AUBURN, Ala. — Bear Bryant laid out the blueprint. Pat Dye and Nick Saban are two examples of coaches who have kept it alive.
Lee Marke Sellers believes his friend and former teammate, Rodney Garner, is the perfect leader to install it in Auburn’s football program.
Well, reinstall it, anyway. A former tight end, Sellers remembers the days playing with all-SEC offensive guard Garner when both men were suiting up for Dye in the late 1980s.
Sellers saw what made Auburn successful then, led by Dye. He sees what makes Alabama successful now, led by Saban.
And now with Garner finally back on Auburn’s staff, after a thriving 15-year run at Georgia, Sellers knows exactly what the Tigers were missing during this fall’s 3-9 calamity. The word ‘physical’ came to mind. A lot.
Here’s what Sellers had to say at Garner’s introductory press conference Friday:
“If you look at the University of Alabama right now, and the way Nick Saban does things, it’s kind of the Bear Bryant blueprint: line up, and be physical. When we were here, we were known to be extremely physical. If people beat us, they knew they were in a dogfight. Everything we did 365 days a year was built around being physical. It was lifting weights, it was running, it was to the max, and it was physical. Playing defense hard-nosed, playing offense hard by knocking people off the ball and not getting fancy, just having that chip on your shoulder and that edge and having the reputation of being physical, that’s what we did from ’84 to ’88-’89.
“That’s what we’ve got to bring back is that physicality that we had when people feared Auburn. They knew when they came to Auburn, that they were going to hit you. They were going to knock your butt off. I think that’s what we’ve got to bring back. There’s not a switch you turn on and off; it’s something you’ve got to live 365 days, being physical, thinking physical, in everything you do and how you approach the game.
“I think that’s what we’ve been lacking the last couple years. (Rodney) is one of the guys that knows how to get it done and bring it back. Hopefully we’ll get that swagger back that we lost.”
Auburn lost to Georgia by 38 points in back-to-back years. The Tigers also were smoked by Texas A&M and Alabama by a combined 91 points, and scored just 20 points in back-to-back weeks against middling defensive squads Arkansas and Ole Miss as part of the school’s first 0-8 SEC season.
Garner was asked specifically about what areas of weaknesses he noticed in the Tigers when he helped Georgia thwart his alma mater.
“I haven’t had an opportunity to evaluate Auburn – I was more focused at Georgia when I was there,” Garner said. “All I know is we are going to go to work. We are going to recruit the caliber of student-athletes that we feel give us the best chance to win championships and doing it the right way with discipline, integrity and instilling in them a pride, a toughness, a competitiveness that we are going to do this over and over and over and over and over and over.”
Garner spoke of creating good habits, and serving as head coach Gus Malzahn’s top team player on his staff as assistant head coach, defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator.
“I know that is what coach wants, and that’s what he shared with me and building consistency, but I haven’t had an opportunity to study the personnel,” Garner said. “I don’t know any of the issues. I was dealing with my own issues, my own problems. We’ve all got them. It’s just some are more public than others, but I know Auburn.
“We are going to work hard. We are going to get going immediately.”