Nov. 13, 2012
"We have a great opportunity this week for us to be able to really concentrate on sending our senior class out on a positive note. That's very important to me. We have 13 seniors, and a lot of them have been great contributors to a lot of the success we've had here in the previous three years with an SEC championship and a national championship and three bowl wins. It's very important because they're a huge part of that, and we couldn't have done it without them.
"There have been some significant contributions from those guys, so it's very important for me and our coaching staff to be able to, on Senior Day, send those guys out playing their last game at Jordan-Hare --send those guys out with a win. We started Sunday night practicing and really trying to focus on getting that done. We'll continue that today. It's our number one focus."
On the reception the seniors will get from the fans... "I think they should get an outstanding one, and I think that they deserve it for the work they have put in for this University and the commitment that they have made to this University. To be honest, with the success that they've had in their four years here with three bowl wins and a national championship and an SEC championship, which they all significantly contributed to at some point in time or another, I think it would be extremely fitting that they go out the way they should go out, and that is on a very positive note."
On Auburn's seniors looking back on their careers as a whole... "I think they're going to be Auburn men. They're going to understand that everybody would love to be able to say that they cruised through their life with relatively few valleys that you have to hit, and very few storms that you have to endure and push through, but that's not real. I think the case and point for these young guys is that they've seen some really high highs, and they've experienced some lows, unfortunately. None of us want to do it. None of us want to go through it, but that's the way your life is going to unfold when you leave here.
"So they will draw on many great experiences from this place. They are going to draw on positive experiences and how they handled those, and they're going to draw on the negative experiences or the ones that they wish would be a little bit different, and they are going to draw on those, too. Nobody wants to be where we are right now. There's no question about it, but certainly they don't. They'll be able to, through generations, leave here being good husbands and fathers and be able to tell the story of a lot of good and some adversity as well to their own children and their grandchildren.
"My hat is off to those guys. They've endured a very tough year and in your senior year that's the last thing that you want to do. But, again, as men and Auburn men, they'll continue to love Auburn when they leave here. That I know. They'll continue to love Auburn, and they'll continue to, in their minds, make sure that Auburn always stays an important part of who they are and what they do."
Do the fans have a true appreciation for what the Auburn players have gone through this season... "I think the fans are exactly what they are. They're fanatical; I think that's a good thing. I don't think you can throw an umbrella over every fan, not just at Auburn but anywhere, and say `This is the way they all are.' I have hundreds of emails from a lot of great fans that are very supportive and understand that when you go through struggles you continue on the path, and you don't deviate off the path in terms of being who you are and pressing through those things. Then you have the other fans that are caught up in the winning and losing so much that it's hard for them to see it that way. You know what -- both of those are fair. Both of those are fair. It depends on who you are, and it depends on how you see things from a general perspective.
"When you get into this business as a player or a coach, if that hurts your feelings and you can't handle that, then you shouldn't be a player or a coach because that's what comes with the territory. It's very simple. In college football, in the NFL, in high school, it's very simple. It's all about winning or losing, and there are a lot of other things out there that really, really matter, but at the end of the day, most people - or a lot of people -- see wins or losses.
"If that's their opinion about these young men and what they feel like they've done or haven't done, it's what makes this country the best country in the world. Everybody has got an opinion, and they're entitled to it. I know what we see every day, and I know the guys that I see on a daily basis, and, again, I'm very proud of every one of our guys."
On Saturday's game against Alabama A&M... "This is a team that's won seven football games. I think they had an opportunity to possibly play in the championship if they had beaten Jackson State this past week. It's just a solid football team that's won seven games, and I'm sure they will be excited to come in here. I think it is the first SEC game maybe that they have played, in state and they have a lot to prove. I think they'll come in here raring to go and fight like crazy and try to get a win. Again, it's like any game. You go into any football game and you can see it any Saturday -- you have to play well, and you have to continue to fight all the way through. If we'll do that, we'll have a chance to win."
On an opportunity to have more widespread evaluation of younger players... "I think that you see how games unfold. If you're talking about the quarterback position, I think each week, regardless of who we were playing, unless everything was so exotic defensively that you really had to narrow everything down, you're looking at expanding what a young guy can do. He's still a true freshman, and he's started now just a couple of games. His role and what we do with him will be expanded. All of the other guys that you hope have a chance to get in and play and get some experience and some playing time, it just depends on how the game unfolds."
How he weighs people who have earned playing time against evaluating players for the future... "I think it is a balance in there for sure. Again, you want to be able to try and play some players, but your number one goal is to try and win the game, so you always have to put the players out there that you think give you the best chance to win, which we will always do. Then as the game unfolds we'll evaluate it from there."
On if Texas A&M and Missouri having success has surprised him... "If you go back to SEC Media Day and what I said there, I don't change one thing that I said. We're not teaching them how to play football. They know how to play, and I think that it is very obvious. Texas A&M is a great case in point. No one's teaching Kevin Sumlin how to coach football. No one is teaching Texas A&M how to play or win. No one is teaching Texas A&M about tradition. Missouri has had their ups and downs this year, but they're another good football team, and Gary (Pinkel) does a great job. He's been a coach there for, I don't know, 10 or 11 years, whatever it may be. You don't stay at a place like that with as much success as he's had by accident. "They're not coming into this league and getting shown how to coach football or play football. They're here to compete, and they're here to win championships just like the rest of them. That's why I said I thought it was a good fit."