SEC MEDIA DAYS: Tommy Tuberville - Auburn

Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville kicked off the third and final day of SEC Media Days Friday morning at the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. Tuberville's Tigers were picked by the media to win not only the SEC Western Division but also the overall title by the media.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Good morning. Everybody's here again for another year. Everybody's a year older. Good to see all of you. Great to be back getting ready for another football season. Just another off-season for us. Looking forward to the year.

Appreciate the target you put on my back. Last time you did that, you almost got me fired. Looking forward to the challenge. It's going to be a big challenge. We've got a pretty good football team, got a lot of good players back, got our quarterback back, got a real good runningback, changed defensive coordinators.

That philosophy won't change a whole lot of what we've done. We've been a pretty good defense in the past. I think Will Muschamp has brought a lot of enthusiasm to our team, working for Nick Sabin for five or six years, his work ethic obviously is great. I think he's going to be a big benefit to us, to give us a little bit of a new curve ball, so to speak, in the bullpen. He also knows a lot about the SEC.

We have some holes to fill, as everybody does. Our defense this year is built on quickness and speed. We're probably not the biggest defense you'll see all year long. I think we're going to have some competitive speed throughout the defense. Offensively we have to replace a couple receivers, a couple offensive linemen, and a tight end.

I like the makeup of this team. Our leadership has grown. We've had good off-season workouts. Talking to our seniors all through the summer, they like our new freshmen that we signed last year. They feel a few of these guys are going to be able to help us. We don't know yet. We have to get out and start working with them next week. We'll find out more about that.

Conference is going to be very tough. In some leagues you might pick one or two teams that are going to win their conference. Our league, every year there's six, seven, maybe eight teams that you really say have a shot to get to Atlanta and probably win in Atlanta. That's what makes it tougher.

Schedules are very competitive. It's going to be fun to watch, oh, week in, week out. This year we go 12 straight, no open date. We have a Saturday off. We play Steve and the Gamecocks on Thursday night. We did that to give us a little bit of a break in mid-season. It's going to be a long year.

We'll adjust our schedule in two-a-days because of that. We won't have quite as many scrimmages. We're going to try to keep them all as healthy as we possibly can. We are going to have physical practices the next month, but probably won't go as long or as many because of that situation. 12 games is a lot. We understand that. We'll hit the ground running and go.

We're going to throw our name in the hat, see what happens.

My objective going into two-a-days will be to come out of the blocks. Two of the last three years I think we've -- maybe two of the last four years we've kind of stumbled early. With a quarterback coming back that understands what's going on, understands our offense, I think that we've got a better chance to play better.

We're playing a good Washington State team. They're coming a long ways to play this game. It was one of our 12th games that we picked up. It will not be a return game. This will be a one-game shot. Coach out there has done a good job, got an excellent quarterback. I think it will be a good opening game for both teams and a very competitive game.

Got a lot of work to do. We'll start next week.

Questions.

Q. What is your plan on how you're going to use Carl Stewart this year?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Carl Stewart, very good football player. He's a midrange tailback/fullback. We'll play both positions. Going into the season, we lost our starting fullback in the spring to a knee surgery. He probably won't be in the 105. Mike McLaughlin.

Carl played fullback for us in the spring quite a bit. He's a very physical player. He's going to give us an edge having two tailbacks in the backfield a lot of the time. We'll also play the other guys in the backfield, Tre Smith, Brad Lester, along with Kenny Irons. Carl Stewart, we have a plan for him, certain plays, certain scenarios. He'll play a big part of our offense. He's really made a lot of improvement. I'm proud of what Carl has done. We asked him to gain more weight. He's probably put 10, 12 pounds on since the spring.

His role is going to be a dual role, but more of a fullback going into the first part of the season.

Q. I think you're one of three conference teams that don't have an open date this year. Do you see that as a big disadvantage?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Depends on your depth. I feel good about our depth. Our depth in some areas is going to be very inexperienced. Is it a good situation? Probably not. After about eight or nine games, what happens -- even if you're physically still capable of going and playing a very tough conference team or non-conference team -- mentally it's just a drain, not just your players but also your coaches.

We've adjusted. This year for the first time we will practice on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. We're not going to have the regular afternoon practices every day at 3:00. We've done that for several different reasons. There are some classes that our guys didn't have the opportunity to take on Tuesday and Thursday in the afternoons. There's not as many classes in the mornings.

We felt like after taking Monday off, our players would be fresher, go Tuesday morning early for your regular season practice, then they have that afternoon off for academics, study hall. Next day they don't come back till 3:30. Make them more of a student, so to speak. We'll come back on Thursday morning and make corrections, which is more of a walk through anyway. I talked to Rich Brooks, several people that do practice in the mornings. It will be new to us. We talked to several pro teams. They all practice in the morning. They like the scenario. It's something that we did for several reasons, but I think it will give us an opportunity maybe to keep our guys a little bit fresher.

We'll get them up a little bit earlier, but I think it will bring the team together a little bit more. We'll have breakfast together, which in the past we have not. Give us a little bit more of a team atmosphere.

Q. What do you remember from Kenny Irons breaking one of his first 60 yards in practice last year before you got going in the season? As good as you thought he was, did you ever think he'd make it to the point where he's being talked about in Heisman conversations?

COACH TUBERVILLE: I watched Kenny Irons grow up from about seventh grade. We were recruiting David, his brother. It was a recruiting battle. He decided to go to South Carolina. His reasoning was he just didn't want to go where his brother went to school. When he decided to transfer and play with his brother, which was a big -- ended up ironically a big reason for his move, it took him a couple years to get back on the field.

We didn't know a lot about him other than watching him practice. You don't get a true picture of a player until you turn the lights on on a Friday night, 80,000 people. He's a very tough individual, he runs very hard. He's determined. He doesn't look like a great runningback at times. But all of a sudden he'll come out of the pack and still be running. He's a strong individual.

He's more of Deuce McAllister type of player, runs high but can break tackles. But when he breaks the line of scrimmage, you seldom see any body catch him. He has great speed. Kenny has a great attitude when it comes to working and making himself better. He's gained a little bit of weight. I think he's improved his quickness and speed. He knows he's got the capabilities of being one of the better players in the country in college football this year. Staying away from injury, continue to improve.

I'm looking for big things from Kenny. We're a running team. We talk about quarterbacks and receivers. Our team is built on playing defense and running the football. Kenny has been a blessing for us to pick up running where Ronnie and Carnell left off. He's going to have to have some help from a Brad Lester, Tre Smith, Carl Stewart going into this season.

We also have a player by the name of Ben Tate that transferred to us as a high school player in the spring. A good combination of runningbacks, but Kenny is the man. I'm proud of what Kenny has done the few years he's been with us. Hopefully he has a great year this year.

Q. You mentioned having the target on your back. Did it bother you at all that the media poll has only been right twice in 14 years?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Yeah, that's not a good percentage (smiling). Expectations and predictions are good. You know what, all of you pick from -- you pick from the past couple of years, what the team has done. You look at coaching staffing, how they handle seasons. We've been pretty successful. We've won, what, five of the last six western division championships, either won or tied, we're the winningest team in conference games in the last five years. A lot of guys coming back.

Y'all tend to look at quarterbacks and runningbacks. I tend to look more at linemen. If you're going to be consistent and win games, you have to be consistent on the offense and defensive line to let those guys that get all the publicity make sure that they can do their job.

We've had good recruiting years. Our program is as solid as it's been since I've been at Auburn. Again, I can name you four or five other teams that I've watched grow since I've been at Auburn that's in this league that have done the same thing. It's going to be very competitive.

Somebody has to be ranked up there high. We'll take it this year. Maybe you'll give it to somebody else next year. Hopefully we can add to y'all's better percentages of being right as opposed to not as good of percentages.

Q. Can you address the recent New York Times story, on the eve of what appears to be a pretty good season for you?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Well, I talked to our players about it. We'll address it again next week. It's an academic issue. Our president obviously gave me strict orders, let's complete the investigation before we make any rash judgments.

If we're doing something wrong, please look at us and tell us. I promise you, we'll change it. We're going to do things right. I don't foresee anything happening. I really can't say anything about it till we get done. Hopefully it's before the season. I'm pretty sure it will be. Our people have been working very hard trying to catch people -- students that are not on campus, that are home for the summer. We'll just have to see what happens from there.

Q. There's been a revolving door at the defensive coordinator position with both guys moving on. Do you feel Will Muschamp will be the guy who will stick around for a few years? Did he make the decision to move Will Herring to linebacker?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Will Herring was more him looking at the situation that might help him personally down the line. Plus he's a team player. He's a great kid. He will have graduated. He's going to have a lot of opportunities after this. He's one of our team leaders. I like it that he's more in the middle of the defense where he can help the guys behind him and the guys in front of him.

But it's obviously a chance for a senior to take that's been a very good player in the back, moving to the front. He's closer to the action. He has to make quicker decisions on certain things. He really adapted well in the spring. Again, we hadn't played a game. He'll be here a little bit later. You'll get to ask him. I think it's going to be a great move for him.

I wouldn't have done it had he not basically agreed to it. It was his senior year. He's done a lot of great things for us.

Muschamp coming in to us defensively, we have had some changes. We're going to run my philosophy on defense. I'm a defensive guy. Muschamp understands it, Chizik understood it, and so did David Gibbs. I let them use their imagination. I want them to set their game plans. My philosophy is to play a four-man front, be very aggressive, don't give up big plays but take chances when you need to. I like what Will brings to us, a little bit different idea maybe running some three-man front, some more zone blitzes, giving teams problems.

The biggest thing about Will coming in, is he's adjusting to the talent that we have, which we have some talent, but some inexperienced. Basically at linebacker, most of the guys haven't played that are going to play there this year.

The one thing I do like about Will is the chemistry that we have in our coaching staff. Provably the best that we've had. Your chemistry in your coaching staff goes down through your football team. Our guys work well together. He's a young guy coming in, being the coordinator, some guys that's been with me for a long time that are older. There's no animosity whatsoever. They love working with Will. They've done a lot of hard work in the last six months to put this thing together.

Q. Talk about the game at South Carolina. Any special concerns about having to play a conference road came in a short week situation? Will you talk to Kenny because of his past association with South Carolina, maybe keeping his emotions in check for that game?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Yeah, Steve is not one of the coaches you like to have a couple days to prepare for. We've done a lot of work this summer trying to get everything done as a coaching part and to put it into a game plan to start it on that Sunday after we play the game before that.

But, again, we looked at the pluses and minuses. It is a road game. It is an opportunity to play that game and then both of us having that weekend off in a very long season. It's going to be a challenge for us going to South Carolina. I've been there one time. My first game when I coached in 1986 at Miami, we opened the season at South Carolina. It's a great atmosphere. The fans will be there obviously. It will be good for both teams publicity-wise.

Again, it's tough to take a road game that early in the week, especially one of your tough conference games to kind of roll the dice. Looking forward to it. It should be a great and fun atmosphere.

Q. Coaches are using as a recruiting tool the academic centers, use of tutors probably more than they've ever done. Do you think in cases that involve academic integrity, the buck stops with the coach, the AD, the professor, the student himself? Where do you think the bottom line lies?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Well, I think it's with all of us. When I recruit a player, I tell the parents, You're sending him to me. I'm his new father for four or five years. My first obligation is to make sure, not the academic part, but make sure they have the opportunity to grow up as a young person, to come from a young man to an adult, make the right decisions, whether it's on and off the field.

The academic part is -- obviously it's very important and it's become a tougher job because of the requirements that the NCAA has put on all athletes from the 40, 60, 80 rule. We saw that coming a few years ago. We just finished the last couple of years a new six to seven million dollar academic center where all our athletes have an opportunity to come and visit with tutors, be with our counselors, have study halls. We're trying to do everything we possibly can.

I talked to the people that are in charge of all our academics. They said we basically tripled our budget since the year 2000 in academics for all of our athletes, men and women. So it's important.

Got to remember, these athletes have two full-time jobs. Something that most students on campus don't. They have -- athletics is full-time. I don't care what you say, it is hard, time-consuming. Then the other obviously is full-time in academics. We want to give them every opportunity to succeed.

But to pinpoint blame on anybody if there's any kind of problem in academics, everybody's got to share that blame. When it comes to one of my football players, I'll take that blame because I do watch, will be watching in making sure they have every opportunity to get a good degree, one that's worth something when they leave our university.

Q. Do you know why so many junior college players wound up in sociology, and when did you find out about this whole situation?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Well, I mean, I looked at how many we've got. We've had several. We've graduated 98 players in the last three years. I think we had 15 in the sociology department. I don't think there's a major part.

Obviously, when you come in from a junior college, you want to make sure they're successful early. But you want to make sure they get a degree in what they want to get one in. We don't pick them for them. We want them to get a degree where they're going to have an opportunity to go back home in their environment -- if they go back home -- to have that opportunity to be successful, to be a positive part of their community.

Whether it's in sociology or premed, you know, it's up to them. We don't make those decisions for them.

Q. Can you compare the talent and depth of this year's team to maybe the last two years?

COACH TUBERVILLE: I think the last three years our talent level has been pretty close to the same. Again, it all goes back to, as we all talk about, experience. Being there, done that, being knocked down, get back up, improve. Then it starts with your leadership.

I think this is going to be a good leadership group. You don't know until we finish. I've watched our guys over the summer leading our younger players, making sure they go out and do their drills, letting Courtney Taylor, for instance, work out the wide receivers, throw footballs to them, make sure they catch enough balls.

Again, it's all about your leadership. The thing that we've done over an eight-year period is make sure that we've put that in our program. Our coaches do a good job of putting our guys and feet to the fire, trying to make sure they do things right on and off the field. Somebody makes a mistake take, they're punished for it. We don't look over it. That runs through your program.

I'm the boss. They know that. They have to come in my office, they're going to pay the price. It all starts from having a philosophy, but sticking with that philosophy. I think it really helps you in all areas, recruiting, your younger guys coming in and having a chance to play because your older guys have a chance to sit down and say, this is the way it's going to be. You can like it or don't like it, but get ready because it's hard work.

Q. Getting back in the rotation with Florida, going down to Gainesville, your thoughts on that. Secondly, what went into your decision not to bring Kenny Irons here? I know Courtney Taylor certainly has great credentials, but why didn't you bring Kenny?

COACH TUBERVILLE: It's hard. You go back and look at last several years, we've had a few guys that would have deserved to be here. I think Kenny, he's going to get more publicity than he's going to want over the next month. Starting here would have probably been good for him.

Courtney coming back, having the opportunity to go to the NFL, probably being a first-rounder, what he's meant to our program, being a kid that's from this state. Came to Auburn when we weren't a rolling ball, a butcher knife, so to speak, really trying to make a name for himself. Courtney is one of our leaders. He's more of an outspoken leader of this football team. That's what you want to bring here.

Obviously, y'all want to talk to quarterbacks and those things. As coaches, we want players to come and talk about what they've been through, what they know to expect, what they think it's going to be like. We don't tell them what to say. I feel like Courtney, he'll do a good job.

Kenny would have been a good one, too. He's going to get his opportunity over the next few months.

Going back to Florida, it's going to be fun. When I first got to Auburn, I looked at the schedule. Hey, we got to play Georgia and Florida every year, that's going to be fun. But rolling around now, our fans miss it. We've had some great games. The last two games have come down basically to the last play. We won one and Florida won one. They've got to come to us this year. I think it's a fun trip for the folks down in Gainesville. I think it's a fun trip for our fans when we go there. The next two years we'll play those games and it will probably be a pretty good head-knocker.

Q. Whether it be the minor off-the-field issues you've dealt with or other things, you seem to be sort of a glass is half full type guy when it comes to adversity. Seeing the advantage that can cause your senior leadership to become even stronger, benefit the program. Can you talk about that.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Our players know where I stand. We've had some guys make mistakes. When you're dealing with 120 every year that are 18, 19, 20-year-olds, you're going to have some guys make mistakes. They know when they make them where I stand. I don't make individual judgments on individual guys. Guys get in trouble, and they break the rules, they're going to pay the price, not just with me and our football stadium on early mornings, but also playing time.

It's important that your teammates and the players know where the head coach stands. Obviously I'm here to win games, but I'm not going to sacrifice the integrity of the university for that.

I want our fans and our alumni and our administration and our football players to know when we go play, guys have paid the price the right way. Again, I'm a positive person, but I'm also one of those that's learned that you can't be one way one day and one way the next. If you see somebody get in trouble with us, they're going to pay a dear price, more than you will ever know.

One thing that does affect them is playing time. One guy doesn't make a football team. If we have guys, which they will miss a few games, several games going into this season, it's not going to make any difference whether we win or lose. I want those younger guys behind them to understand what I say is going to go. You have to have that.

Q. You've been very successful at integrating more than one runningback at a time into your offense. What is the hardest part of doing that?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Hardest part of putting two back there is, you know, you might be eliminating a wide receiver or a tight end from your offense. I like to play two tight ends and two backs. I like to play two tight ends and one back. We've got a lot of good players at receiver. You put two backs in the game, you're eliminating a receiver.

Last year I'd say probably 80% of the time we were more of a two-wide receiver offense, and that left Anthony Mix on the sideline. You have a big receiver experienced standing over on the sideline. You have to run the football to win games. I mean, we are not going to throw it more than we're going to run it. As long as I'm at Auburn, we're going to line up and you're going to have to stop us from running the football.

I don't care if we've got Joe Montana at quarterback. You got to run the ball to win consistently, especially when you play as many good teams as we play and you play them in succession.

You can pretty much win games by playing defense and running. You're going to have games where you're not going to be successful. The quarterback is off, the weather is not good, dropping passes. Pretty easy to turn around and hand that ball to a runningback. If you built a sense of urgency with our offensive line and tight ends, it's third and five, you know what coach is going to call, we're going to run the ball. You've gotten something over to your football team.

Our guys know our philosophy. We stick to it. We believe in it. Again, by having two backs in the backfield has helped that. We kind of fell into it with Ronnie and Carnell the last few years. I think it's helped our offense. We hadn't run that before. It's worked with those two. I think it worked some last year. I think it's even going to be better for us this year.

Q. Will you ever get over what happened two years ago? Yesterday, Phil said something to the point that it's easier to go through the -- it's easier to win a national championship game, a one-time shot, than to go through this schedule and play an SEC championship game.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Am I disappointed we didn't make the national championship game?

Q. Yes. Will that hang with you?

COACH TUBERVILLE: I think about it every day. I know how good a football team we've had. I've been on three teams that won national championships before. Wasn't my first rodeo. I saw what this team had, the leadership, but the talent. Obviously, the draft pulled that out. We weren't a secret after that.

We had a special team from top to bottom, both sides of the ball. Kicking game was excellent. We really didn't have a bad game. When we had to play maybe better than what we'd played, we played that way. Our team responded.

That's what you're looking for in a champion. When you get to the end, all of a sudden nobody believes in you, you are going, where did we make a mistake. I guess the mistake was we started too high in the polls and weren't able to work our way up. One of the few times in the history the two teams picked one and two went all the way through.

I think people still have to be open-minded, you the voters and me. I have a vote also. You have to look at the best teams at the end. Who is the best team in college football? Were we that year? If you ask me, I think we were. If you ask Pete Carroll, I'm sure he would say he was. If you ask Bob Stokes, I'm sure he would say he was. That's the reason you get to vote.

I think we should have been in the game. Could we have won it? I think we could. I think you put Ronnie, Carnell out there, all those seniors we had in that Bowl game, I think you would have had a heck of a game.

I think the fans missed out on it. I think it will always be a question mark. We'll take 13-0 and go along with it. We'll always have that little empty feeling thinking, could we or couldn't we have won that game?

Q. Given the 12-game schedule, will you increase your game rotation of players, trying to keep them fresher, protect them to some degree?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Yeah. 82 practices are going to have to change. Coaches hate to change anything 'cause you get into a situation where you know what you want to do on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays. We're going to have to change. They add another game, but they don't give you any more scholarships. The 12 game stinks basically, in the way we're doing it. I'm not against playing 12 games.

I understand we need it to make more money. Give us another open date. Extend the season. I promise you, people across the country wouldn't complain about it. It's not going to affect the academics. We could have very easily had a lot better non-conference game. I saw a headline this morning, "Cupcakes". What do you expect when you have to force a game into a slot when you don't have very much to choose from.

And for us, going 13-0, we didn't have a lot of people on the bandwagon anyway trying to play us anyway. Then we had to pay an arm and a leg to get a team. If you're forced to do something, obviously you do it. I think there needs to be more communication with the coaches, athletic directors, and presidents on how we can generate more revenue.

Obviously, I'm an advocate of a playoff system because for us in the SEC, it's almost going to be impossible for any of us to get to that championship game unless we just hit a run, which we did a few years ago. But, you know, we're going to play the 12 game. Again, we might play 13 in a few years, who knows. We just got to communicate on how we're doing it, take the load off these players because it is a tremendous load.

One more game doesn't sound like a lot, but it's quite a bit. It's a lot of preparation time. I'm all for it because I love college football. You know, we could have organized this a little bit better than what we did.

Q. You have a job where more and more you're held totally accountable for everything that happens, whether it's academic, off-the-field incident. The rules keep pushing you further and further away from your players. You have less time with your players. Do you think the presidents and the people, the powers that be, need to reassess this? Is it fair that you're held accountable for everything, yet they don't give you adequate time necessarily with your players, particularly during the summer months?

COACH TUBERVILLE: We should be held accountable because we recruit these kids. If my kid every goes to someplace, I'm going to hold that head coach accountable. You recruited him, you make sure he does right, gets a degree, does things right on and off the field. If he does something wrong, you make sure he understands that he did something wrong.

It's getting tougher. Again, it goes back to what I just alluded to. The communication between coaches, athletic directors and presidents who make these decisions, it seems like it's us against them, and it shouldn't be. We got a great sport. It's like any business. If you don't communicate, sooner or later it's going to start deteriorating. I'm not saying we're deteriorating. I think we're growing. But we could grow much more and be a lot more cohesive if there was a lot of dialogue.

I talk to our president. I'm sure there's a lot of head coaches that don't talk to their presidents. There's some places I've been where there wasn't any dialogue. It was just voted on and they go on with it.

Mike Slive, our commissioner, does a good job of communicating with our coaches. Again, I think there could be even better with all of us.

I'm responsible, I'm the bottom line. If we made a mistake, something was wrong, I try to keep an eye on all of it. I'm not an X and O guy. I delegate authority. I hire people. If they get it done, we go on. If they don't, we make a change. Because of that responsibility I give to them, I take more responsibility in other things, academics is one of those. I spend a tremendous amount of time in that.

This thing that happened the last few weeks, I feel bad about it. Were we wrong? We're going to find out. I'm glad we're looking into it. If I've made a mistake in anything we've done, we'll definitely adjust that, and it will make our team better.

Q. You mentioned your schedule. 2004, your non-conference schedule probably hurt you in the BCS. What's the answer for the future so that doesn't hurt you again?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Well, I would hope that that wouldn't have been a factor of non-conference. I understand there's ratings, all those. You can go back and look at the teams that's won the national championship. There wasn't many teams that went undefeated or lost one game that played any tougher schedule than we did. That's all behind us.

I think when we all vote, as I do, I don't look at did a team play one cupcake in there. I look at how they're playing, look at their players, look at how they're playing for four quarters. Did they get lucky in a game or did they go out on the road and play like champions. To me that's what it's all about. The scheduling is hard. We picked up West Virginia. We played USC a few years ago. We're playing Washington State.

We're talking to a lot of oh other teams. It's hard. It's hard to get people to commit to come to your place and have a home at home. They just don't want to do it.

Again, all goes back to communication. Maybe in the future the presidents will get into the scheduling part. Hope not, about you they might.

Q. In his opening comments, Commissioner Slive said the SEC is considering starting their own television channel. Are the coaches in the SEC in favor of this? If the SEC did that, what would be the benefit of having their own channel instead of existing television contracts?

COACH TUBERVILLE: We have 12 coaches in our conference. We're all salesmen. We call ourselves football coaches. Anything you can do to get your team out there in front of a bigger audience or have an opportunity to sell your product that you have, your university, your school, your coaching staff, your head coach, your former players, I think it's great. I think it's just another opportunity.

I don't think I have enough channels on my TV to pick up any more. It takes me an hour to go through them now. My wife still hates that controller because I go through a hundred channels in about 30 seconds.

It would be good. Will it be oversaturated? We started championship games a few years ago. Now most people have followed. I think somebody else now is the front runner on this. I think it's good. But we don't want to hurt our other TV partners. I don't think that's right. It's kind of like hurting the Bowl system, national championship game. We need to keep our Bowl system the way it is. College football got to where it's at because a lot of people, let's don't overtake that with too much. You can overkill.

I think it's a good idea if everybody has the opportunity to do it because it definitely would be an advantage.

Q. What are the four tests this team has to pass to run the table this year and be what you want to be?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Our biggest obstacles are going to be playing with a small defense. We're going to be very quick and fast. That's my philosophy of bringing in more players. Doesn't make any difference their size, but can they run, due they have quickness. Can they make plays?

We'll find a little bit more about our team. We're not quite as big as we were last year defensively. Then with a new defensive coordinator, the new things we're going to do, are they going to help. We've got to get off to a fast start.

Again, looking on offense, we do have some inexperienced players, but can our receivers get us out of a jam. When they put nine people on the line of scrimmage, can our young guys make plays on second and long, third-and-long to keep the chains for us on offense. We're going to see a lot of people lining up on the line of scrimmage to try to stop our running game.

Q. What were the rules committee thoughts and conversations for the clock change and how big of an effect do you think it will have?

COACH TUBERVILLE: I don't know how many of us are on the rules committee. The biggest thick we talked about when we met in February was not necessarily cut out plays in a game but speed up the game. There's a lot of times when you look on the sideline of after a four- five-minute timeout, the offense is huddled on the sideline, they take another minute to get out there and get set up. What we're trying to do is get the offenses on the field, whether it's a TV timeout or not a TV timeout, get in the huddle, get to the line of scrimmage and get another play called. If we continue to lag like some teams do, including us, you're going to have a loss of probably 10, 12, 14 plays in the game.

But I think you're going to see a faster tempo from offenses. But then again, if you do get ahead, say at the middle or end of the second half, you might see a team start slowing down. There's going to be a little bit more coaching to it.

Again, we weren't looking to take plays away from the game. We were looking to speed the game up, get away some of these 3 hour, 45 minute games in hot weather or cold weather, do what is best for college football. This is obviously and experiment. Anything we do in the rules committee can be changed next year. I have one more year on it. I think instant replay has been a tremendous hit amongst coaches, fans and players. We'll see if this works.

We did several things. Touching the ball on a kick-off starts the clock. Shorter T to have more run backs. Try to make college football more exciting than what it is, not changing it much, but helping the fan a little bit along the way. I think that was a big reasoning to try to speed it up for these clock-running after the change of possessions.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Thank you.


Wide Receiver Courtney Taylor

(On losing Bowl Game) "Coach Yoxall (strength coach) always wears the Capital One Bowl patch during workouts. There is not a day that goes by that we don't hear about it. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but that is something you have to get past. September 2, is the only game that matters right now. You have to take it one game at a time."

(On quarterbacks) "We have a lot of talent this year. I love Brandon (Cox). He is one of the best quarterbacks in this conference and I have all the confidence in him. I am looking forward to two-a-days. I am just going to block out the heat and get ready to play with Brandon again. Blake (Field) is a tremendous athlete. He is really mobile. He has the speed and the cannon. I am just as confident in him as I am in Brandon. We have a few new guys coming in. They are going to have to learn the ropes this summer so we can have a good number three quarterback."

(On being picked to win SEC) "None of that really matters. We have been in that situation before. You can't believe that you are number one in this league. Each year you have to start over. We like to have that kind of respect, but we haven't earned it yet."

(On the offense) "Some of our top guys have left, and these younger players have to step it up. They have to take advantage of this opportunity. We have all of the talent; we just need to pull it all together. The offensive line is great. They usually don't get the credit that they deserve. Coach (Al) Borges is a mastermind. He gives everyone an opportunity to touch the ball. I have complete confidence in a man that takes players and makes them the best."

(On the schedule) "You have to love having all the big games at home. We have the best fans in the country and we are going to be 88, 000 strong. It is a huge advantage to have games like LSU and Florida in your backyard and having the fans on your side."

(On Kenny Irons) "Kenny is, in my opinion, the best back in the country. He is in the same league as Carnell (Williams) and Ronnie (Brown). He has the same characteristics as them. For you to be that good, it is all about how much you want it."

(On team dynamic) "We have more unity this year. We have all worked really hard this summer and so well together that the sky is the limit. We have the chemistry, we just need to go out there and work hard."


Linebacker Will Herring

(On switching to linebacker) "I made the switch. Whatever is best for the team. I felt more comfortable throughout the spring. Hopefully I'll feel secure during two-a-days, and pick up where I left off."

(On new linebacker coach, Coach Willis) "Coach Willis is an unbelievable coach. He's been through what we're going through. We lost a great linebacker coach in Coach Whitt, but we're fortunate to have him."

(On being selected to 1st Team All-SEC) "It's definitely an honor. I've yet to play a game at linebacker. I got to focus on getting my game where it needs to be and doing whatever it takes to win ball games."

(On which linebacker will have a break out season) "It's hard to say. We've got so much talent. We've got veterans like myself and (Karibi) Dede, and Kevin Sears, but at the same time you've got guys like Tray (Blackmon) and Merrill (Johnson) coming up and he's, in my opinion, capable of having an unbelievable season."

(On depth over the years) "I think it's a credit to Coach Tuberville. Everybody's played a part in rebuilding the program, and getting the team to where it needs to be. We lost key guys every year and it never fails that somebody will step up. I'm excited to see which guys, this year, step up."

(On last regular season game) "People have gotten caught up in how many times we beat Alabama, but for me if we don't beat Bama, it'll leave a sour taste in my mouth. This is my last go round, this is all the seniors' last go round. We'd like to end our careers at Auburn on a good note."

(On big home games) "It's a huge advantage. I credit our fans for being the best in the country. I'm excited about the home advantage. The home schedule is definitely in our favor."

(On Capital One Bowl loss) "It hurt to have the kind of season we did and go out on a sour note. It definitely left a sour taste in our mouths. We put that behind us. We're looking forward now. We're not looking behind us."


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