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July 15, 2008In an exclusive interview, AU head coach Tommy Tuberville sits down with AuburnSports.com to discuss a number of issues including the Tigers' big class of early commitments, the upcoming 2008 season, his health and plans for the future and much more.
AuburnSports.com: The 19 early commitments is by far the most at this time for Auburn. What prompted all these early verbals?
Tuberville: Well, I think it's a combination of a lot of things. We've been here going on 10 years now. We know a lot about our situation. You have to know your situation before you can go out and recruit: what you need and what you know will fit in to your program, the community and school and all that. Having consistency on your staff really helps.
There's years we've had a few commitments but this year has been exceptional. A lot of the guys have decided early. I think it's a product of the system. Kids are deciding a lot earlier because they don't want to go through the hassles of recruiting during their senior years.
I think it's a combination of a lot of things. Next year we could have five at this time. There's not anything we've done any different. Our camps have been good. We know a lot more about the players now because of our camps. Most of these kids we've known since the ninth grade so it's not like we're out there jumping and choosing guys.
We evaluate them in a lot of different categories, not just athletic ability. It's been good but nothing is binding. Some will change their mind and we'll have more come our way. It's an ongoing process.
AuburnSports.com: Does having two new coordinators, Paul Rhoads, who is from the North where the early commitment trend started, and Tony Franklin, who is very decisive, play a role in the early commitments?
Tuberville: Yea. I learned a long time ago, working with Jimmy Johnson at Miami, that the No. 1 thing in recruiting is winning. Winning is the No. 1 thing that gets guys to commit and come your way in recruiting.
Having said that, I think a little bit of change on what we do on offense, there's no doubt, that we've gotten players that can do special things on offense that can help us. People know what Tony does on offense. I think what's helped us too, if we'd have changed to Tony's offense in February, it would have been tougher because they wouldn't have known what we were doing. Now that we've had an opportunity to practice and play a game, people know were committed to doing this.
Paul is a good coach, good teacher. We're kinda like a Big 10 team this year. I talk to those guys in the Big 10 in meetings and they'll have three-fourths of their class committed in July, which I feel like one of those this year. It's not going to be like this for us every year. This is just one of those years that guys have decided earlier that we've offered, but I think Paul and Tony have helped in different ways.
AuburnSports.com: Explain your evaluation process in offering a prospect.
Tuberville: One thing we look at is character. You have to look at that from day one. We look at character, we look at work ethic. We talk a lot to the high school coaches, head coach and assistants. We look for potential. There's a lot of kids that are going to grow a lot between 18-22 years old: height, weight, strength, speed, quickness.
We're predicting the future a little bit. We have to do that every year. We look at a kid and predict how much weight he's going to gain, how much taller he's going to get. A lot of times, you'll get a kid committed that's 16 years old and will graduate when they're 17 or just turning 18.
The thing that we try to do, is No. 1 will they fit in at Auburn, in the community and the school. Can they handle college academically and the pressures of big-time college football. There's a lot of things that go along with the athletic ability you have to have.
One thing you can't teach is quickness and speed. I'm big on that. Height doesn't really bother me that much. We'll sign a 5-10 linebacker or 5-7 wide receiver. You can win a lot on quickness and speed.
A lot of places, the head coach does most of the evaluating. I use the recruiting coach, position coach, the coordinator and myself. So at least four people have to agree that this guy can be an asset to our program before we pull the trigger.
AuburnSports.com: Looking at the class now, any certain positions that need to be concentrated on over the next six months?
Tuberville: We need defensive backs and we always need defensive linemen. We'll always go above and beyond on that. This is a big year for offensive linemen. Last year, we basically took one. The year before we took five or six. This will be a year we'll take a few more of those or take defensive linemen or tight ends that could possibly in the future be a Ben Grubbs or Tim Duckworth. There's a lot of different scenarios that we look at.
AuburnSports.com: What does this year's team need to do in order to reach Atlanta and play for the SEC Championship?
Tuberville: There will be some hurdles. I thought we came out of spring ball in pretty good shape but we still have a lot to learn about this offense. We've got some areas on defense where we have to make sure we have enough depth.
I'm anxious to look at our kicking game. Our kicking game could have been a lot better last year and needs to improve in all areas: punting, kicking, field goals, return game. We've got a lot of guys that have worked very hard. There will be several freshmen that will play, help us on special teams.
If you worry about championships when you start going into a season, you're putting the cart before the horse. What you want to try and do every day is try and make yourself a little bit better as a team. As coaches, we want to keep them playing as a team. What we want to do for the 100 or so days we're playing football, every day we want to get a little better and see how consistent we can play.
Everybody has good player in our conference. It's the ones that play more consistent that are going to have a chance to get to Atlanta. The last couple of years we've had good teams, we just haven't played consistent sometimes. We could have controlled our own destiny last year and we didn't do it. Hopefully, we'll play a little bit better this year.
The schedule is still tough. It's a little bit easier in terms of playing more of the higher-ranked teams at home, but that really doesn't make a whole lot of difference. You have to go play. You have to act like and play like champions every week. Last year, we didn't do that.
AuburnSports.com: How is your health coming off of surgery?
Tuberville: I work out a lot and for some reason I ended up with a hernia, a couple of them. I was going to put it off for a year but it got to the point where I couldn't be as active as I wanted to be, working out, running, doing things to keep yourself in shape. I went ahead and did it. I was sore for a few days. It seems like every year in the summer I have to repair something.
I'm one of those that likes to try and take care of myself because this is a stressful situation that we're all in.
AuburnSports.com: How much longer to you plan on coaching at Auburn?
Tuberville: I want to hopefully end my tenure here. I've got a lot more years I can coach. I'm still feeling good and I'm barely over 50 years old. I don't think I'm going to pull a situation like some of the coaches have over the years and go too long. I'm going to be here as long as No. 1 Auburn people want me here and as long as I still have the fire to get after recruiting.
The coaching part is easy. You have to really put your nose to the grindstone recruiting in our business. You can coach forever, go to practice, put gameplans in, that keeps you young. But when you lose your edge in really wanting to get out there and talk to high school coaches and go to camps and talk to kids, to me that's the time you should probably say it's time.
I've always enjoyed the recruiting part. That's the lifeblood of your program. Anybody can coach, basically, but you have to have good players out there that feel the same way about your coaches as the coaches do about the players in terms of wanting to win.
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