Marshall: Auburn and SEC Football Ramblings

Columnist Phillip Marshall takes a look at Auburn and around the SEC.

Rumors are flying and will continue to fly about why Brad Lester, Kevin Sears and Tray Blackmon were suspended from Auburn's football team. But head coach Tommy Tuberville has made it clear that he won't give a reason other than the oft-used "violation of team rules."

It's particularly sad that Sears won't play in the Cotton Bowl against Nebraska. Because he's a senior, that means his career is over. Blackmon and Lester still have plenty of time to come back from what will one day be a most unpleasant chapter of their college careers.

Kevin Sears' suspension finishes up a disappointing season for the senior from Russellville.

Despite rumors to the contrary, be assured that neither Blackmon nor Lester has been kicked off the team. Nor is there any intention of kicking either one off the team. Barring further trouble, both will be back in good graces in time for spring practice and will play in the 2007 season-opener. …

See if you can name this coach:

In 11 seasons as a college head coach, he lost five or more games four times, four games one time and three games twice.

In his last five seasons as a college head coach, he was beaten by double-figure margins 10 times and by 18 points or more six times.

He never got through a season without losing at home.

In a three-week period in 2004, he lost 31-7 at Auburn and 31-0 to Alabama at home.

He lost a home game to UAB.

The coach, of course, is Nick Saban.

Obviously, Saban's resume is impressive in other ways. He won a national championship at LSU in 2003, despite being hammered at home by a five-loss Florida team. He won an SEC championship in 2001 when LSU backed into the championship game with three conference losses and stunned unbeaten Tennessee.

The point here is not to say that Saban, who apparently is still being pursued by Alabama, is not a good coach or even a great coach.

The point is that there are no sure things. Should Saban leave the Miami Dolphins for Alabama, he might take the Tide to championships. And he might not.

The same will be true of any coach hired at any school that has the resources and the commitment to compete at the highest level.

Hiring coaches is a roll of the dice. …

It seems all but certain now that Jimbo Fisher, Auburn's quarterbacks coach from 1993-98, will leave his job as offensive coordinator at LSU.

Fisher is the leading candidate to become the next head coach at Louisiana Tech, and he definitely has interest in the job. Should that not work out, he'll probably be the next offensive coordinator at Florida State. …

Houston Nutt has a mess on his hands at Arkansas.

The parents of three freshmen from nearby Springdale High School went to see athletic director Frank Broyles. Their message: Their sons weren't getting utilized properly.

Who cares that the Razorbacks had just won 10 games?

In the end, wide receiver Damian Williams decided to transfer. Quarterback Mitch Mustain and tight end/wide receiver Ben Cleveland decided to stay.

I like and respect Broyles, but I'm surprised and disappointed that he didn't tell the three sets of parents to either go see Nutt or go home.

If the players weren't embarrassed by the actions of their parents, they should have been.

It all revolves around offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn, hired from Springdale High after last season. Malzahn is something of a legend in Arkansas. He is considered an offensive genius by many in the state. The whining parents wanted to know why the Razorbacks stopped running Malzahn's offense, which they believed would showcase their sons' talents.

Maybe it was because Nutt realized after a 50-14 loss to USC in the season-opener that it wasn't working.

Nutt has quietly spread the word that he might be interested in leaving Arkansas.

Don't be surprised if he is at least in the picture at Alabama before all is said and done. …

Until next time …


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