilities by the end of the season. A new arena would be a huge hit with Auburn people. If it can't be done, then plans will be put into motion to build a new practice facility and to significantly upgrade Beard-Eaves.

My guess--and it's only a guess, though a somewhat educated one--is that the decision will eventually be made to swallow hard and go forward with a new arena...

In the major Auburn sports other than football, this is a time of growing pains. Jeff Lebo, Nell Fortner and Tommy Slater are all playing significant numbers of newcomers. All seem to be headed in the right direction, but there are going to be a lot of painful bumps along the way.

As Lebo said the day he was hired, the second year is often the toughest of all...

It comes as no surprise that Georgia coach Rodney Garner is interested in moving to the NFL. Why? Garner, like many other African-American coaches, hates the idea that he is viewed more as recruiter than coach.

Certainly, his resume as a recruiter is impressive. But his resume as a defensive line coach is impressive, too. No doubt, Garner would like to be a college head coach one day. The best road to reaching that goal might be through the NFL...

Until next time...


Inside The AU Tigers Top Stories