Phillip Marshall: Ear to the ground at AU coaching clinic

April 3, 2014

AUBURN, Ala. - Some 800 high school coaches streamed into Auburn on Thursday for the annual coaching clinic. By all accounts, it is the largest crowd the event has ever attracted. After feasting on fried fish and hushpuppies in the indoor practice facility, the crowd heard Auburn coaches describe their schemes and theories. And they talked a whole lot of football.

As Gus Malzahn, with an SEC championship already to his credit, moves toward his second Auburn season, lots of folks are interested in trying to see how he does it. One group of high school coaches drove all the way from New Jersey.

Even a sports writer or two got to join the party. And this one saw some familiar faces and had some good conversation.

Ken Bernich, an All-American in 1974 and one of the great linebackers in Auburn history, was there. He’s a career high school coach. He was a really good guy when he played and still is. He is the defensive coordinator at Choctawatchee High School in Fort Walton Beach. He said he plans to coach about five more years before hanging it up.…

Jimmy Perry, who held a variety off-field jobs in the Tommy Tuberville era, is the head coach at St. James School in Montgomery. He offered an interesting morsel of news. Former Auburn tight end Philip Lutzenkirchen, who works for McDonald & Barranco Capital Wealth Management in Montgomery, is moonlighting as an assistant at St. James. …

Perry joined Spence McCracken in building a powerhouse at Robert E. Lee High School in the 1980s. Both are retired from the public school system, and McCracken is on Perry’s staff at St. James. …

McCracken, who moved from Robert E. Lee and built another powerful program at Opelika High School, reported that he’s focused those days on watching his beloved Cleveland Indians on television. McCracken is a long-suffering Indians’ fan. …

I talked for a while with defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. He said he’s been mostly pleased with the defense after eight spring practices, but he expressed frustration that a significant number of players are out or limited because of injuries.

“Some of those guys have a chance to really help us,” Johnson said. “When they can’t work or can’t work full-speed, it holds them back. They can't get better.” …

I enjoyed visiting with retired Auburn police chief Frank deGraffenried. He said he enjoys watching Auburn sports on TV on his farm near Notasulga without worrying about something bad happening. …

As well as more clinic kinds of talk, coaches will hear Friday afternoon from Hall of Fame coach and ESPN sportscaster Lou Holtz. They’ll be invited to watch the Tigers scrimmage on Saturday morning at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

By then, hundreds of stories will have been told and lots of football knowledge will have been shared.

 

Phillip Marshall is a Senior Writer for AuburnTigers.com. Follow Marshall on Twitter:

 

 

 

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