We have another historical first here at Track’em Tigers. Quite honestly, I never thought I would see this day. I’m actually going to run a column written by Tuscaloosa News columnist Cecil Hurt. Please don’t take me off your bookmark list yet.
In Friday’s column, Hurt gives a thorough explanation behind the recruiting philosophy of Tommy Tuberville. I have to say, it’s the best one I’ve read yet. Why he’s being complimentary of Tuberville is anyone’s guess, but it’s a damn good read…
CECIL HURT: Tuberville recruits for more than just ‘star ratings’
When the topic of recruiting comes up, there is a fan’s perception that University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban is on top of the world and Auburn University coach Tommy Tuberville is feeding off the bottom.
It’s true that Alabama was proclaimed the national recruiting champion of 2008 by many of the services that issue such proclamations. Auburn, in most of those contests, was recognized like the kid who got “honorable mention” in the school science fair. There was a sense of “well, at least you tried…”
Recruiting, of course, is more complex than that. Tuberville has tried to explain that he’s concerned with more than just the “star ratings” of the prospects, an explanation he repeated in a lengthy interview session at the SEC Meetings in Destin, Fla., on Wednesday.
In some ways, Tuberville made identical points to ones that Saban has made, particularly when it comes to his disdain for NCAA limitations on evaluation time.
“More and more, they (the NCAA) want us to go out and sign great athletes who are also great students and have great character,” Tuberville said. “At the same time, they limit the time we have to evaluate these kids. At some point, that’s got to change.
“They pass these rules to take us off the road, I mean the head coaches. I wish they’d give us a whole week back, put us back on the road where we could just go and talk to these kids one-on-one, but they obviously aren’t going to do that. That’s an expense, in their mind, and they are looking at ways to cut expenses. But we’re the ones held accountable when a player doesn’t work out.”
Instead of spreading himself and his staff thinly over a wide recruiting area, Tuberville said, he’s content to stay closer to home – even if it costs him points in the national recruiting rankings.
“Our recruits are mainly going to come from a 200-mile radius around our campus,” he said. “For one reason, there’s a better chance they’ll stay with you. To these schools that recruit nationally, good luck. But with the APR the way it is, it’s a risk. It’s too hard to keep them on campus.”
Tuberville said that recruits who come to a campus expecting immediate playing time are difficult to retain if stardom doesn’t come instantaneously.
“All these kids are blown up by these recruiting sites,” he said. “These kids read so much about themselves while they are in the 11th and 12th grade that they’re brainwashed about how good they are.
“That’s not to say all of them are. Obviously, some of them are good enough to play right away. But some of them aren’t, and it puts us in a real bind in terms of de-recruiting them, so to speak.
“Terry Donahue (the former head coach at UCLA) gave me some great advice about 15 years ago when I became the head coach at Ole Miss. He said that you’ve got to do it yourself. He said ‘I recruited out of (recruiting) magazines, and it was a mistake. Don’t take anybody else’s word about a kid, go and see for yourself.
“We try to tell our fans. I’ll tell them that I’ll take a three-star every time over a four or five-star if he has good character and good athletic ability. The problem with all these services is that they rate players strictly on athletic ability. They don’t include a kid’s character or his work ethic, because they don’t know those things. A player has to have athletic ability – I’m not saying he doesn’t – but it’s important to have those other things.”
Shifting from recruiting to the upcoming season, Tuberville said there were some misconceptions there as well. The Tigers have changed offensive coordinators, hiring Tony Franklin from Troy. That will mean a faster-paced, more open offense – but Tuberville insists that Auburn will not be transformed into Hawaii East.
“We are not going to be throwing the ball 60 or 70 times a game,” Tuberville said. “There’s no way. You can’t win that way. We’re going to run it more than we throw it. That’s what I believe and (Franklin) knows that. You’re still going to win in this league with defense but we wanted an offense to complement our defense, maybe to speed up the tempo a little bit.
“We ran the offense in our bowl game (an overtime Peach Bowl win against Clemson). We’d been running an average of 56 plays a game during the season and we ran 93 in the bowl game. That’s a big difference.
“There was a point in the overtime (against Clemson) where we went for a fourth-and-one,” Tuberville said with a smile. “People said “why did you do that when you would lose the game if you didn’t make it?’ I tell them I was worn out watching all those plays.
“We’ll throw more because we’ll run more plays and some of those will be pass plays.”
Bringing the conversation to full circle, Tuberville admitted that part of the reason for offensive change was to change the perception of offensive recruits.
“We couldn’t get receivers interested in us, because they looked as Auburn as a running-back school,” Tuberville said. “After we ran the offense in the bowl game, we saw some more interest.”
Ultimately, it’s all about recruiting in college football, even if it’s not, as Tuberville says, all about recruiting rankings.