The Dye-Gest: Tigers A Pleasant Surprise

Coach Pat Dye

College Football Hall of Fame coach Pat Dye writes about the Auburn Tigers, who are off to a 7-1 start this season.

Getting a football team ready to come out sharp and ready to play in Auburn's situation going into the Florida Atlantic game was a lot easier said than done. Playing a team like that, an opponent the Tigers are supposed to beat, if the kids are not mentally prepared it will show up early in the game with penalties, turnovers and other indications of sloppy, unfocused play.

However, the exact opposite happened. The Tigers were very impressive in the first quarter and by the second quarter the visitors were so far behind they had no chance of coming back.

To me that is a tremendous job of coaching to have the players intent on coming out and getting better for game eight of the season against an inferior opponent, but that is exactly what happened on Saturday night.

Gus Malzahn, his staff and the players are getting it done week after week. That is a tremendous thing to me because a lot of folks talk about playing with focus and intensity in every game, but not many can consistently make it happen.

Back in the summer I didn't expect this team would have improved as much as it has this season The Tigers really have been a pleasant surprise and when you look at it closely the whole football team has gotten better.

To me the catalyst for making it happen has been the performance of the quarterbacks, which was a huge question coming into the season when there was a three-player competition taking place to see who the starter would be.

You have got to be impressed with Nick Marshall's performance in directing the offense to game-winning drives vs. Mississippi State and Texas A&M. His ability to run the football has taken the offense to a higher level. The play from Jeremy Johnson in the two games he saw extended playing time has been an exciting development for the Tigers.

If Marshall was injured and couldn't play, the offense would lose some of the running threat the starting quarterback brings to the mix, but I think the Tigers might be a little better throwing the football when the freshman is in the game, although that is something we don't really know for sure until Johnson has to deliver passes under the added pressure that comes when games are on the line.In pressure situations Marshall has really stepped up. If Johnson can do that it will be a sign that he has arrived as a college quarterback.

It's good to see Sammie Coates develop into the deep threat that I thought he could be. I think Ricardo Louis has the potential to be another one. Overall the receivers are getting better and that is coaching. The same can be said of the running backs.

The Tigers continue to make progress on the line of scrimmage, both offensively and defensively. The offensive line opened the season with some talent and experience, and has steadily improved.

I enjoy watching the intensity that Rodney Garner has his kids playing with on the defensive front. Also on defense the linebackers are getting better and I am seeing progress in the secondary, too, even though the coaches have had to juggle the lineups to work around injuries to their defensive backs.

This week the Tigers are on the road for a league game at Arkansas, a team that has not played well, but is still a potentially dangerous opponent with its ability to run the football. If Auburn's defense can step up, force the Razorbacks to play behind the chains and perform on third downs like they did last week, I like the Tigers' chances of coming home with another win under their belts.

(If you have a question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to

Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for 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 Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.

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