Championship teams need leaders. That’s the way it’s always been and the way it will always be. Say what you will about the 2012 Auburn Tigers, but at the end of the day, this season will be defined by those that put the team on their back and exemplify what it means to be a hard worker.
Going into the seventh week, a 1-4 record is hard to swallow for any team. The key to getting back on track lies not in what plays the coaches draw up on the board, but what players step up.
“I just know this,” said offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. “Our guys are going out every day, not just in the quarterback position but every position, and they’re busting their tail.”
Wide receiver Sammie Coates called out his teammates today, saying a lack of leadership has directly influenced the team’s success.
“We either have to step up and turn around … We’ve got a good team,” Coates said. “We’ve got good athletes. We’ve got some of the best athletes that you can ask for. It’s just, is it in their heart that they want to win or do they just want to keep going down?
“With me, I think some of us just need to see the picture like it is. Some of these older guys, they want it but they don’t want it bad enough. We don’t have enough leadership on this team.”
But despite the tough losses to SEC foes Mississippi State, LSU and Arkansas, other players on the team disagree with Coates.
“We definitely have leaders on offense,” said fullback Jay Prosch. “Sammie Coates, last game, he was trying to pump people up, getting everybody going. I think from their group he really stepped forward. Philip (Lutzenkirchen), he’s always been a leader. He leads by example, and he knows how to get everybody going. Kiehl’s a leader just because he’s in a leadership role, and people look up to him. He leads in the huddle and everything. Really, it’s not one standout guy. It’s everybody trying to work together and get everybody going.”
Defensive Coordinator Brian Van Gorder said he’s been especially impressed with senior defensive back T’Sharvan Bell.
“He’s in a back-up role right now as a player, but as a leader he’s tremendous in our room. He’s absolutely tremendous. I have great respect for him. A guy that was starting and now is backing up, he shows up here every day with great spirit and he represents everything we really want and look for in an Auburn player. He’s a champion young man.”
Sophomore lineman Chad Slade echoed both Van Gorder and Prosch when asked what players were at the heart of the team’s locker room.
“To me, the two that set the tone, I would say, are Lutz and T Bell,” said sophomore offensive lineman Chad Slade. “Those are the two people where it’s their final season. They come out here every day with energy and passion to play. They make us better. If one of us is down on O-line, and we’re just slopping around, Lutz will come out there and say, “Get yourself fired; get up.”
“T Bell is the same way on the defense. If he sees someone messing up on something they knew, T Bell will get on to them. I have respect for Lutz and I have respect for T. Bell, and I would never talk back to either one of them, because they know what it takes to play. They’ve been playing longer than I have, so them being our leaders, I have much respect for Lutz and T Bell.”