Marshall Column: Q&A On Auburn Sports

Phillip Marshall writes about the Auburn football, basketball and baseball programs.

The questions come in many forms and in many places. They come via email, from folks in the shopping mall. Sometimes I know the answers. Sometimes I don't. Not surprisingly, most are about football. Here are the best answers I know to some of the questions most asked:

Q: Can next season's Auburn football team get back to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game?

A: Certainly, it can. That doesn't mean it will. The Tigers have a lot of talent.

They have a fifth-year senior quarterback who will be 24 years old in October. But they also have a lot of inexperience. My guess is they'll be in the hunt until the end. Like most seasons, it'll come down to how they do in the close games.

Q: Why can't Auburn win in basketball?

A: Auburn can win in basketball. It's happened before. Jeff Lebo, heading into his fourth season, has built his program the right way. With the entire roster returning, that should start to pay dividends next season.

Q: Will linebacker Tray Blackmon, suspended for the Cotton Bowl and out of school the second semester, be back for next season?

A: Barring further trouble, he'll be back and he'll be eligible.

Q: When will the final decision be made on building a new basketball arena?

A: For all intents and purposes, it's already been made. The Board of Trustees will give final approval in June.

Q: What has happened to Auburn's baseball team?

A: I'll admit the eight-game swoon to start the SEC season after an 18-3 start caught me by surprise. But it's not surprising that this team has had a hard time being consistent. When Taylor Thompson is the starting pitcher against Alabama on Saturday, there'll probably be six freshmen in the starting lineup. Though those freshmen are talented, playing so many newcomers is not a prescription for winning big in the SEC.

Q: Will Tommy Tuberville win a national championship at Auburn?

A: It's bogus, really, to say that winning a national championship should define a football coach, especially since the system to determine who plays for it is so flawed. Urban Meyer won one at Florida and Nick Saban won one at LSU in seasons that were not as good as the season Tuberville had in 2004. They each lost a game in those seasons but were fortunate enough for events that were out of their control to go their way. Auburn went 13-0 in 2004, but that turned out to be the only season in the BCS era in which there were three teams from BCS conferences with perfect records. Tuberville certainly has built a program that can contend for a national championship in any given season. It'll happen if the season comes that everything that falls into place.

Q: How long will Tuberville remain as Auburn football coach?

A: I'll be surprised if he doesn't at least serve out the term of his current contract, which runs through the 2011 season.

Q: What will Jeff Lebo do if he is offered a job at a "basketball" school?

A: I can only go by what he has told me. He has said on numerous occasions that he believes he can build a winning program at Auburn and intends to do it. He and his family love living in Auburn. I don't believe the widespread theory that he will leave at the earliest opportunity.

Jeff Lebo's team just missed winning the SEC West title in his third year as head coach of the Tigers.

Q: What does it mean that Auburn's athletic program was certified by the NCAA?

A: It means that after an extensive process of self-examination, mandated by the NCAA for every program, showed Auburn is running its program in accordance with NCAA rules.

Q: Who will be the backup quarterback next season?

A: It's hard to say. Junior Blake Field has been the backup the past two seasons. Redshirt freshmen Neil Caudle and Steven Ensminger had opportunities to overtake him in the spring and didn't do it. They'll get more opportunities during two-a-days. Incoming freshman Kodi Burns will get a look, too, and might play next season in special situations. I don't believe he'll be the everyday backup.


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