Tommy Tuberville on Gus Malzahn’s future: ‘I think sometimes the trigger is pulled too quick’
Tommy Tuberville knows first-hand the pressure Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn is under, but said Monday he’s not ready to write off the Tigers this year or in the near future.
Tuberville was the guest speaker at the C Spire 1st & 10 Club, sponsored by Regions, on Monday night at the Mobile Marriott. He said that despite Saturday night’s 14-6 loss to Clemson, he believes Malzahn can and will still enjoy long-term success at Auburn if given the chance.
“I think sometimes the trigger is pulled too quick,” Tuberville said. “Gus knows the pressure’s on. But he’s done a good job recruiting. He started to understand a few years ago, that we’ve got to play offense and defense. I think Auburn is going to be fine. If they stay healthy, I think it’s going to come down to them and LSU and Alabama. Obviously, Alabama is at the top, but I think LSU is catching them and Auburn is catching them a little bit. Whether or not they can knock them off, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Tuberville, Auburn’s head coach from 1999-2008, is in his first year as a college football game analyst for ESPN. He was in Provo, Utah, on Saturday to call the BYU-Utah game, and consequently didn’t see much of the Auburn-Clemson game.
Tuberville said he saw only Auburn’s first two drives, which ended in field goals and put the Tigers on top 6-0. What Tuberville didn’t see was an Auburn offense led by quarterback Jarrett Stidham that didn’t score again, wasting an excellent effort by Kevin Steele’s defense.
“I think Gus is a good coach,” Tuberville said. “They’ve got better players. They’ve got more depth. As a head coach, you look at that. The more depth you have, the more players, the better football team you’re going to have. Sooner or later, those backups are going to have to play. In the past, they have not had that depth. I don’t know how Stidham played; I didn’t get a chance to watch it. I did see him in the spring game. I know he throws the ball well.
“It didn’t take (Malzahn) long to figure out, in the SEC, you’ve got to play defense. They’ve gotten much better. Kevin’s done a good job.”
Tuberville said he did a double-take when he saw the final score and stat line from Auburn-Clemson. One number jumped out: Stidham was sacked 11 times.
“I’ve only heard of that happening one other time,” Tuberville quipped, a reference to Auburn’s 11 sacks of Alabama’s Brodie Croyle in the 2005 Iron Bowl.
Despite his success at Auburn — which included six straight wins over Alabama at one stretch, Tuberville was forced out after one subpar season in 2008. He also endured the infamous “JetGate,” when several Auburn trustees tried to hire Louisville’s Bobby Petrino late in a 2003 season that saw the Tigers finish 8-5 after a lofty preseason ranking.
News of “JetGate” leaked out into the media, and Tuberville kept his job at Auburn. His 2004 team went 13-0 and won the SEC title.
“Gus knows he’s got to win,” Tuberville said. “When I was at Auburn, I learned quick. They tried to run me off the third year I was there, and I was winning. Not great, but 7 or 8 games. I think they’ll be fine. I think a lot of people judge it off one game.”
As an example of patience paying off Tuberville cited the coach on the opposite sideline from Malzahn last Saturday. Clemson’s Dabo Swinney was elevated to interim coach midway through the 2008 season, and went 15-12 in his first two full seasons as head coach.
Clemson has won at least 10 games every year since, including three ACC championships and last season’s national title during that span.
“He was on the hot seat,” Tuberville said. “Look what happened to him. You don’t build a team overnight. It takes a while.”
Still, Auburn has been notoriously impatient with its football coaches, not only ousting Tuberville following his first bad season but also firing Gene Chizik two years after winning the 2010 BCS National Championship. Tuberville hinted at a “change of the guard” at Auburn, with the current administration less likely to make a rash move.
Ultimately, Malzahn will be judged by how his team performs against its biggest rivals, Tuberville said. The Tigers have lost three straight to Nick Saban and Alabama after beating the Crimson Tide in Malzahn’s first season as head coach.
“I went through five (Alabama) coaches in the 10 years I was at Auburn, and they finally found the right one,” Tuberville said. “When I took the job, I was told straight up, before I even signed my contract, ‘coach, you’ve got to be competitive and you’ve got to beat Alabama.’ You ain’t got to beat them every year, but that’s the team you’ve got to be competitive with. But that was when a different group of board members was running the show.
“When you take that job, you already know it. Gus didn’t go in there blind.”
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Published at Tue, 12 Sep 2017 02:55:42 +0000