It's been a long and joyous Christmas and New Year's Holiday for my family and I. Took nearly three weeks of leave from work and got some needed time with the family and friends.
Now I am back to the grind of the United States Army, but the Lord knows I am ready to start writing again and hanging out with my extended family here in the bleachers as well.
So it seems a lot has gone on in the three weeks I've been away. I saw some amazing football games, i.e. WV/UNC, Mizzou/Northwestern, Utah/Alabama (Franklin and Larry), and I even attended the Capital One Bowl and watched UGA show up late in the second half.
But the thing that has intrigued me the most this holiday in the sports world is the direction Auburn football is moving in. I was a little confused about the Chizik hire...who wasn't?
However, I must admit I accepted it and got excited about it as well. Obviously it was a time for change. The Powers that be and Coach Tuberville were never going to see eye to eye, and my beloved Tigers have fallen into a rut.
The potential for this recent season's rut to turn into a four to five-year abyss was at one point impending, yet Gene Chizik has shown smarts and guts in the hiring of his new staff to guide the Tigers into the 2009 SEC season.
Listen up, Auburn haters and current sports experts: Gus Malzahn is the right OC to run a potent and dangerous offense in the SEC. You can sit there and say Auburn doesn't have the athletes to run his offense, just like you did for Tony Franklin's offense.
Truth be told, Auburn has more than enough talented players to run any offense that is put into place. If teams like Troy and Tulsa are successful, and they have one-fourth the talent AU does, then it's just a matter of coaching and developing the proper scheme.
I have said at times it is more about the Jimmys and Joes than X's and O's. However, proper tutelage and coaching can produce amazing results with even average talent, but poor management and mentoring can produce disastrous results with talent-laden teams.
Obviously this is where Auburn failed miserably last season, with Tuberville giving Franklin the keys to the family car but telling him to be home by 9pm or he would be on restriction—as well as saying these are the friends I want you to hang out with, i.e. Nall, Gran, Ensminger, etc.
Things are looking "up" on the plains once again. Charles Barkley, the unofficial voice of the Auburn Tigers, has called AU the loveliest village on the plantation, considered them racist and a part of the Good Ol' Boy System.
However, his reputation has taken a huge hit after the suspicion of DUI while looking for a place in the dark to get busy with some random lady he picked up at a bar. Instead of spending his money on floozies and casinos, he should give money to the university and maybe he would have a reputable voice in Auburn.
As if passing up Turner Gill was race-related with choosing Chizik as the new head coach. It seems contrary to popular belief with the assistant coaches landing jobs on his coaching staff at Auburn. You ever think that maybe some African American coaches don't get the job because they aren't qualified, maybe not a good interview, or just not ready?
I will be the first to say that there are definitely not enough African-American head coaches in all sports, professional and college a like. Do I believe race plays a part? You better believe it, and I think it's wrong, but every time an African-American gets passed over, the masses scream "Racism!"
James Willis was retained, and with the hiring of Trooper Taylor, Curtis Luper, and Jay Boulware, Auburn currently sits with four African-American coaches on their staff, second in the SEC only behind Ole Miss, who has five.
Coaching makes a difference. As a Head Coach, you are only as good as the people you hire to surround you. Unlike the stagnant staff Tuberville had, this staff breathes fire and is hungry to prove that Auburn is and always will be one of the top programs in the Nation.
One down season does not equate to a cataclysmic fall from grace. Maybe it was just a sign that change was needed. The prospects this staff give to a future at Auburn that a month ago seemed so bleak to now being resilient and hopefully back to their winning ways in 2009.
As if the epic rise of Alabama was truly prognosticated, the quick fall from the pinnacle has been harsh, disturbing, and just as shocking. When we are dealing with 19, 20, and 21-year-old kids, moods and morale change like the direction of a Southern summer breeze.
Just as Auburn's for sure demise was predicted half way through the season; College Football is a funny and fickle sport. I expect both Alabama and Auburn to win eight to 10 games and to be in the thick of the SEC Title race throughout 2009 and beyond.