Auburn, Ala.--Ask Tommy Tuberville or Mark Richt, and they’ll tell you that a rivalry game like Auburn versus Georgia is a game for the players. However, the coaching ties also run very deep between the two Southern schools.
Auburn offensive line coach Hugh Nall was a lineman himself on the 1980 Georgia National Championship squad coached by Vince Dooley, who was a quarterback at Auburn from 1951 to 1953.
“When I came along (at Georgia) all of the coaches were from Auburn,” Nall says. “Coach (Vince) Dooley, Coach (Erk) Russell, Jim Pyburn, Sam Mitchell. All of those guys played at Auburn and those were my coaches at Georgia. It’s been amazing over the years.”
After Nall’s playing days were over, he followed Russell to Georgia Southern where he got his start in the business as the offensive line coach from 1981-1984. Russell, who was born in Birmingham and was the defensive coordinator for the Bulldogs’ “Junkyard Dawgs,” is the last four-sport letterman at Auburn and a one-time assistant football and head baseball coach at Auburn.
“It was a heated game every year,” Nall says of his playing days in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. “It was an intense game and it’s more like two brothers fighting. The two schools are so similar. We recruited almost every one of their players and they recruited almost every one of our players. We know their players and vice versa and we’ve got so many players from Georgia on our team, it just makes the natural, backyard-type ball game.”
On Saturday Nall will travel to Sanford Stadium where he played from 1977 to 1980 in hopes of his offensive line controlling the trenches against a Georgia front four coached by Rodney Garner. Born in Leeds, Ala., Garner was an All-SEC lineman at Auburn in 1988 under legendary coach Pat Dye, who was an All-American offensive lineman at Georgia.
Georgia offensive line coach Stacy Searels also played under Coach Dye and was an All-American in 1987 for the Tigers. His offensive line must protect against the Auburn blitz packages of defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, who played at Georgia from 1991-1994. Searels and Muschamp also coached together at LSU during the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
“I think he has a great rapport with the players, first of all,” Muschamp says of Searels. “He’s an old-fashioned, hard-nosed football coach. He believes in basic fundamentals. They don’t run a lot of running plays, but they execute them very well. That’s the same way we were at LSU. They’re going to run the zone, they’re going to run the power and they’re going to have some gadgets off of that, and they’re going to run the lead.
“What they do, they do well,” Muschamp continues. “He’s a very hard-nosed coach in the fact that he gets the best out of his players. His players have great respect for him as well.”
Saturday will mark the 111th meeting between the two schools with Auburn holding a slight 53-49-8 edge in the series. However, compared to many cross-state rivalries, the Auburn versus Georgia series is relatively fun and tame.
“It’s no different than when I play racquetball every day,” Nall says. “I try to beat the guy up and win the game, but we go to lunch afterwards. It’s just the way it is.”
The ties between the schools won’t end with Nall, Muschamp, Garner or Searels, and they weren’t limited to just Dooley, Russell and Dye. Shug Jordan, who Jordan-Hare Stadium is named after, was an assistant under Wally Butts at Georgia before being hired as the head coach at Auburn prior to the 1951 season. Dooley eventually became Jordan’s quarterback and was an assistant on his staff that won the 1957 National Championship. Dooley went on to a successful coaching career at Georgia and was a long-time athletic director in Athens.
Another long-time Georgia AD and assistant on the 1957 team was Joel Eaves, who bares his name on Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum, Auburn’s basketball arena. One of his more controversial moves during his tenure as the athletic director at Georgia was the hiring of Dooley from Auburn, but Dooley went on to win six SEC Championships as head coach of the Bulldogs.
Even the old generations of Auburn and Georgia are connected to the new. Dooley’s son, Derek Dooley, is in his first season as head coach at Louisiana Tech. Previously, he coached with Searels and Muschamp at LSU and with Muschamp on the Miami Dolphins staff in 2005.
Game Of My Life Auburn
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