July 20, 2013
Pat Sullivan, who won Auburn's first Heisman Trophy in 1971 and coached Auburn quarterbacks from 1986-1990, is still having an impact at his alma mater.
Sullivan was on the search committee that chose Gus Malzahn to be Auburn's head coach last December. And Auburn offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee learned valuable lessons as Sullivan's offensive coordinator in 2011 at Samford.
"I learned a lot," Lashlee said. "When you are coaching quarterbacks and you have a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback watching you every day, that can be intimidating a little bit. He was great. He let me take the offense and run with it. He is probably the best encourager I've ever seen, not just of me but every player and every staff member. He really knows how to build people up.
"I learned from him how to treat people. He has a way of motivating and communicating the expectations he wants and being demanding at the same time. He is incredibly encouraging and empowering for you to go out and make a mistake and know you are going to get better. I consider him a great friend. I'm very blessed to have worked for him."
Lashlee, whose career has been tied to Malzahn other than in his one season at Samford, joined Malzahn at Arkansas State in 2012 and followed him to Auburn.
Finally, the guessing season is almost over. Two weeks from now, most college football teams from the Southeastern Conference and beyond will be on their practice fields beginning preparations for the 2013 season.
It won't make much difference who picked who to win what, who was preseason All-SEC and who wasn't. It won't matter who was a 5-star recruit and who was a 2-star. It will only matter what happens on the practice field and eventually what happens when it's time to play.
As the season unfolds, things will happen no one expects. Some key players will be lost to injuries. Some just won't play as well as expected. A game or games might be decided by the enforcement of the new rule that requires players be ejected for targeting defenseless players above the shoulders or a blown official's call.
In the ferociously competitive world of the Southeastern Conference, it doesn't take much for a season to go south.
Everybody is optimistic in July. The reality of autumn is where dreams are realized and where dreams go to die. ...
Auburn's football team will take to the field for the first day of practice on Aug. 2, but football players won't be the only ones sweating in the August heat. Days later, Auburn soccer and volleyball teams will begin practice for their seasons that also rush ever closer.
Rick Nold's volleyball team will rely on seven seniors to lead the way. Karen Hoppa's soccer team will be talented but frightfully young. ...
Did you know that, in the past six years, every team in the SEC has had at least one season in which it lost five games or more. In the last five seasons, only Alabama has avoided a five-loss season. ...
Remember 2010, when Georgia went 6-7 and fans were howling for Mark Richt's job? In the two seasons since, the Bulldogs have won 22 games and played in two SEC Championship Games. ...
Until next time ...
Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter: