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SEC QUOTES: Auburn Tigers

Written by gcstaff, July 25, 2007, 0 Comments,
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THE MODERATOR: We have Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Welcome. It’s good to be here. Glad to see everybody get started off for another year. We’re excited. We’ve had a good off season, good spring practice. We’ve had a good summer. Seems like we start earlier every year, but our guys are ready to go.

We’ve got a very competitive schedule coming up, playing two very good non conference teams right off the bat. We’re going to have a fairly young team in some areas. We’re going to have a blue collar team. I think we have some guys that are going to be extra special.

But when you play college football, try to win consistently in college football, it’s how your good players play together and how many you can get playing, playing more consistently. What we try to do as coaches is try to get 60 to 70 guys to play as good as they possibly can as many games during the year. If you do that, you’ve got a chance to win. That’s what we’re going to try to do.

We’ve got our quarterback back in Brandon Cox. I think he’s going to be a good player for us. He needs to play healthy. He’s gotten stronger. He’s a little quicker. He couldn’t have got any slower (smiling).

But he’s got a chance to be a heck of a quarterback for us. He knows the offense. He’s a coach on the field. He spins the ball as good as anybody I’ve ever seen. He never throws a wobbly pass. He’s very accurate.

If he can stay healthy, our receivers can come along a little bit, our offense can get better. We didn’t have a good offense last year for several reasons. One, Brandon was a little bit beat up. We pulled the plug about middle season and just started pounding it and trying to win on defense and kicking game. It worked pretty good for us most of the time.

But now we want to put the offense back in. We’re starting off with a fairly young offensive line. We got our tight ends back. We’re looking for a big play guy at wide receiver. Thirteen years ago, when I came into this league at Ole Miss, I learned very early you got to have more than one runningback.

We’ve worked very hard the last few years of trying to have four or five runningbacks that we feel like can play in this league because they get beat up. We’re a running team. I feel very good about Brad Lester, Ben Tate, Carl Stewart, Mario Fannin, Tristan, Davis. I think they can play in this league. At one point or another, probably all those guys this year by committee will be starters for us.

I think it will help us. As we go through the year, we’ll become a more productive team.

Then defensively Quentin Groves will be the guy we’ll build our defense around. He’s got a lot of quickness and speed. We’re proud he came back. Got his degree. Working on his masters. Came back for his fifth year. Passed up the NFL. Says a lot about his character and his attitude. He wants to win a lot of games. But he’s got a lot of young guys around him.

We’re a little bit shy at depth at linebacker with experience, but all the other places look pretty good. The one area that we strive every year to be the best is our kicking game. We’re starting over from our punter, our kicker, our field goal guy, our deep snapper. They’re all gone. So this is a year where we’ve got to kind of start over, throw young guys out there, see what happens.

But we’ve got a chance to have a good football team. We’re looking for consistency. Last year we won 11 games. Pretty good in this conference. Wasn’t good enough to get to Atlanta. That’s our goal. There’s some awfully good teams this year that we’ll play. A lot on the road. We have to go to two LSU, two Georgia, two Florida, two Arkansas. We’ve got our work cut out for us.

The one thing I think our football team has done over the years is we’ve learned how to win. If you learn how to win, then sometimes it filters down to your younger guys. Sometimes even though you might not be the best team on the field you find a way to win the game. We’re going to have to do some of that this year. We did last year. But every team does at some point.

The year we won 13, there were some games we had to find a way to win it, somehow have more points at the end of the game than the other team. That’s what’s great about this conference. Anybody can beat anybody. As we go and start our season, we know that we’ve got to get better each week to have a chance to get to Atlanta, but that’s what all other 11 teams are trying to do.

We’ll stop there and start answering questions.

Q. I think I read a wire story where you were upset or surprised that Brandon Cox didn’t make any of the coaches’ all conference teams. Could you talk about that.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Not really upset. And, again, I’m a coach that does the same as all the rest of them: you look at stats, and that’s how you kind of pick your pre season. Somebody asked me what I thought about it.

I said, Well, you know, I understand probably why Brandon’s not a pre season high favorite to be one of the better quarterbacks in the league. But, you know, he has won 19, lost 5, and he did go through a year last year where we asked him to do some things that he wasn’t used to doing. But he had to do it because he was a little bit beat up.

I like his perseverance. Again, I think when a guy’s playing his fifth year, he’s won as many games as him, surely he’ll get a little bit more publicity.

But the pre season picks and Brandon knows this are for people to read and talk about. It’s what happens at the end of the year. I think he has a chance. He’ll be a good quarterback. But, again, he’s got to stay healthy. He really knows this offense. He’ll make a good pro quarterback. He’ll play on the next level. He has the ability, the mentality and the smarts to get that done.

But, again, we want him to finish up and have a great fifth year for us, and he can do that.

Q. I remember three weeks after the LSU game last year you talked about how beat up some of your guys, including Brandon, got in that game. Did that game have a physical effect on you the whole year, or was there a point where you felt like you got back to where you were?

COACH TUBERVILLE: I think every year that we play LSU, I think both our teams, when they play each other, there’s a lot of respect and there’s a lot of physical talent on the field, a lot of collisions.

I think both teams take a mental and physical beating in that game because pretty much in the last few years, whoever’s won that game has a real good chance to get to Atlanta. Last year Arkansas was able to. They beat us and they had the opportunity to go.

But, you know, in the west this year we all look, if you’re going to get to Atlanta, you’re going to have to go through an LSU team. That just picks up the rivalry and intensity. We were beat up last year after that game. Brandon was beat up.

We had several other guys. But, again, we go back to our team, and knowing how we were beat up, we still won some big games right after that. Guys persevered and fought through it. That’s what I was talking about earlier. When you’re beat up a little bit and you got to play hurt, you got to find a way to get it done.

Last year I thought there were several games that, man, we were going to have to be really lucky to win, but our guys somehow found a way to win.

Of course, you know, beating LSU a couple times the last few years the way we’ve beaten them has really helped us. Them the same way. They’ve beaten us. I think some of their players have benefited from that game, that rival game, so to speak, which has become that over the last few years.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Spurrier wore you all out. He’ll wear anybody out (smiling).

Q. The LSU game last year, that was the first game where everybody realized how dominant Glenn Dorsey was as a player. Your recollections of his performance and the impact he had in that game.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Yeah, one of the better players in the country last year. You can imagine what he’s going to be like this year. We did everything possible to block him with one, two, offensive linemen, tight end at times, runningback. Just a great player in a long line of good defensive tackles I’ve seen come out over the years.

Kind of reminded me a lot about Warren Sapp, the kid I coached at university of the Miami. Plays low to the ground, quick off the line of scrimmage, always going north and south. He’ll be one of the better players in the country. He’ll be up for a lot of awards. I’m sure he’s not really worried about that. He’s worried about playing as a team.

He’s a guy that everybody’s going to have to deal with this year going into when you play LSU, he’ll be the first guy when you turn on the film, you’ll notice him. He’ll show up quite often. He’s going to be a challenge. Was a challenge for us last year. I’m sure he’s going to be that much or more of a challenge this year coming up with a young offensive line that we’ll have.

Q. You have a pretty extraordinarily rough schedule between September 29th and October 20th, three road games against LSU, Arkansas, Florida. How do you prepare for such a stretch of games, and does it seem like the schedule is really kind of front loaded here this year, and that by Halloween a lot of these things are going to get sorted out in the SEC?

COACH TUBERVILLE: A little bit different schedule for us. It’s kind of moved around. We normally play LSU a little bit earlier. This year it’s a little bit later in the schedule. Of course, playing Florida and then going to Arkansas, our road schedule all games are a challenge in our league whether you play a home or a road.

I think the biggest thing you do as a coach in our league, again, as we talked about earlier, you try to teach your players how to win on the road. You just can’t say, Okay, we’re underdog. We’re not supposed to win when we go on the road.

We challenge our players at the beginning of the season that no matter where you’re playing or how you’re playing, you got to play the same, you got to play in an atmosphere different atmosphere each week, but you got to feel like it’s no different. You got to play hard. It’s got to be a challenge. You’ve got to play as a group.

As I said earlier, when you play college football, you know, one guy’s not going to win for you. You’ve got to get them all playing the same way, the same direction. You got to play them the same speed. Sometimes when you go on the road some of your younger guys are second guessing if they’re doing the right things.

Your older guys on the team have to be good salesmen to your younger guys in the dressing room of, Hey, we can win this game on the road. You’ve got to play to another level. You’ve got to understand that you’re not going to be playing at home every week.

So it’s a challenge, but it’s fun. This league’s fun when you play in these different stadiums. They’re all hostile environments. If you can win on the road, that means you’ve really got a good football team. And we’ve won a lot of road games over the last five years.

I think we’ve got one of the better winning percentages on the road in the conference. Again, we stress a lot of that, of enjoying your trip, enjoying going there, play to win. We coach to win on the road. We go in and sometimes we take chances. We roll the dice. Our players, I think they like that. We try to change the momentum on the road.

I learned that years ago from some of the coaches I worked with, that if did you go and play the same type of philosophy on the road that you play at home, you’re going to end up short sometimes because that’s how they’re going to play you at home.

When you’re playing them at their place they’re going to play at a different pitch. Try to keep your players playing on a different level all the time. If you lose the momentum, try to get it back. Momentum is the biggest factor of losing when you’re on the road, ‘cause if you lose it long enough you’re surely going to lose the game.

There’s a lot of factors in coaching when you go on the road, and most of it’s mental.

Q. Last year you told us you changed your practice schedule to emulate the pro teams. This morning you talked about how beat up your team got during the season. Have you changed anything about your practice schedule to try to avoid that? Anything you can do during the season with your practice schedule to avoid that this year?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Well, I think we all had to look at our schedules and how we practiced, the length of time that we practice, how much contact you have. When we added the 12th regular season game, because we have a conference championship game, if you’re going to make it through a season playing in this conference you’ve got to try to keep your best players on the field as much as you can as fresh as you can.

We changed last year and went to morning practices. I thought it helped us. I thought it helped us a lot, because when you finish your last practice at 11:00 on Thursday morning, you don’t play again till Saturday night, your guys have two full days of rest. They’re a lot fresher in the morning.

I noticed our guys retain more of the offense or the game plan when they get up, even though we get up at 5:00, 5:30 in the morning, they’re a little bit fresher. They understand and are able to concentrate a lot more.

I like the scenario of having the team early, letting them be regular students in the afternoon. I think it helps the attitude. Again, the biggest thing, one of the biggest things about coaching is keeping the attitude good on the team from top to bottom.

I let our players talk and make some of these decisions sometimes of what they think about practice time, how long we practice, how much we hit. I talk to our seniors. We meet every Sunday. One of the best feedbacks that I’ve gotten over the last few years is the morning practices.

Again, the thing about them, they understood when they got practice over with they could relax and really enjoy being college students a little bit more than having to wait all day long, go to classes all day, then having a long practice session and meetings that night. The next thing they had to do was go to study hall, go to bed, had no free time.

Again, a football team that’s got a smile on their face got a lot better chance to win than if they don’t.

Q. Can you talk about what you’ve seen from Brad Lester this off season and if you think he has the kind of potential to be the kind of back that Kenny was for you?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Kenny Irons was a very tough physical runningback inside and outside. You have to be that way if you’re going to be in every down back in the conference that we play in.

Can’t be a situation where if you go in, you know, that play’s not going to fit you. Brad Lester last year, year before, probably a little underweight. We’ve tried to put a little more weight on him where he can be a guy that can carry the ball 20 times, 22 times a game.

If he can do that, I think he can fit into the mould of Kenny Irons or Ronnie Brown or Carnell Williams or Rudy Johnson. Right now that’s still out there to be seen. Over the years, we’ve tried to make him a starter. He’d get hurt. That’s what he and I have talked about over and over in the off season as he’s worked out, stretch, lift, try to make himself stronger physically to be able to take the pounding that you take.

But Brad, he’s got quickness to get it done. Again, the thing that he’s got to do is be able to make it physically. If he can do that, I think he can be a heck of a runningback. Again, that’s the thing that’s just hung with him the few years he’s been with us.

Q. What have you thought of the kind of intense focus on Nick Saban across the state? Have you got a chance to talk, and what did you talk about?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Yeah, Nick and I have known each other for a long time. He’s a good football coach. It’s been good for us because we’ve been kind of under the radar. Any time you have two teams really in the state that people pay a lot of attention to you know, we’ve been at Auburn now nine years. People pretty much know us, know our program. We’ve had success, won games. I think people for the most part think we know what we’re doing.

If you’ve got that kind of going for you, you really don’t need a lot of publicity. It will all show up in the wash, so to speak. But a change in coaching staff, you’re going to have a new guy that people want to talk to, get philosophies, see how they’re going to do things. Assistants, make changes, offense, defense.

It’s been good for us. I know Nick’s probably had a tough time, as I did my first year at Auburn, having to answer all the questions about this and that. Again, that’s part of it. But I’ve kind of enjoyed being underneath the radar for the last six months.

Q. You were kind of unpopular with Ole Miss fans right after you left Ole Miss. Do you think Nick is getting more of that from LSU? What do you think he’s in for when he goes to LSU, plays those games like you did against Ole Miss?

COACH TUBERVILLE: It’s always tough. My first time back was going back to Ole Miss I have so many friends, and I’m sure Nick has the same thing at LSU. A little bit different the fact he’s been gone a little longer, not as many of the players around. I guess they play at home this year. They don’t go to LSU.

But my second year, Ole Miss, I knew a lot of the players. Deuce McAllister. All the guys we recruited, had laid it on the line for us. We weren’t a very good team when we got there. The coaches and players really got along well. We were a true blue collar team. We persevered, we sweated, we bled, we cried together. When you make changes like that, go back, you have a lot of emotions involved.

I’m sure there’s going to be emotions there. A little different again from my standpoint because it was so early that I went back. There’s always a soft spot in your heart for where you’ve spent a lot of time, done a lot of hard work, especially the players that have laid it on the line for you are still there and you’ve got to go up against them and try to beat ‘em, try to do things to make yourself a little bit better than they are.

Q. Houston Nutt went through an off season of people prying into his personal life, phone records. Not that specifically, but for a coach, how did you react to that kind of level of intrusion, and how difficult is it to get used to the fact that people are that interested in having a say in your future perhaps?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Well, we’re all in the limelight. You can expect anything to happen. Everything is escalated more and more every year of communication. Sometimes we as coaches are not as educated as what we should be of what can be looked at and can’t be looked at. But we learn. We live and learn, as we all do in this room.

I sat by Houston three days at the SEC meets. He’s been through a long year. His family has been through a long year. Looks like he’s coming through it pretty good. Only he knows, and his family. Of course, he’s got a tough job, as we all do, coaching in this league, of expectations. He’s coming off of a very good year in terms of winning games, but not a very good year in terms of the positive publicity.

I’ve gone through some of those. I had a tough time a few years ago when it come close to not being around at Auburn in 2003. But, again, you know, you just got to persevere, be strong about it. You’ve got to look at it in the right direction. Again, this is the nature of our business of just understanding what’s out there.

You’ve got to just again, I don’t do anything at Auburn, from family or anything, that’s going to get in the way of what’s best for Auburn. I think that’s what all of us try to do at our individual schools because we’re looked at in a different light. We’re on a 24 hour clock in terms of public perception. You know, we’ve always got to keep that in mind.

Sometimes you let your guard drop. I probably let it drop a couple times, but, again, you learn a little bit more even from Houston’s situation or some other situations that have happened. You just take it and you learn and hopefully things turn out for the best.

Q. Before January you were probably the coach that got under LSU fans’ skin the most, if I could say so. I wonder how you feel about maybe passing that baton on to somebody across state?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Has it passed (smiling)? Probably has, huh? Y’all take me off the billboards down there (smiling)?

Again, it’s just so competitive in this league. You look for rival games. You don’t look for you know, of course the fans at all the schools get fired up when they play anybody, but there’s always certain situations you walk into that are a little more difficult.

We’ve obviously, you know, had some good games at Ole Miss against LSU, and we had some good games here at Auburn, but they’ve had them against us.

I think it’s just a matter of respect really when it comes down to, you know, the teams facing each other. It’s always hard. It’s hard. But then you throw in the coaching challenges, as you mention, it makes it even that much harder. I think it’s hard on your family. Your families get involved because they see so many things written in newspapers out there publicly.

But, you know, that’s the nature of the business. You just got to take it as it comes. You got to try as hard as you can, then you go to the next one.

Q. Could you talk about y’all’s winning strengths against Alabama? What impact do you think Saban coming back is going to have on that?

COACH TUBERVILLE: We have a rival, and that’s ours. It gets no tougher to win that game than any other. I’ve been in a lot of rival games. When we look at our schedule every year, we have things in our dressing room, our coaches’ offices pointing to that game.

That is the one game that our fans and Alabama’s fans look at more than any other game, no matter whether you’re playing for a championship.

When I was hired at Auburn I was told, Hey, you know, we want you to do the best you can to win that game. Fortunately for us, you know, we’ve had a pretty good streak. Now they’ve changed coaches. I’m sure Nick was probably told about the same thing, you know, when he came. We’ve got to get back on the winning ways in that area.

We all have a lot of games, but there’s none more important for the two coaches in this state than that game. Again, we’ll continue to look at it like that. Our players will hear it from us almost daily. Normally you don’t do that. Normally you just talk about the game you’re playing that week.

But our players understand from the day we recruit ‘em till the day that they leave, that’s the game we want them to be prepared for. If they’re going to prepare for any game, that’s the one we want them to prepare for. Fortunately, we’ve been able to play pretty well in that game for the last few years.

Q. Could you give your thoughts and opinions on the rule changes this year. You talked a lot about them last year. This year going back to the clock starting after the snap, then moving the ball back on the kickoff.

COACH TUBERVILLE: You know, I was on the 12 man committee that last year we changed it over. We thought going back into this year we cut out too many plays. The one thing that committee does not want to do, it does not want to affect the quality of college football. That’s the number one responsibility of the players, to the fans, and to the sport.

We thought that cutting out 12, 15, 17 plays was just too much. So we went back to the drawing board and looked at things where the clock would run a little bit more other than starting the clock at the change of possession, the kicking from the 30 yard line. That will be a major rule change. I think it will add more points to the scoreboard. I think it will be a lot better for the offenses.

I think you’ll see more different things handled in the kicking game this year because of that, but it will also run a few more seconds off the clock. I think that’s really the biggest change that you’ll see. There’s a lot of other things that were talked about: the 15 second timeout coming out after a no television timeout, I think that’s going to get the play back the ball back in play a lot quicker.

But the rules are not as many, I think, but I think they’re good rules. I think they’re really going to help put the emphasis back on the game than on the time clock. Again, I think we just got to quit worrying about that. Television’s here. They do a great job. They pay a lot of bills. You know, they’re going to get all their commercials that they want. If we’re out there for four hours, we’re out there.

Making these rule changes and cutting back on the quality of the game that we have is not really the right thing to do. So we just need to find better ways to kind of speed it up, give the officials a better opportunity to speed it up, give them more freedom in doing that.

Again, if we can do that, cut the time down, then I think it will make it better for everybody.

Q. How have you and your staff changed your recruiting strategy in anticipation of the text messaging ban going into effect on August 1st?

COACH TUBERVILLE: I personally like text messaging because, you know, you can send out a short message and you know the young man is going to get it and you don’t have to leave a message, keep calling back. I think the communication was better. I really don’t understand why it was cut out. They could have put a limit on it, when we could have done it, hours and all that.

I think it was a little extreme just totally shutting it out. I think they’re going to look at that again. Hopefully they will. I think the expense is greater on the universities and the time limits on the recruits is longer if you cut out text messaging.

It’s just something, technology’s growing so fast, it’s hard to keep up with it. It’s hard to keep up with the rules. Hopefully we can come to some common denominator to help the coaches make it easier for them and also for the parents and the athletes.

Q. You mentioned your time at Ole Miss. Looking back now, obviously the two Mississippi schools have kind of struggled the last five or so years, what makes it difficult as a football coach to win in that state?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Well, is it any more difficult? Maybe in some situations it is. I think, of course, they have two universities there. They have a lot of good players. I think in the past there’s been a lot of coaching changes at both schools. There’s been changeover. There’s been some problems.

When I went to Ole Miss we had had some problems. The biggest thing when you’re a football coach, whether it’s one school in the state or two or three, you still got to be able to keep players in your state going to your university. I mean, you’re gonna lose some, but you got to keep a lot of ‘em in your state.

I think because of coaching changes over the years, the inconsistencies of coaching staffs, I think that’s hurt. You know, you’ve got to give coaches time. Sometimes the lease is short. When you start over in any place with a new head coach or a coaching staff, you start from scratch. It’s going to take that coaching staff two or three years to learn the recruiting, get it going again. That gives coaches from outside an opportunity to come in and take players away.

Two good schools there. We’ve had some of course, I coached at Ole Miss. We won some games, lost some. But tradition at both schools. Again, if you just go back and look, the changeover of coaches, it catches up with you. It would catch up with you at any school, not just those two schools.

Q. Back to the kickoff rule. Talk a bit more about how you think that may affect moving that back in terms of strategy in games, and you have to replace kickers? How does that affect what you’re looking at?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Even if you have a great kickoff guy now, the ball is not going to go into the end zone every time. You’ve got to have different guys. In the past we have a great field kickoff guy last year. I’d said 90% of them were not returned.

So we could put backup guys that may be not as good as cover guys knowing normally that the ball is going to be kicked out of the end zone, you can rest your guys now. Most of the returns are going to be there. You got to have better cover guys on your coverage team.

You have to coach your kicker better, you’re going to have to kick it right, left. Normally in the past, like last year, we lined up on the left hash marks, kicked it right down the left side. Very easy. Worked on it maybe five minutes a week.

Now we’re going to have to line up and kick long kicks left, long kicks right. Your guys are going to have to learn coverage lanes. There’s going to be a lot more coaching to your kickoff teams.

Other side, return teams. A lot more returns. You’re going to have to put a lot more returns in. Probably last year we had three returns for the entire year. Now you’ve got to have your front guys prepared to return kicks because there’s going to be a lot of pooch kicks down to around the 20, high kicks to where you try to get them to fair catch. You’re going to have to coach that, try to get returns off of that.

There’s a lot of scenarios to where people are going to try to attack you in different areas of kicking off other than just slamming it down the field. There’s going to be squib kicks, things like that. There’s going to have to be a lot of coaching on both sides. Field position will drastically change.

I think field position is going to be more outside the 30 yard line than the 20 yard line than it has in the past, and of course offense’s shorter distances. We worked on it very hard in spring practice. We didn’t know the rule was going to pass at that time, but we still worked on it.

We still need a lot of work because there’s so much more time that you’re going to have to spend on it. That will be an area this year that you’ll see a lot of mistakes, probably a lot of turnovers, again different guys catching the ball. You’ll have to have more receivers back there, guys that have hands that can catch. A whole different train of thought for coaches when it comes to those two parts of the kicking game.

Q. Talk about the losses you had on your offensive line and also your backup quarterback situation.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Offensive line we lost four starters. We have King Dunlap back, our left tackle. Most of the guys that played that are going to start for us this year, Jason Bosley started four or five games last year at center. He’ll be our heir apparent there. Leon Hart, right guard started three games. Green started left guard maybe two games. Andrew McCain did not start. Redshirted last year at right tackle.

Even though we don’t have a lot of experience it’s the depth we have. We’ve got some good depth with a little bit of experience plus five new guys that we brought in as true freshmen, as good a class that I’ve been around in a long time.

So probably it won’t be the strength of our team going into the season. I would say by mid season, it could be one of the best strengths that we have because we have so much talent there, but a lot of those guys are going to have to get some experience to bring that talent to a new level.

It will be exciting for Hugh Nall. He’s done a great job for me for 13 years as offensive line coach. The techniques haven’t changed. They grow up in the system. Again, it goes back to keeping your staff together to have that consistency, to keep those guys going in the same pace.

Q. Take us back in time to your senior year in college and talk a little bit about that season’s four games compared to today’s freshmen.

COACH TUBERVILLE: You better repeat that again (smiling).

Q. Take us back in time to your freshman year in college playing college football.

COACH TUBERVILLE: All right.

Q. How does that period of time compare to playing college football today, and is there a chance freshmen will go back to I think it was four games per year?

COACH TUBERVILLE: I don’t think it will change. I think the biggest thing we’re trying to change is go to five years of eligibility. We’re getting closer and closer to that every year. Not having redshirts, not having medical redshirts. When you start, you’ve got five years to play, play at any time.

Back when I played, of course, the team I played on, we only had 33 scholarships. You didn’t have any choice to play when you were a freshman. You had to play on something.

I think that’s good to some degree. But I think, you know, the ability for coaches now to have the opportunity to play all 85 of their scholarship guys, as we all have asked to do, most of the coaches across the country, for the last two or three years, so our (indiscernible) would really help us a lot in areas such as depth on special teams and that. I think it would really help college football.

But, again, that’s a long ways away. We can’t get enough people swayed our way on that, but we’re still working on it. Hopefully it will work out for us in the future.

Q. This still may be a couple years down the road, but what do you think of the possibility of the SEC having its own television network? Do you have any concerns or what do you think it could add to the league?

COACH TUBERVILLE: About the possibility of having an SEC television network televising games?

Q. Yes.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Well, if you just look at the climate out there, it looks like that’s what a lot of people are getting into. Again, it’s all about money. You know, budgets are going up and up. You saw with some of the athletic budgets in our conference we’re getting close to $80 , $90 million this year. The money’s got to come from somewhere. The fans can only pay so much.

The conferences are doing a lot with technology trying to push their teams, get their teams more on television or radio. Our conference is no different.

I hear talk of the SEC TV networks. Mr. Slive has talked to all of the coaches about it. Again, it’s all about sales. We’re in the business of sales. Big 10 started it last year. I don’t know whether it worked or not or helped. I’m a football coach. I’m not a business guy.

Again, if you’re out there and you’re on television, you’re in front of the public, all these recruits, it gives you a better chance. I would probably say in the future you’re going to have most of the big conferences have something in the way of a television station.

In the future, you might have your own conferences televising the games. That could be interesting. Again, that’s probably something that’s past a lot of us. You know how things have changed over just the last four or five years. There’s a lot of possibilities when it comes to television and all the networks we have now, the capabilities of technology.

Q. Can you talk about getting Tray Blackmon back, the importance of his role this year for you guys?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Tray Blackmon is one of the most productive defensive players that I’ve been around in a long time. Kind of reminded me of Ray Lewis when I coached Ray at Miami. He has a nose for the football. Sometimes you just find defensive guys that on every play, they’re around the ball.

They’ve got a hand on the runningback or they get a hand on the football, they’re in the quarterback’s face. He’s one of those guys. He just plays by instinct. He’s fun to watch play.

He got into a little problem last year with me. The one thing that I do is make sure that we play as a team, we do things as a team. If you do something different, then you’re going to pay the price for us. I made him I suspended him from the team, from the Bowl game. I suspended him from going through spring practice. I made him get everything in order personally through his mom back home. A lot of different things. Mostly weren’t major, but there were a lot of little things that were just distracting him from making him a better player and taking away from what we were doing.

He’s come back to us in the middle of May. He’s been in summer school. He’s done well. I have not decided and won’t decide until after I watch him. Again, it’s really not going to have to do anything with ability. We’re going to win games whether he plays or not. I’d love to him there. Obviously you’d love to have more of your better players play, but, again, they have to be team players.

I think he’s changed. I’ve looked at his attitude. I’ve talked to people. Again, sometimes when you lose something that you had for a short period of time, which he did for five months, it brings you to reality of, you know, what’s going to happen to me now. I think that’s a little bit of what’s happened to him. He’s matured. Hopefully he’s gotten all of his ducks in a row.

If he has, he convinces Coach Muschamp, Coach Willis, the linebacker coach, and myself he’s going to be a team player, then he’ll be playing the Kansas State game in about 35 or 36 days. If not, he’ll be on the team because he’s doing things he needs to do, but he’s got to earn his way back into the team, the seniors, show he can be productive not only as a player but also as a team guy.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Thank you.

Quarterback Brandon Cox

On playing at LSU:

“Well, I have played there before, but I am looking forward to it. It is a very hostile crowd but like I said, I have played there before and with my experience and our team’s experience, I am looking forward to it.”

On not making the Pre-season All-SEC Team:

“I really did not have a great season last year. I was injured, but I did not put up the same kind of numbers the other guys did, but it’s just pre-season. I hope that by the end of the season things will be different.”

Can you finally say that you are 100 percent?:

“Yeah, I can say that.”

On his heroes growing up:

“Football wise, Joe Montana and Jay Barker if you can believe that, he played at Alabama but we went to the same high school. “

What do you like about the fans?:

“Just the support, bad games, good games, they always come out to support us and without them, there would be no games.”

On the loss of Kenny Irons:

“Yeah, we lost Kenny, but we’ve got Brad Lester, Ben Tate, Mario Fannin, Tristan Davis. Even Carl Stewart can play some tailback so we have the talent. Kenny was a great player, but we are loaded in the backfield.”

Defensive End Quentin Groves

On getting ready for the fall:

“It feels great. It seemed like only yesterday that we were getting ready to play in the bowl game, and now we are ready to start the season. I’m excited to just get out there and play.”

On the team’s goals:

“Our goals are really the same every year. We just want to compete and win games. If you do that, then hopefully the rest will take care of itself.”

On Auburn’s road schedule:

“We have a very tough road schedule. We are at Florida, at Arkansas, at LSU, and at Georgia. Hopefully we can start the season out on the right foot and be 4-0 going on the road. We are a young team, and if we start out with confidence, that will help our team on the road. We just have to take care of business.”

On opening the season with Kansas State:

“Kansas State is similar to us in that they run the west coast offense. It’s a similar scheme to ours. They have a great quarterback, a freshman All-American at that. I think he is 6-5, 220, but he can throw the ball well and he can run. He kind of reminds me of JaMarcus Russell. I know that they have a great offensive line, good running backs, and speed at the wide receiver spot. We are going to have to play well and get the crowd involved. If we take care of business against them, then we can beat them. But you can’t overlook them either.”

On coming back for his senior season:

“It was kind of disappointing watching the NFL draft and knowing that I maybe could have gone ahead of this guy or that I was better than that guy. But my wife reminded me of what I said when I made the decision to come back, that I was going into the season at full speed, and I will end the season at full speed. I’m blessed to have her in my life to ground me.”

On closing in on the school’s all-time career sack record:

“It would mean the world to me to break that record. When I came to Auburn, my goal was to become the best player at my position. I wanted to be the best defensive end on the field, and lead the team in sacks. When they moved me to linebacker, my goal was to become the best linebacker on the field and lead the team in tackles. When they moved me back to defensive end, my goal became to become the best defensive end in school history. If I break Gerald Robinson’s record, I would be honored to have him there to see it. To know that I became the best defensive end in the history of Auburn, to know that I was as good as him, that would be the greatest feeling in the world.”

Courtesy SEC Sports Information

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THE MODERATOR: We have Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Welcome. It’s good to be here. Glad to see everybody get started off for another year. We’re excited. We’ve had a good off season, good spring practice. We’ve had a good summer. Seems like we start earlier every year, but our guys are ready to go.

We’ve got a very competitive schedule coming up, playing two very good non conference teams right off the bat. We’re going to have a fairly young team in some areas. We’re going to have a blue collar team. I think we have some guys that are going to be extra special.

But when you play college football, try to win consistently in college football, it’s how your good players play together and how many you can get playing, playing more consistently. What we try to do as coaches is try to get 60 to 70 guys to play as good as they possibly can as many games during the year. If you do that, you’ve got a chance to win. That’s what we’re going to try to do.

We’ve got our quarterback back in Brandon Cox. I think he’s going to be a good player for us. He needs to play healthy. He’s gotten stronger. He’s a little quicker. He couldn’t have got any slower (smiling).

But he’s got a chance to be a heck of a quarterback for us. He knows the offense. He’s a coach on the field. He spins the ball as good as anybody I’ve ever seen. He never throws a wobbly pass. He’s very accurate.

If he can stay healthy, our receivers can come along a little bit, our offense can get better. We didn’t have a good offense last year for several reasons. One, Brandon was a little bit beat up. We pulled the plug about middle season and just started pounding it and trying to win on defense and kicking game. It worked pretty good for us most of the time.

But now we want to put the offense back in. We’re starting off with a fairly young offensive line. We got our tight ends back. We’re looking for a big play guy at wide receiver. Thirteen years ago, when I came into this league at Ole Miss, I learned very early you got to have more than one runningback.

We’ve worked very hard the last few years of trying to have four or five runningbacks that we feel like can play in this league because they get beat up. We’re a running team. I feel very good about Brad Lester, Ben Tate, Carl Stewart, Mario Fannin, Tristan, Davis. I think they can play in this league. At one point or another, probably all those guys this year by committee will be starters for us.

I think it will help us. As we go through the year, we’ll become a more productive team.

Then defensively Quentin Groves will be the guy we’ll build our defense around. He’s got a lot of quickness and speed. We’re proud he came back. Got his degree. Working on his masters. Came back for his fifth year. Passed up the NFL. Says a lot about his character and his attitude. He wants to win a lot of games. But he’s got a lot of young guys around him.

We’re a little bit shy at depth at linebacker with experience, but all the other places look pretty good. The one area that we strive every year to be the best is our kicking game. We’re starting over from our punter, our kicker, our field goal guy, our deep snapper. They’re all gone. So this is a year where we’ve got to kind of start over, throw young guys out there, see what happens.

But we’ve got a chance to have a good football team. We’re looking for consistency. Last year we won 11 games. Pretty good in this conference. Wasn’t good enough to get to Atlanta. That’s our goal. There’s some awfully good teams this year that we’ll play. A lot on the road. We have to go to two LSU, two Georgia, two Florida, two Arkansas. We’ve got our work cut out for us.

The one thing I think our football team has done over the years is we’ve learned how to win. If you learn how to win, then sometimes it filters down to your younger guys. Sometimes even though you might not be the best team on the field you find a way to win the game. We’re going to have to do some of that this year. We did last year. But every team does at some point.

The year we won 13, there were some games we had to find a way to win it, somehow have more points at the end of the game than the other team. That’s what’s great about this conference. Anybody can beat anybody. As we go and start our season, we know that we’ve got to get better each week to have a chance to get to Atlanta, but that’s what all other 11 teams are trying to do.

We’ll stop there and start answering questions.

Q. I think I read a wire story where you were upset or surprised that Brandon Cox didn’t make any of the coaches’ all conference teams. Could you talk about that.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Not really upset. And, again, I’m a coach that does the same as all the rest of them: you look at stats, and that’s how you kind of pick your pre season. Somebody asked me what I thought about it.

I said, Well, you know, I understand probably why Brandon’s not a pre season high favorite to be one of the better quarterbacks in the league. But, you know, he has won 19, lost 5, and he did go through a year last year where we asked him to do some things that he wasn’t used to doing. But he had to do it because he was a little bit beat up.

I like his perseverance. Again, I think when a guy’s playing his fifth year, he’s won as many games as him, surely he’ll get a little bit more publicity.

But the pre season picks and Brandon knows this are for people to read and talk about. It’s what happens at the end of the year. I think he has a chance. He’ll be a good quarterback. But, again, he’s got to stay healthy. He really knows this offense. He’ll make a good pro quarterback. He’ll play on the next level. He has the ability, the mentality and the smarts to get that done.

But, again, we want him to finish up and have a great fifth year for us, and he can do that.

Q. I remember three weeks after the LSU game last year you talked about how beat up some of your guys, including Brandon, got in that game. Did that game have a physical effect on you the whole year, or was there a point where you felt like you got back to where you were?

COACH TUBERVILLE: I think every year that we play LSU, I think both our teams, when they play each other, there’s a lot of respect and there’s a lot of physical talent on the field, a lot of collisions.

I think both teams take a mental and physical beating in that game because pretty much in the last few years, whoever’s won that game has a real good chance to get to Atlanta. Last year Arkansas was able to. They beat us and they had the opportunity to go.

But, you know, in the west this year we all look, if you’re going to get to Atlanta, you’re going to have to go through an LSU team. That just picks up the rivalry and intensity. We were beat up last year after that game. Brandon was beat up.

We had several other guys. But, again, we go back to our team, and knowing how we were beat up, we still won some big games right after that. Guys persevered and fought through it. That’s what I was talking about earlier. When you’re beat up a little bit and you got to play hurt, you got to find a way to get it done.

Last year I thought there were several games that, man, we were going to have to be really lucky to win, but our guys somehow found a way to win.

Of course, you know, beating LSU a couple times the last few years the way we’ve beaten them has really helped us. Them the same way. They’ve beaten us. I think some of their players have benefited from that game, that rival game, so to speak, which has become that over the last few years.

THE MODERATOR: Questions.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Spurrier wore you all out. He’ll wear anybody out (smiling).

Q. The LSU game last year, that was the first game where everybody realized how dominant Glenn Dorsey was as a player. Your recollections of his performance and the impact he had in that game.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Yeah, one of the better players in the country last year. You can imagine what he’s going to be like this year. We did everything possible to block him with one, two, offensive linemen, tight end at times, runningback. Just a great player in a long line of good defensive tackles I’ve seen come out over the years.

Kind of reminded me a lot about Warren Sapp, the kid I coached at university of the Miami. Plays low to the ground, quick off the line of scrimmage, always going north and south. He’ll be one of the better players in the country. He’ll be up for a lot of awards. I’m sure he’s not really worried about that. He’s worried about playing as a team.

He’s a guy that everybody’s going to have to deal with this year going into when you play LSU, he’ll be the first guy when you turn on the film, you’ll notice him. He’ll show up quite often. He’s going to be a challenge. Was a challenge for us last year. I’m sure he’s going to be that much or more of a challenge this year coming up with a young offensive line that we’ll have.

Q. You have a pretty extraordinarily rough schedule between September 29th and October 20th, three road games against LSU, Arkansas, Florida. How do you prepare for such a stretch of games, and does it seem like the schedule is really kind of front loaded here this year, and that by Halloween a lot of these things are going to get sorted out in the SEC?

COACH TUBERVILLE: A little bit different schedule for us. It’s kind of moved around. We normally play LSU a little bit earlier. This year it’s a little bit later in the schedule. Of course, playing Florida and then going to Arkansas, our road schedule all games are a challenge in our league whether you play a home or a road.

I think the biggest thing you do as a coach in our league, again, as we talked about earlier, you try to teach your players how to win on the road. You just can’t say, Okay, we’re underdog. We’re not supposed to win when we go on the road.

We challenge our players at the beginning of the season that no matter where you’re playing or how you’re playing, you got to play the same, you got to play in an atmosphere different atmosphere each week, but you got to feel like it’s no different. You got to play hard. It’s got to be a challenge. You’ve got to play as a group.

As I said earlier, when you play college football, you know, one guy’s not going to win for you. You’ve got to get them all playing the same way, the same direction. You got to play them the same speed. Sometimes when you go on the road some of your younger guys are second guessing if they’re doing the right things.

Your older guys on the team have to be good salesmen to your younger guys in the dressing room of, Hey, we can win this game on the road. You’ve got to play to another level. You’ve got to understand that you’re not going to be playing at home every week.

So it’s a challenge, but it’s fun. This league’s fun when you play in these different stadiums. They’re all hostile environments. If you can win on the road, that means you’ve really got a good football team. And we’ve won a lot of road games over the last five years.

I think we’ve got one of the better winning percentages on the road in the conference. Again, we stress a lot of that, of enjoying your trip, enjoying going there, play to win. We coach to win on the road. We go in and sometimes we take chances. We roll the dice. Our players, I think they like that. We try to change the momentum on the road.

I learned that years ago from some of the coaches I worked with, that if did you go and play the same type of philosophy on the road that you play at home, you’re going to end up short sometimes because that’s how they’re going to play you at home.

When you’re playing them at their place they’re going to play at a different pitch. Try to keep your players playing on a different level all the time. If you lose the momentum, try to get it back. Momentum is the biggest factor of losing when you’re on the road, ‘cause if you lose it long enough you’re surely going to lose the game.

There’s a lot of factors in coaching when you go on the road, and most of it’s mental.

Q. Last year you told us you changed your practice schedule to emulate the pro teams. This morning you talked about how beat up your team got during the season. Have you changed anything about your practice schedule to try to avoid that? Anything you can do during the season with your practice schedule to avoid that this year?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Well, I think we all had to look at our schedules and how we practiced, the length of time that we practice, how much contact you have. When we added the 12th regular season game, because we have a conference championship game, if you’re going to make it through a season playing in this conference you’ve got to try to keep your best players on the field as much as you can as fresh as you can.

We changed last year and went to morning practices. I thought it helped us. I thought it helped us a lot, because when you finish your last practice at 11:00 on Thursday morning, you don’t play again till Saturday night, your guys have two full days of rest. They’re a lot fresher in the morning.

I noticed our guys retain more of the offense or the game plan when they get up, even though we get up at 5:00, 5:30 in the morning, they’re a little bit fresher. They understand and are able to concentrate a lot more.

I like the scenario of having the team early, letting them be regular students in the afternoon. I think it helps the attitude. Again, the biggest thing, one of the biggest things about coaching is keeping the attitude good on the team from top to bottom.

I let our players talk and make some of these decisions sometimes of what they think about practice time, how long we practice, how much we hit. I talk to our seniors. We meet every Sunday. One of the best feedbacks that I’ve gotten over the last few years is the morning practices.

Again, the thing about them, they understood when they got practice over with they could relax and really enjoy being college students a little bit more than having to wait all day long, go to classes all day, then having a long practice session and meetings that night. The next thing they had to do was go to study hall, go to bed, had no free time.

Again, a football team that’s got a smile on their face got a lot better chance to win than if they don’t.

Q. Can you talk about what you’ve seen from Brad Lester this off season and if you think he has the kind of potential to be the kind of back that Kenny was for you?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Kenny Irons was a very tough physical runningback inside and outside. You have to be that way if you’re going to be in every down back in the conference that we play in.

Can’t be a situation where if you go in, you know, that play’s not going to fit you. Brad Lester last year, year before, probably a little underweight. We’ve tried to put a little more weight on him where he can be a guy that can carry the ball 20 times, 22 times a game.

If he can do that, I think he can fit into the mould of Kenny Irons or Ronnie Brown or Carnell Williams or Rudy Johnson. Right now that’s still out there to be seen. Over the years, we’ve tried to make him a starter. He’d get hurt. That’s what he and I have talked about over and over in the off season as he’s worked out, stretch, lift, try to make himself stronger physically to be able to take the pounding that you take.

But Brad, he’s got quickness to get it done. Again, the thing that he’s got to do is be able to make it physically. If he can do that, I think he can be a heck of a runningback. Again, that’s the thing that’s just hung with him the few years he’s been with us.

Q. What have you thought of the kind of intense focus on Nick Saban across the state? Have you got a chance to talk, and what did you talk about?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Yeah, Nick and I have known each other for a long time. He’s a good football coach. It’s been good for us because we’ve been kind of under the radar. Any time you have two teams really in the state that people pay a lot of attention to you know, we’ve been at Auburn now nine years. People pretty much know us, know our program. We’ve had success, won games. I think people for the most part think we know what we’re doing.

If you’ve got that kind of going for you, you really don’t need a lot of publicity. It will all show up in the wash, so to speak. But a change in coaching staff, you’re going to have a new guy that people want to talk to, get philosophies, see how they’re going to do things. Assistants, make changes, offense, defense.

It’s been good for us. I know Nick’s probably had a tough time, as I did my first year at Auburn, having to answer all the questions about this and that. Again, that’s part of it. But I’ve kind of enjoyed being underneath the radar for the last six months.

Q. You were kind of unpopular with Ole Miss fans right after you left Ole Miss. Do you think Nick is getting more of that from LSU? What do you think he’s in for when he goes to LSU, plays those games like you did against Ole Miss?

COACH TUBERVILLE: It’s always tough. My first time back was going back to Ole Miss I have so many friends, and I’m sure Nick has the same thing at LSU. A little bit different the fact he’s been gone a little longer, not as many of the players around. I guess they play at home this year. They don’t go to LSU.

But my second year, Ole Miss, I knew a lot of the players. Deuce McAllister. All the guys we recruited, had laid it on the line for us. We weren’t a very good team when we got there. The coaches and players really got along well. We were a true blue collar team. We persevered, we sweated, we bled, we cried together. When you make changes like that, go back, you have a lot of emotions involved.

I’m sure there’s going to be emotions there. A little different again from my standpoint because it was so early that I went back. There’s always a soft spot in your heart for where you’ve spent a lot of time, done a lot of hard work, especially the players that have laid it on the line for you are still there and you’ve got to go up against them and try to beat ‘em, try to do things to make yourself a little bit better than they are.

Q. Houston Nutt went through an off season of people prying into his personal life, phone records. Not that specifically, but for a coach, how did you react to that kind of level of intrusion, and how difficult is it to get used to the fact that people are that interested in having a say in your future perhaps?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Well, we’re all in the limelight. You can expect anything to happen. Everything is escalated more and more every year of communication. Sometimes we as coaches are not as educated as what we should be of what can be looked at and can’t be looked at. But we learn. We live and learn, as we all do in this room.

I sat by Houston three days at the SEC meets. He’s been through a long year. His family has been through a long year. Looks like he’s coming through it pretty good. Only he knows, and his family. Of course, he’s got a tough job, as we all do, coaching in this league, of expectations. He’s coming off of a very good year in terms of winning games, but not a very good year in terms of the positive publicity.

I’ve gone through some of those. I had a tough time a few years ago when it come close to not being around at Auburn in 2003. But, again, you know, you just got to persevere, be strong about it. You’ve got to look at it in the right direction. Again, this is the nature of our business of just understanding what’s out there.

You’ve got to just again, I don’t do anything at Auburn, from family or anything, that’s going to get in the way of what’s best for Auburn. I think that’s what all of us try to do at our individual schools because we’re looked at in a different light. We’re on a 24 hour clock in terms of public perception. You know, we’ve always got to keep that in mind.

Sometimes you let your guard drop. I probably let it drop a couple times, but, again, you learn a little bit more even from Houston’s situation or some other situations that have happened. You just take it and you learn and hopefully things turn out for the best.

Q. Before January you were probably the coach that got under LSU fans’ skin the most, if I could say so. I wonder how you feel about maybe passing that baton on to somebody across state?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Has it passed (smiling)? Probably has, huh? Y’all take me off the billboards down there (smiling)?

Again, it’s just so competitive in this league. You look for rival games. You don’t look for you know, of course the fans at all the schools get fired up when they play anybody, but there’s always certain situations you walk into that are a little more difficult.

We’ve obviously, you know, had some good games at Ole Miss against LSU, and we had some good games here at Auburn, but they’ve had them against us.

I think it’s just a matter of respect really when it comes down to, you know, the teams facing each other. It’s always hard. It’s hard. But then you throw in the coaching challenges, as you mention, it makes it even that much harder. I think it’s hard on your family. Your families get involved because they see so many things written in newspapers out there publicly.

But, you know, that’s the nature of the business. You just got to take it as it comes. You got to try as hard as you can, then you go to the next one.

Q. Could you talk about y’all’s winning strengths against Alabama? What impact do you think Saban coming back is going to have on that?

COACH TUBERVILLE: We have a rival, and that’s ours. It gets no tougher to win that game than any other. I’ve been in a lot of rival games. When we look at our schedule every year, we have things in our dressing room, our coaches’ offices pointing to that game.

That is the one game that our fans and Alabama’s fans look at more than any other game, no matter whether you’re playing for a championship.

When I was hired at Auburn I was told, Hey, you know, we want you to do the best you can to win that game. Fortunately for us, you know, we’ve had a pretty good streak. Now they’ve changed coaches. I’m sure Nick was probably told about the same thing, you know, when he came. We’ve got to get back on the winning ways in that area.

We all have a lot of games, but there’s none more important for the two coaches in this state than that game. Again, we’ll continue to look at it like that. Our players will hear it from us almost daily. Normally you don’t do that. Normally you just talk about the game you’re playing that week.

But our players understand from the day we recruit ‘em till the day that they leave, that’s the game we want them to be prepared for. If they’re going to prepare for any game, that’s the one we want them to prepare for. Fortunately, we’ve been able to play pretty well in that game for the last few years.

Q. Could you give your thoughts and opinions on the rule changes this year. You talked a lot about them last year. This year going back to the clock starting after the snap, then moving the ball back on the kickoff.

COACH TUBERVILLE: You know, I was on the 12 man committee that last year we changed it over. We thought going back into this year we cut out too many plays. The one thing that committee does not want to do, it does not want to affect the quality of college football. That’s the number one responsibility of the players, to the fans, and to the sport.

We thought that cutting out 12, 15, 17 plays was just too much. So we went back to the drawing board and looked at things where the clock would run a little bit more other than starting the clock at the change of possession, the kicking from the 30 yard line. That will be a major rule change. I think it will add more points to the scoreboard. I think it will be a lot better for the offenses.

I think you’ll see more different things handled in the kicking game this year because of that, but it will also run a few more seconds off the clock. I think that’s really the biggest change that you’ll see. There’s a lot of other things that were talked about: the 15 second timeout coming out after a no television timeout, I think that’s going to get the play back the ball back in play a lot quicker.

But the rules are not as many, I think, but I think they’re good rules. I think they’re really going to help put the emphasis back on the game than on the time clock. Again, I think we just got to quit worrying about that. Television’s here. They do a great job. They pay a lot of bills. You know, they’re going to get all their commercials that they want. If we’re out there for four hours, we’re out there.

Making these rule changes and cutting back on the quality of the game that we have is not really the right thing to do. So we just need to find better ways to kind of speed it up, give the officials a better opportunity to speed it up, give them more freedom in doing that.

Again, if we can do that, cut the time down, then I think it will make it better for everybody.

Q. How have you and your staff changed your recruiting strategy in anticipation of the text messaging ban going into effect on August 1st?

COACH TUBERVILLE: I personally like text messaging because, you know, you can send out a short message and you know the young man is going to get it and you don’t have to leave a message, keep calling back. I think the communication was better. I really don’t understand why it was cut out. They could have put a limit on it, when we could have done it, hours and all that.

I think it was a little extreme just totally shutting it out. I think they’re going to look at that again. Hopefully they will. I think the expense is greater on the universities and the time limits on the recruits is longer if you cut out text messaging.

It’s just something, technology’s growing so fast, it’s hard to keep up with it. It’s hard to keep up with the rules. Hopefully we can come to some common denominator to help the coaches make it easier for them and also for the parents and the athletes.

Q. You mentioned your time at Ole Miss. Looking back now, obviously the two Mississippi schools have kind of struggled the last five or so years, what makes it difficult as a football coach to win in that state?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Well, is it any more difficult? Maybe in some situations it is. I think, of course, they have two universities there. They have a lot of good players. I think in the past there’s been a lot of coaching changes at both schools. There’s been changeover. There’s been some problems.

When I went to Ole Miss we had had some problems. The biggest thing when you’re a football coach, whether it’s one school in the state or two or three, you still got to be able to keep players in your state going to your university. I mean, you’re gonna lose some, but you got to keep a lot of ‘em in your state.

I think because of coaching changes over the years, the inconsistencies of coaching staffs, I think that’s hurt. You know, you’ve got to give coaches time. Sometimes the lease is short. When you start over in any place with a new head coach or a coaching staff, you start from scratch. It’s going to take that coaching staff two or three years to learn the recruiting, get it going again. That gives coaches from outside an opportunity to come in and take players away.

Two good schools there. We’ve had some of course, I coached at Ole Miss. We won some games, lost some. But tradition at both schools. Again, if you just go back and look, the changeover of coaches, it catches up with you. It would catch up with you at any school, not just those two schools.

Q. Back to the kickoff rule. Talk a bit more about how you think that may affect moving that back in terms of strategy in games, and you have to replace kickers? How does that affect what you’re looking at?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Even if you have a great kickoff guy now, the ball is not going to go into the end zone every time. You’ve got to have different guys. In the past we have a great field kickoff guy last year. I’d said 90% of them were not returned.

So we could put backup guys that may be not as good as cover guys knowing normally that the ball is going to be kicked out of the end zone, you can rest your guys now. Most of the returns are going to be there. You got to have better cover guys on your coverage team.

You have to coach your kicker better, you’re going to have to kick it right, left. Normally in the past, like last year, we lined up on the left hash marks, kicked it right down the left side. Very easy. Worked on it maybe five minutes a week.

Now we’re going to have to line up and kick long kicks left, long kicks right. Your guys are going to have to learn coverage lanes. There’s going to be a lot more coaching to your kickoff teams.

Other side, return teams. A lot more returns. You’re going to have to put a lot more returns in. Probably last year we had three returns for the entire year. Now you’ve got to have your front guys prepared to return kicks because there’s going to be a lot of pooch kicks down to around the 20, high kicks to where you try to get them to fair catch. You’re going to have to coach that, try to get returns off of that.

There’s a lot of scenarios to where people are going to try to attack you in different areas of kicking off other than just slamming it down the field. There’s going to be squib kicks, things like that. There’s going to have to be a lot of coaching on both sides. Field position will drastically change.

I think field position is going to be more outside the 30 yard line than the 20 yard line than it has in the past, and of course offense’s shorter distances. We worked on it very hard in spring practice. We didn’t know the rule was going to pass at that time, but we still worked on it.

We still need a lot of work because there’s so much more time that you’re going to have to spend on it. That will be an area this year that you’ll see a lot of mistakes, probably a lot of turnovers, again different guys catching the ball. You’ll have to have more receivers back there, guys that have hands that can catch. A whole different train of thought for coaches when it comes to those two parts of the kicking game.

Q. Talk about the losses you had on your offensive line and also your backup quarterback situation.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Offensive line we lost four starters. We have King Dunlap back, our left tackle. Most of the guys that played that are going to start for us this year, Jason Bosley started four or five games last year at center. He’ll be our heir apparent there. Leon Hart, right guard started three games. Green started left guard maybe two games. Andrew McCain did not start. Redshirted last year at right tackle.

Even though we don’t have a lot of experience it’s the depth we have. We’ve got some good depth with a little bit of experience plus five new guys that we brought in as true freshmen, as good a class that I’ve been around in a long time.

So probably it won’t be the strength of our team going into the season. I would say by mid season, it could be one of the best strengths that we have because we have so much talent there, but a lot of those guys are going to have to get some experience to bring that talent to a new level.

It will be exciting for Hugh Nall. He’s done a great job for me for 13 years as offensive line coach. The techniques haven’t changed. They grow up in the system. Again, it goes back to keeping your staff together to have that consistency, to keep those guys going in the same pace.

Q. Take us back in time to your senior year in college and talk a little bit about that season’s four games compared to today’s freshmen.

COACH TUBERVILLE: You better repeat that again (smiling).

Q. Take us back in time to your freshman year in college playing college football.

COACH TUBERVILLE: All right.

Q. How does that period of time compare to playing college football today, and is there a chance freshmen will go back to I think it was four games per year?

COACH TUBERVILLE: I don’t think it will change. I think the biggest thing we’re trying to change is go to five years of eligibility. We’re getting closer and closer to that every year. Not having redshirts, not having medical redshirts. When you start, you’ve got five years to play, play at any time.

Back when I played, of course, the team I played on, we only had 33 scholarships. You didn’t have any choice to play when you were a freshman. You had to play on something.

I think that’s good to some degree. But I think, you know, the ability for coaches now to have the opportunity to play all 85 of their scholarship guys, as we all have asked to do, most of the coaches across the country, for the last two or three years, so our (indiscernible) would really help us a lot in areas such as depth on special teams and that. I think it would really help college football.

But, again, that’s a long ways away. We can’t get enough people swayed our way on that, but we’re still working on it. Hopefully it will work out for us in the future.

Q. This still may be a couple years down the road, but what do you think of the possibility of the SEC having its own television network? Do you have any concerns or what do you think it could add to the league?

COACH TUBERVILLE: About the possibility of having an SEC television network televising games?

Q. Yes.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Well, if you just look at the climate out there, it looks like that’s what a lot of people are getting into. Again, it’s all about money. You know, budgets are going up and up. You saw with some of the athletic budgets in our conference we’re getting close to $80 , $90 million this year. The money’s got to come from somewhere. The fans can only pay so much.

The conferences are doing a lot with technology trying to push their teams, get their teams more on television or radio. Our conference is no different.

I hear talk of the SEC TV networks. Mr. Slive has talked to all of the coaches about it. Again, it’s all about sales. We’re in the business of sales. Big 10 started it last year. I don’t know whether it worked or not or helped. I’m a football coach. I’m not a business guy.

Again, if you’re out there and you’re on television, you’re in front of the public, all these recruits, it gives you a better chance. I would probably say in the future you’re going to have most of the big conferences have something in the way of a television station.

In the future, you might have your own conferences televising the games. That could be interesting. Again, that’s probably something that’s past a lot of us. You know how things have changed over just the last four or five years. There’s a lot of possibilities when it comes to television and all the networks we have now, the capabilities of technology.

Q. Can you talk about getting Tray Blackmon back, the importance of his role this year for you guys?

COACH TUBERVILLE: Tray Blackmon is one of the most productive defensive players that I’ve been around in a long time. Kind of reminded me of Ray Lewis when I coached Ray at Miami. He has a nose for the football. Sometimes you just find defensive guys that on every play, they’re around the ball.

They’ve got a hand on the runningback or they get a hand on the football, they’re in the quarterback’s face. He’s one of those guys. He just plays by instinct. He’s fun to watch play.

He got into a little problem last year with me. The one thing that I do is make sure that we play as a team, we do things as a team. If you do something different, then you’re going to pay the price for us. I made him I suspended him from the team, from the Bowl game. I suspended him from going through spring practice. I made him get everything in order personally through his mom back home. A lot of different things. Mostly weren’t major, but there were a lot of little things that were just distracting him from making him a better player and taking away from what we were doing.

He’s come back to us in the middle of May. He’s been in summer school. He’s done well. I have not decided and won’t decide until after I watch him. Again, it’s really not going to have to do anything with ability. We’re going to win games whether he plays or not. I’d love to him there. Obviously you’d love to have more of your better players play, but, again, they have to be team players.

I think he’s changed. I’ve looked at his attitude. I’ve talked to people. Again, sometimes when you lose something that you had for a short period of time, which he did for five months, it brings you to reality of, you know, what’s going to happen to me now. I think that’s a little bit of what’s happened to him. He’s matured. Hopefully he’s gotten all of his ducks in a row.

If he has, he convinces Coach Muschamp, Coach Willis, the linebacker coach, and myself he’s going to be a team player, then he’ll be playing the Kansas State game in about 35 or 36 days. If not, he’ll be on the team because he’s doing things he needs to do, but he’s got to earn his way back into the team, the seniors, show he can be productive not only as a player but also as a team guy.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, coach.

COACH TUBERVILLE: Thank you.

Quarterback Brandon Cox

On playing at LSU:

“Well, I have played there before, but I am looking forward to it. It is a very hostile crowd but like I said, I have played there before and with my experience and our team’s experience, I am looking forward to it.”

On not making the Pre-season All-SEC Team:

“I really did not have a great season last year. I was injured, but I did not put up the same kind of numbers the other guys did, but it’s just pre-season. I hope that by the end of the season things will be different.”

Can you finally say that you are 100 percent?:

“Yeah, I can say that.”

On his heroes growing up:

“Football wise, Joe Montana and Jay Barker if you can believe that, he played at Alabama but we went to the same high school. “

What do you like about the fans?:

“Just the support, bad games, good games, they always come out to support us and without them, there would be no games.”

On the loss of Kenny Irons:

“Yeah, we lost Kenny, but we’ve got Brad Lester, Ben Tate, Mario Fannin, Tristan Davis. Even Carl Stewart can play some tailback so we have the talent. Kenny was a great player, but we are loaded in the backfield.”

Defensive End Quentin Groves

On getting ready for the fall:

“It feels great. It seemed like only yesterday that we were getting ready to play in the bowl game, and now we are ready to start the season. I’m excited to just get out there and play.”

On the team’s goals:

“Our goals are really the same every year. We just want to compete and win games. If you do that, then hopefully the rest will take care of itself.”

On Auburn’s road schedule:

“We have a very tough road schedule. We are at Florida, at Arkansas, at LSU, and at Georgia. Hopefully we can start the season out on the right foot and be 4-0 going on the road. We are a young team, and if we start out with confidence, that will help our team on the road. We just have to take care of business.”

On opening the season with Kansas State:

“Kansas State is similar to us in that they run the west coast offense. It’s a similar scheme to ours. They have a great quarterback, a freshman All-American at that. I think he is 6-5, 220, but he can throw the ball well and he can run. He kind of reminds me of JaMarcus Russell. I know that they have a great offensive line, good running backs, and speed at the wide receiver spot. We are going to have to play well and get the crowd involved. If we take care of business against them, then we can beat them. But you can’t overlook them either.”

On coming back for his senior season:

“It was kind of disappointing watching the NFL draft and knowing that I maybe could have gone ahead of this guy or that I was better than that guy. But my wife reminded me of what I said when I made the decision to come back, that I was going into the season at full speed, and I will end the season at full speed. I’m blessed to have her in my life to ground me.”

On closing in on the school’s all-time career sack record:

“It would mean the world to me to break that record. When I came to Auburn, my goal was to become the best player at my position. I wanted to be the best defensive end on the field, and lead the team in sacks. When they moved me to linebacker, my goal was to become the best linebacker on the field and lead the team in tackles. When they moved me back to defensive end, my goal became to become the best defensive end in school history. If I break Gerald Robinson’s record, I would be honored to have him there to see it. To know that I became the best defensive end in the history of Auburn, to know that I was as good as him, that would be the greatest feeling in the world.”

Courtesy SEC Sports Information

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