Who Will Coordinate AU's Offense In 2003?

Columnist Phillip Marshall writes about the Auburn football coaching staff and other AU football topics from Orlando, Fla., where the Tigers are preparing for a New Year's Day bowl game vs. Penn State.

Orlando, Fla.--Auburn head football coach Tommy Tuberville says he's going to name a new offensive coordinator within a few days of Wednesday's game against Penn State in the Capital One Bowl. He says the Tigers are not going to change offenses.

Though Tuberville isn't tipping his hand, that would seem to add up to the next coordinator being a current staff member. The most likely candidate would be offensive line coach Hugh Nall. Bobby Petrino will coach his final Auburn game against Penn State before moving on to his new job as Louisville head coach. With signing day just over a month away, Tuberville is wise to move swiftly.

He could do a whole lot worse than Nall, who blocked for Herschel Walker as an undersized center on Georgia's 1980 national championship team. Nall is a hard-nosed coach. He's tough on his players on the field, yet he loves them and they know it. He demands they strive for perfection on the field and in the classroom.

Hugh Nall greets Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Kendall Simmons (right), who stopped by an Auburn practice earlier this season.

The progression of Auburn's offensive line this season, with two true freshmen in the top six players, is nothing short of remarkable, though Nall will never, ever say he's satisfied. Nall says that whoever is named coordinator, he expects the Tigers to carry on in the system that grew under Petrino's leadership this season. "A lot of blocking schemes and terminology up front, a lot of things we do, we didn't change that much," Nall said. "We were able to adapt what Bobby wanted done with our terminology. He did a great job of incorporating what he inherited as a coaching staff. We stole from what we were doing and have done for years and put it into Bobby's system. I think it's a pretty good system."

Truth is, though Nall and former offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone were close friends, Petrino's philosophy was much closer to Nall's. "You can't say enough about what a good football coach he is," Nall said of Petrino. "Of course, what I liked about him is the fact he wanted to run the football. I still believe that's the way you win in the SEC or win anywhere. The other thing I thought he did a great job of was the play action passing game off that. I think there should be a pass for every run you have. "I thought he did a great job of formations, trying to get the ball in the right people's hands and taking advantage of defenses. That's coaching. That's what you are supposed to do. He's as good as I've been around."

It's likely Nall is going to be an offensive coordinator soon somewhere. Whether it will be at Auburn or somewhere else, we'll know soon.

Speaking of coordinators, one of the more baseless rumors of the rumor season had Auburn defensive coordinator Gene Chizik leaving to take a similar post at Florida. It's not going to happen. It was never even considered. The only way Chizik would consider leaving is if a head coaching offer comes along. Like Petrino, he'd have to take a hard look at that.

"I'll go on record and say I'm at what I consider to be one of the best schools in America," Chizik said. "For me to go to another school in a similar position is really out of the question. As long as everybody wants me here, this is where I want to be."

Chizik said he was amazed when that rumor began to make its rounds. "I don't know where those rumors get started," Chizik said. "Have I heard from people? Yes. Have I heard from anybody officially? No, but it doesn't matter. Auburn is where I am. I got the chance to come to this level to be at Auburn. This is where I'm going to stay. I'm not going to take a similar position somewhere else."

Note that Chizik left himself no wriggle room. He left nothing to interpretation. Barring an opportunity to be a head coach, he's not going anywhere. End of story.

GETTING READY

Auburn players seem to be doing a good job of balancing preparation for a big game with having a good time here this week. It's the way it should be at a bowl game. My guess is Wednesday's game is going to be one of the better ones of the bowl season. The Tigers and the Nittany Lions had amazingly similar seasons. Both were within a play or two of being champions.

In modern college football, that's the way it's usually going to be. There's not a lot of difference between 11-1 and 8-4. Georgia could have lost to Clemson, could have lost to Alabama, probably should have lost to South Carolina and Auburn. But this was the Bulldogs' year. The bounces went their way. Same with Ohio State in the Big Ten. For Auburn and Penn State, the bounces went the other way in the crucial games. Until next time…


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