Nancy and I went to Elmer's, which is between Tallassee and Notasulga, for a Sunday buffet lunch. I purposely wore my Auburn windbreaker. Of course, like any good place to eat out in the country, a lot of older folks go there and there a lot of couples. That was the case the day after the Tigers lost to Arkansas.
When I walked into Elmer's, the first thing I saw was an older guy, probably not quite as old as I am, who had an Auburn hat on. I looked around and there was another one there with an Auburn jacket on and still another one with an orange Auburn shirt on. It made me really feel good and reminded what Auburn people are really all about. It made me proud to be one of them.
We all want to win and if you broke Auburn fans down into groups, there is a group like I saw on Sunday at lunch. They might not even go to the games, they may just watch them on television, but they just love Auburn and I appreciate them.
There is a group of people who have donated a lot of money to Auburn for academics and athletics. It gives them a sense of entitlement, and I would say rightfully so. Those people make a real difference. I know we couldn't have become the team of the '80s in the SEC without their support when I was the coach. I know the team couldn't have won the national championship two seasons ago without their support. I know a lot of them are frustrated we are not in a stronger position in our conference than we are now.
You have the students who are young and they want to win, and they love Auburn and team. They are an important part of the success of the football team with their support.
There are plenty of other groups in Auburn and I know just about everybody is disappointed about the season. That includes Auburn's administrators and trustees who are getting all kind of calls and messages from the fans, and that has to be frustrating to them.
I guess what I am saying is right now it isn't a lot of fun with the team off to a 1-4 start, but life is kind of that way. The team is going through a tough time right now. I think program is in good shape, but this particular team is struggling. I really don't see a quick fix for the 2012 Tigers based on what I know about football.
I can see improvements on the defensive side of the football, but the team's quarterback struggles continue to be a problem. I would say it is probably a 50-50 situation with the quarterbacks--half of it being those guys not playing well enough, half of it the people around them not playing well enough. The offense's lack of production doesn't totally fall on one guy's shoulders.
Auburn is playing in the best football conference in the country and we all want our team to be competitive enough to win the SEC and national championships. I think Coach (Gene) Chizik and his staff have recruited well the last couple of years so the potential is there for those guys to grow up and be players who are the foundation for building the kind of football team Auburn people want. Right now a lot of those players are in a developing process. Combine that with not having a proven quarterback, or one who is not struggling, and that has something to do with why this team is not scoring a lot of points.
I think it would be unfair to put Jonathan Wallace out there now and expect a miracle at quarterback. What he has done so far has been fine, and I could see him taking a larger role as the season progresses, but I don't think playing the true freshman on a full-time basis is the answer.
Coach Chizik was at Auburn previously as defensive coordinator when Jason Campbell was struggling as a young quarterback, and he was also here when Jason gained experienced and confidence and led the 2004 team to an undefeated season. The next year, at Texas, Coach Chizik was a part of a team that won the national championship so he understands where we are now, where we want to go and what we want to be. He will do what is necessary to get us there, but I don't think this is a situation where things are going to get a lot better in a week or two. It's not like having a star quarterback out for a week with a sore shoulder and everything is going to be fine with the offense when he gets back. It's not that simple, it's not that easy.
We are just going to have to be patient with this football team and go through the struggles with them. What we can't let happen as an Auburn Family is to get divided into different factions and damage the progress that has been made here. From what I understand, Coach Chizik and his staff should have another good class of recruits, who have committed to come to Auburn. The rest of the people in the conference would like to see Auburn have troubles and they would like to see the family split because that would improve their chances of beating Auburn now and in the future.
As Auburn people we can't control what the others do, but what we can do is stay behind this coaching staff and the players and love them, just like you love Auburn University. They are ours. Right now they are hurting, just like the fans are hurting, from the lack of results on the field. That will pass in time.
I have absolutely no doubt that this coaching staff can be successful. There are a lot of the same people doing the coaching who were a part of the national championship team two years ago.
The big thing is I don't want to see Auburn people panicking and thinking we are doomed because that is not the case. We aren't doomed. The only way that would be the case is to have some knee jerk, panicked reaction to the team's struggles this year and we don't need that. The Tigers just need to grit their teeth, look folks in the eye and keep working every day to get better, and the fans need to keep supporting the kids who wear those blue jerseys on Saturdays. If everybody does that the team will get better.
(If you have a comment, question or a subject you would like me to write about in future columns, you can email it to PatDye@autigers.com.)
Editor's Note: This is part of a series of columns that College Football Hall of Fame member Pat Dye is writing for AUTigers.com about the game he played and coached. An All-American player at Georgia and one of the top head coaches in SEC history at Auburn, he also served as a head coach at East Carolina and Wyoming. Dye writes three columns for AUTigers.com--The Dye-Log, the Dye-Gest and Pat's Picks.