Tommy Tuberville coached and recruited against Georgia for 10 years while at Auburn. He thinks bad luck has had more to do with the Bulldogs’ recent struggle than poor recruiting or coaching.
“A lot of times guys don’t pan out, guys that have four or five stars; that happens to everybody,” said Tuberville, who is a college football analyst for ESPN after resigning from Auburn last year. “And I’m not saying that’s what happened. But I know a lot of times you bring those guys in there that are supposed to be war daddies and they never materialize.”
Tuberville said losing Matthew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and Asher Allen early to the NFL draft had more to do with the Bulldogs getting blown out by Florida last week than anything. Especially when Florida was able to get back Tim Tebow, Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham for their senior seasons.
“You’ve got to prepare each team three and four years in advance and that takes a lot of luck,” Tuberville said. “Florida got Tebow and Spikes and some other guys to come back; Georgia loses Stafford and Moreno and Allen. A lot of it is luck.
“It’s going to be a transition year for Florida next year. We’ll have to see how they do.”
It is Moreno, he said, that the Bulldogs miss most.
“The one thing about Mark’s teams over the years, he’s always had a great running back. They’ve always been able to run the ball,” Tuberville said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt losing Stafford was obviously big. But I think the biggest loss for them was Knowshon Moreno.
“It’s hard to lose a quarterback and it’s hard to lose a running back to graduation or coming out early. But when you lose them both in the same year, it really puts you in a tough spot. Your quarterback who hasn’t played much doesn’t have the luxury of a running game to keep him out of trouble. And in the passing game, when you have a young running back and you have an experienced quarterback, your quarterback can throw the ball down the field and take the pressure off the running back.”
Tuberville referred to two different times he was on opposite ends of that equation. In 2000, Auburn won the SEC Western Division and had its entire offense coming back. Or so he thought. Then tailback Rudi Johnson, fullback Heath Evans and wide receiver Ronney Daniels all turned pro early. The Tigers went 7-4 in 2001.
Then there was 2004, when Auburn went 13-0.
“I had no idea we’d get [running backs] Ronnie [Brown] AND Carnell [Williams] back,” he said. “That was lucky.”
Meanwhile, Tuberville said Georgia’s defensive coaching and philosophies are not the problem.
“Evaluating Georgia’s team this year – and make sure you tell them I’m not giving advice – the schemes are fine. Willie is fine,” he said. “It’s really not any different than what everybody else is running. I know early in the season turnovers were killing them. You get your back up against the wall, the ‘Steel Curtain’ can’t keep ‘em out of the end zone.
“I think it’s just been a combination of things this year: Can’t control the running game to the quarterback making mistakes to the defense staying out on the field. [Defensive coordinator] Willie [Martinez] has always been a technique coach who taught fundamentals and all that, not real aggressive, you know, forcing the hand of the offense. When you do that the turnovers will get you and mount up on you and sooner or later that bend-but-don’t-break will break.”
Tuberville said Georgia’s recruiting has been more than adequate.
“We always thought if we could get 15 players that could contribute out of the 20 to 25 we’d sign, that’d be a good recruiting class,” he said. “They didn’t have to be great players, just good SEC players. Then you could win a lot of football games. Some years, you’d get 20 or 22 and that’s going to be a group that’s going to turn into something. But you’re always going to make some mistakes.”