I think it is safe to say that the most important decision Coach Gus Malzahn and his staff will make during preseason is choosing the player to lead their Auburn team at quarterback. The SEC is going to have a lot of talented and experienced guys at that position this season so it is critical the Tigers choose a player who will have the talent and the intangibles to give his team a chance to play to score a lot of points and perform to its full potential.
When you look around the league the starting quarterbacks are coming back at Texas A&M, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Alabama and LSU in the SEC West. In the East the quarterbacks are returning at Georgia, South Carolina, Florida and Missouri. There are a lot of very productive players in that bunch.
I don’t know who is going to get the call to be the starting quarterback for the Tigers, but I do know a team can break in a new starter at that position in the SEC and have a lot of success even if he has little or no previous experience playing in the league. However, it is not easy, but a perfect example that it can be done is Cam Newton at Auburn in 2010. Last year Texas A&M was the surprise team in the conference with redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel leading the way.
One of Auburn’s biggest football fans is probably the most excited AU graduate in the world right now, although maybe it can be hard to tell at times. I hope people had the opportunity to watch former Auburn golfer Jason Dufner win the PGA Championship tournament. It was a great thing for his career, particularly after what happened at the same tournament two years ago in Atlanta, an event he lost in a playoff.
It is a great thing for Auburn to have one of its graduates, and a resident of Auburn, win one of the four majors in pro golf. I also think it is a great thing that Jason is a bit of a character. Yes, he has a really different personality, but I think the players on the tour really like him. If you know him there is nothing to dislike about Jason. He really is a good guy.
I spent some time with him when he came out to the farm and rode around with me because he is getting some ideas for a place he is building outside of town.
Last year after he won two tournaments and played really well, I told him, ‘Jason, it looks to me like you are playing as well as anybody out there right now.’
“He said, ‘Coach, there are lots of good ones out there right now. They are all good.’”
I was pulling hard for Jason watching him on TV, sort of like I was watching an Auburn-Alabama football game. It was funny watching and listening to the golf experts comment on and analyze Jason, who seems so nonchalant and so stoic when he is playing. Of course, we don’t know what is going on in the inside, but on the outside he doesn’t show much emotion.
Dufner shows the trophy he won on Sunday in Rochester, N.Y.
The way he played in the final round of the PGA was truly impressive. He kept hitting his driver down the middle of the highway. I call it a highway because the fairways at Oak Hill were about as wide as a road. Most of the time he was about two to three feet off the center line. He was just as impressive with the way he hit his irons.
I know Jason said he played aggressively, and he did, but he also played smart and at times conservatively. What really impressed me was how he made sure when he hit his approach shots he kept the ball below the hole so he would have uphill putts, which are less stressful than the downhill looks.
With Jason’s combination of talent and dedication, his success is well deserved. I am happy for him and happy that he lives here in the Auburn area, which is a great place for me to be. He is an outstanding representative for his alma mater.
(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat’s Picks.
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