Talking Football With Tommy Tuberville

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about what is on Tommy Tuberville's agenda as football season approaches.

It might not feel like it with temperatures in the 90s outside, but football season has arrived.

It has arrived for Tommy Tuberville and his assistants, who finished vacations and went to work Monday on final preparations for the start of two-a-days in early August.

It has arrived for Buddy Davidson, the assistant athletic director who is in charge of travel plans. He will be in Los Angeles on Thursday to make arrangements for the arrival of Auburn;s football team to play Southern California in less than two months. It never really ends for players, who go through grueling workouts almost year-around.

It has arrived for sports information director Meredith Jenkins, who returned from a vacation in Spain to deal with the thousands of details that are part of the job she does so well.

And, yes, it has arrived for sportswriters who will follow the football teams they cover from the misery of two-a-days in the Alabama heat to wherever its destiny carries it.

There's nothing quite like football season in the South. It might seem amusing or strange to those who don't understand. To be sure, it can get out of hand. You don't have to look far to find examples of the Auburn-Alabama rivalry being less than healthy. But all in all, it's a treasured part of the fabric of our society. Where else can a grown man act like a little boy and not even draw a glance from those around him? Where else can one cheer with such fervor, pull so hard for his or her team, then leave it there and go back to the real world? How much would so many of us have given just to put on that jersey and run out of that tunnel to the cheers of the multitudes?

Auburn coaches were in the office and meeting early Tuesday morning. The list of tasks seems endless. Tuberville gave a brief synopsis:

"We kind of go back over our playbook," he says. "We make an installation chart, plan each practice through the first game. We make an itinerary for every day--the first day freshmen report, when the varsity reports, off days, everything. Every minute is accounted for from the time the freshmen report until the first game.

"We are doing a lot of game planning for those first four games. We will attend the Georgia high school coaches clinic this week and be in Montgomery for the Alabama clinics next week. We have our fantasy camp later this month. I'll start my kickoff banquets in about two weeks."

Tuberville will be back on his football practice tower next month.

With new coordinators in Bobby Petrino and Gene Chizik, there is even more to be done. "You have some option teams, passing teams, four-man fronts, five-man fronts," Tuberville says. "We're trying to get them as familiar as possible with our opponents."

And then there is the early season, a brutal run of four games in the first 17 days. "We're doing a lot of game planning for those first four games right now," Tuberville notes. "There won't be time to do that much once it starts."

When it all starts, there will be questions to be answered. Will Jason Campbell or Daniel Cobb be the starting quarterback? How will the offensive line shake out? Which of the talented freshmen will be ready to play early at wide receiver? How is Demarco McNeil's knee? Will Jay Ratliff, who missed much of the spring, be able to harness his immense talent and reach his potential at defensive end?

Finally, on Sept. 2, it will be time to go to battle again. All the work, all the sweat and blood lead toward that night when the nation will watch on television as Auburn plays Southern California.

It will be fun.

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