When Tommy Tuberville arrived as Auburn's football coach in November of 1998, he was surprised. The talent level, he discovered, was not what he expected in program with Auburn's tradition. If Auburn was to win, that had to change.
And it did.
In eight seasons, Tuberville has recruited and coached dozens of players who have left their marks on Auburn football.
It is entirely possible I have overlooked someone who deserves at least honorable mention status, but for the fun of it, here is one man's vote for the "All-Tuberville" team at Auburn:
Quarterback: Jason Campbell
Campbell, who led the way to a 13-0 season in 2004 and went from a projected second-day draft pick to a first-rounder. Like most great quarterbacks, Campbell's value went far beyond arm strength and offensive execution.
Even before the 2004 season, Campbell was a powerful leader, one who refused to blink in the face of adversity.
Honorable mention: Ben Leard, Brandon Cox.
Tailback: Rudi Johnson
Though he played at Auburn for just one year, Johnson had one of the more remarkable seasons of any tailback in Auburn history. He took a decidedly average team on his back in 2000 and took it to the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. He really was stronger in the fourth quarter than in the first.
Honorable mention: Carnell Williams, Ronnie Brown, Kenny Irons.
Fullback: Ronnie Brown
Brown wins this one by a hair over Heath Evans. He unselfishly shared the spotlight with Williams. He was a big-time runner and receiver who made himself a big-time blocker and was the second player chosen in the NFL draft.
Honorable mention: Evans, Brandon Johnson, Carl Stewart.
Wide receiver: Courtney Taylor and Ronney Daniels.
Taylor will always be remembered for the catch he made for the winning touchdown against LSU, but his greatest strengths were his consistency and his leadership. Despite a junior year almost lost to injury, he caught more passes than any receiver in Auburn history.
Courtney Taylor is one of the top receivers in Auburn history.
Offensive tackles: Marcus McNeil and Kendall Simmons.
Big Marcus was one of the best – maybe the best – offensive tackles ever at Auburn. Simmons was a natural guard who did what his team needed him to do and did it at the highest level.
Honorable mention: Jeno James, Troy Reddick.
Offensive guards: Ben Grubbs and Mike Pucillo.
Grubbs had a terrific year as a senior in 2006 and is a probable first-round draft pick. Pucillo was a four-year letterman who played every offensive line position at one time or another.
Honorable mention: Danny Lindsey, Tim Duckworth.
Defensive ends: Reggie Torbor and Marcus Washington.
Torbor was a great success story on and off the field. He came from Louisiana as a running back and became a star and plays today for the New York Giants. He came as an indifferent student and left as an outstanding one.
Washington finally got his chance to shine after Tuberville arrived, made the most of it and went on to the NFL.
Honorable mention: Stanley McClover, Quentin Groves, Javor Mills, Alton Moore, Bret Eddins.
Defensive tackles: Spencer Johnson and Jay Ratliff.
Johnson really wanted to be a linebacker. Instead, he gained weight moved to tackle and is still playing today.
Ratliff really wanted to be a tight end. He moved to defensive end, then to defensive tackle and is still playing today.
Honorable mention: Leo Carson, Jimmy Brumbaugh.
Linebackers: Karlos Dansby, Dontarrious Thomas and Travis Williams.
Dansby and Thomas were among the more talented linebackers ever to come Auburn's way. Williams used speed and savvy to overcome lack of size and was a leader supreme.
Honorable mention: Antarrious Williams, Mark Brown, Will Herring, Karibi Dede.
Karlos Dansby and Spencer Johnson were a big part of the building process in the Auburn program.
Safeties: Junior Rosegreen and Travaris Robinson.
Rosegreen was a talented, physical player who was an emotional leader. Robinson, also a dynamic leder, moved from wide receiver to cornerback before finally being an All-SEC safety as a senior.
Honorable mention: Rob Pate.
Punter: Kody Bliss.
Like Vaughn, Bliss played a remarkably large role in the 2006 season.
Honorable mention: Duval.